In an unexpected turn of events, it's now possible to overclock the otherwise locked Athlon 200GE processor, which is currently considered the cheapest Zen-based chip you can buy, and sells for around $ 55. About two weeks ago, MSI released a new BIOS for the full range of AM4 motherboards, which includes support version 126.96.36.199 of AMD's Generic Encapsulated Software Architecture [AGESA].
This latest version improves memory support by improving overclocking and compatibility. A virtualization-related function is also added, with which PCIe graphics cards can be manually assigned within IOMMU groups.
The improved memory support is great, of course, but today we're examining the overclocking of Athlon 200GE, which was accidentally activated in MSI's AM4 motherboard range.
We tried a handful of Asrock B350 and B450 boards, but none enabled overclocking with 200GE. However, all MSI AM4 boards do this, and we have confirmed this ourselves, from inexpensive B350 boards to high-end B450 models such as the Gaming Pro Carbon. We haven't tried any additional Asus or Gigabyte boards yet. We'll try them out soon, but so far only reports from MSI owners are coming. MSI certainly made a mistake here, but it seems like a happy accident for budget enthusiasts.
When the ghost is out of the bottle, there is little MSI or AMD can do to reinstall it. MSI can safely lock the 200GE again with a future BIOS revision, but that doesn't change the fact that you can flash the power November release and overclock anyway. If the AGESA 188.8.131.52 firmware is installed on an MSI motherboard, all you have to do is call the BIOS and apply a standard multiplier overclocking.
Our 200GE did not post at 4 GHz, but at 3.9 GHz, but even with 1.4 V it was not completely stable under Windows. At 3.8 GHz it was 100% stable at 1.35 V, so we decided to test it.
DDR4 memory is still locked, so we were limited to DDR4-2666, but you can adjust the timings to improve performance there. However, CL14 memory was used for testing because it is not overly expensive at speeds from 2400 to 2666.
Compared to standard watches, we were able to increase the core frequency by 19% from 3.2 GHz to 3.8 GHz. No earth-shattering increase, but every little bit will really help the $ 55 Zen processor. Unfortunately we don't have the 200GE box cooler at hand, so the Wraith Stealth was used for this overclocking. However, we suspect that the box cooler makes this overclocking easier, since the Wraith Stealth reached a maximum of only 59 degrees after a one-hour Blender stress test at a room temperature of 21 degrees.
We used a Gigabyte RTX 2080 Ti for testing. Yes, it is an unrealistic GPU to pair with this CPU. However, in order to eliminate a GPU bottleneck and later be able to compare this data with that of the high-end CPUs, we have chosen this path. Then the whole test and comparison point for testing and comparing these CPUs is to test CPU performance, not low-end GPU performance. After all that is clear, let's jump to the results.
First we have Cinebench R15 and here we see that our 19% overclocking has improved the multithreaded score by 13%, not bad. This is only 4% lower than with our simulated 3.9 GHz overclocking with the Ryzen 4 2400G, where half of the cores are deactivated. It is worth noting that this overclocking enabled the 200GE to overtake the Pentium G5400 with a small lead.
Testing with Corona shows a time saving of only 7% for the rendering test, which is not surprising, but brings the 200GE in this test much closer to the Pentium G5400.
When you do our overclocking, the Blender rendering test shows a more impressive 14% reduction in render time, placing the 200GE miles ahead of the Pentium G5400 without AVX. Good stuff, but now it's time to try some games.
When testing with Assassins Creed Odyssey, we find that the overclocked 200GE offers a 9% increase in average frame rate and a much needed 15% increase in frame time performance. The game ran noticeably smoother with the overclocked 200GE. The profits don't seem to be that significant, but they really are.
We find a similar story with Assassins Creed Origins and now the overclocked 200GE can reach the average frame rate of the Pentium G5400 but kill for frame time performance.
Battlefield 1 tests show a nice 14% increase in average frame rate performance at 1080p from 71 fps to 81 fps after overclocking.
With Forza Horizon 4, we also see some solid performance improvements. An increase of 9% was enough to push the 200GE ahead of the more expensive Pentium G5400.
The growth at Hitman was enormous. At 1080p, there was a 16% increase as the 200GE rose from a 38 fps stock result to an overclocked 44 fps and the experience is now miles better than that of the G5400, especially because of the 1% min FPS.
Here we see another nice increase in performance, this time in Project Cars 2, which increases from an average of 56 fps to 63 fps at 1080p, which corresponds to a free 13% increase in the frame rate.
In Rainbow Six Siege the overclocked 200GE with 1080p is still slower than the G5400, but with 1440p it is somehow much better.
We previously had issues with the Athlon 200GE in Star Wars Battlefront II, but a recent game patch appears to have resolved that. We're not sure if it's related or not, but the game now loads faster on the 200GE and plays much better.
We also see a sharp 16% increase in the average frame rate when overclocking the Athlon processor, which takes us from 67 fps to 78 fps at 1080p, and here it was much faster than the Pentium G5400.
Lastly, we have Shadow of the Tomb Raider and please note that with the built-in can benchmark you will see significantly better frame rates as this is not very CPU intensive and mainly focuses on GPU performance. So if you actually play the game on a low-end CPU, you will get very different results, as you can see here. The overclocked 200GE increases frame rates by 12%, which is fine, but to be honest, this game goes a bit beyond an SMT-enabled dual core that is not clocked at 5 GHz.
With the right motherboard, you can now overclock the Athlon 200GE and increase gaming performance by up to 16%, which is no small margin for an entry-level CPU.
As far as we can tell, an MSI motherboard is required. For buyers of new options, we recommend the B450M Pro-VDH as it only costs $ 70. If you throw the $ 55 200GE on it, you'll have a pretty decent, extremely affordable combination after overclocking.
If you're looking for a placeholder until Zen 2 arrives, the 200GE will also work on a higher quality board like the B450 Gaming Pro Carbon I use.
Still, our opinion of the best budget CPU hasn't changed, and we strongly recommend that you spend the additional $ 45 on the Ryzen 3 2200G and overclock it. It's a much more powerful processor, and if you only consider a simple $ 70 B450 board, it only costs 35% more, uses 16 GB of memory, and you get a 20% bonus for the much faster 2200G.