AMD shorthand lesson: The “G” is for “graphics.” AMD’s quad-core Ryzen 5 3400G is one of just a few of the company’s Ryzen-branded CPUs that include built-in graphics processing. It’s particularly suited for installation in a PC that doesn’t need a discrete GPU for graphics-intensive activities such as editing video or playing 3D games. A list price of just $149 and competent computing performance make it a fine value, too. Whether you’re building a budget productivity PC or a very entry-level gaming rig without a video card, the Ryzen 5 3400G is an excellent choice to power it.
Many Ryzens, Few With Integrated Graphics
The Ryzen 5 3400G is from AMD’s latest third-generation Ryzen CPU family, but it’s a bit different than most of the pack. Most of the third-generation chips use an entirely new 7-nanometer (nm) processor architecture (dubbed “Zen 2”) and offer significant improvements over their predecessors. The Ryzen 5 3400G does not. Rather, it’s an updated version of the second-generation Ryzen 5 2400G, sharing many of the same features and a similar microarchitecture. It also generally matches—and in some cases slightly exceeds—the second-generation chip’s proficient computing performance.
Part of this proficiency stems from its support for multithreading. Of the third-generation Ryzen CPUs that have built-in graphics processing (a family of two, at this writing), the Ryzen 5 3400G is the only one of the pair to boast this feature. Here’s a cheat sheet of all the new-for-2019 desktop Ryzens…
Multithreading can boost performance when running modern CPU-intensive applications like software that transcodes video or renders 3D imagery. Each of the Ryzen 5 3400G’s cores can handle two processing threads, compared with just one thread per core for the entry-level AMD Ryzen 3 3200G, which also has four physical cores. A full review of the Ryzen 3 3200G is forthcoming, but you can see how it stacks up against the Ryzen 5 3400G in the performance section of this review.
The Ryzen 5 3400G’s $50 premium over the $99 Ryzen 3 3200G also gets you slightly higher clock speeds. The Ryzen 5 3400G runs at a base clock of 3.7GHz, versus 3.6GHz for the Ryzen 3 3200G. The more expensive chip also offers a maximum boost clock speed of 4.2GHz, compared with 4GHz for its Ryzen 3 sibling. Although these rated speed differences might seem small, the difference between the maximum boost clocks, in particular, could be a significant time saver when you’re compressing files or touching up photos.
The final major difference between the two chips pertains to their graphics processing. The Ryzen 5 3400G comes with a built-in AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 GPU, with 11 graphics cores of its own running at up to a 1,400MHz clock speed. The RX Vega 11 is a step above the RX Vega 8 that’s on the Ryzen 3 3200G, which has eight graphics cores and a 1,250MHz peak. Both are well ahead of the performance you can expect from Intel’s integrated graphics solutions, such as the UHD Graphics 630 found in most of its recent mainstream desktop CPUs.
Don’t be misled by the “Vega” nomenclature, though, which is shared with AMD’s previous generation of high-end discrete graphics cards (for example, the AMD Radeon RX Vega 64). The RX Vega 11 and RX Vega 8, while robust for what they are, don’t offer anywhere near the full graphics horsepower that you’d get from AMD’s standalone Radeon RX graphics cards or their Nvidia GeForce GTX or RTX competitors.
The Two New Gs: More Alike Than Different
The Ryzen 5 3400G and Ryzen 3 2400G share most of the rest of their specs. Both have a rated power consumption (referred to as thermal design power, or TDP) of 65 watts. Since the CPU and GPU typically take up the lion’s share of a PC’s power consumption, the Ryzen 5 3400G’s reasonable power draw means you don’t need to spring for a high-wattage power supply, especially since you presumably bought it to avoid the need for a dedicated video card.
Both chips offer a similar cache amount—6MB of combined L2 and L3 cache—and support for a maximum memory speed of 2,933MHz. The cache size and memory speed can have a significant impact on memory-intensive tasks. If the cache fills up, apps that you’re running might feel sluggish, and tasks will take longer to complete. Although a 6MB cache might seem small, it’s actually fairly common among inexpensive CPUs. Those that cost several hundred dollars have much larger caches; most of AMD’s other third-gen Ryzen chips have combined cache sizes above 35MB.
Finally, both the Ryzen 5 3400G and the Ryzen 3 3200G share the same processor microarchitecture, based on a 12nm production process. This is not AMD’s cutting-edge 7nm Zen 2 microarchitecture, but it’s a slight improvement over the 14nm process that AMD used for the second-generation Ryzen G-series CPUs. A smaller, more advanced microarchitecture isn’t by itself a reason to choose a CPU, but it can have an impact on performance.
How Intel Stacks Up
Intel has several competitors to the Ryzen 5 3400G, but the closest alternative is the “Coffee Lake”-family Intel Core i5-9400. It’s set up a bit differently than AMD’s offering, with a slightly higher list price ($182), a slightly larger cache (9MB), and more physical computing cores (six). The Core i5-9400 lacks support for multithreading, however (called Hyper-Threading, in Intel’s lingo), so it can handle only up to six processing threads simultaneously, versus eight for the Ryzen 5 3400G. The two chips share the same 65-watt TDP, but the Core i5-9400 has a 2.9GHz base clock speed and a 4.2GHz boost clock, both lower than those of the Ryzen 5 3400G.
Another key difference is the Core i5-9400’s graphics processing. Its built-in Intel UHD Graphics 630 simply isn’t in the same league as the RX Vega 11, as you’ll see in our graphics testing below.
AMD includes an able, attractive cooling fan in the retail box with its third-generation CPUs, including the Ryzen 5 3400G. Higher-end Ryzen chips get higher-end versions of the fan, all of which are branded as AMD Wraith coolers. The top Wraiths are bigger than this one, and have nifty RGB ring lighting. Intel generally includes a stock fan, too (except with its unlocked “K” processors and the high-end Core X-Series chips), and neither this chip nor its Intel Core i5 counterpart requires overly advanced cooling capabilities. The stock fan will suffice, and in the case of the AMD, it’s a nifty-looking design, too, in the event you’re building or upgrading a PC that has a transparent side.
For people building an entry-level PC from scratch, the motherboard shouldn’t be a significant cost factor, either. The Ryzen 5 3400G is compatible with most AM4-socket motherboards, though earlier-gen models may require a BIOS update; make sure what board you’re buying is ready for third-generation Ryzen out of the box. (The only new-chipset boards that debuted alongside third-generation Ryzen, based on the enthusiast-minded AMD X570 chipset, are pricier models that would seem a poor fit for a budget chip like the Ryzen 5 3400G.)
The Intel Core i5-9400, in contrast, is compatible with certain LGA 1151-socket montherboards, but these boards need to be built on one of Intel’s more recent 300-series chipsets, among them the Z370, Q370, B360, or H310. (You’ll also find LGA 1151 boards with older 100- and 200-series chipsets still on the market, but they won’t work with these “Coffee Lake” desktop chips.) AMD or Intel, you’re sure to find an inexpensive board for either chip.
AMD also offers robust tuning software in the form of the free Ryzen Master app, which affords granular control over clock speeds, memory profiles, and even overclocking. You can’t overclock the Core i5-9400, but overclocking is not a critical feature on budget-minded CPUs like these, since it’s unlikely to meaningfully boost performance. Plus, the cooling hardware you ought to install to overclock will eat up more than the difference between the CPU and a slightly better one.
Testing the 3400G: Capable in a Tough Field
I compared the Ryzen 5 3400G’s CPU performance on our benchmark tests with its little sibling, the $99 Ryzen 3 3200G, as well as the previous-generation Ryzen 5 2400G and the Intel Core i5-8400. PC Labs hasn’t had the opportunity to test a 9th Generation Core i3 or i5 CPU yet, but other than an increased base clock speed of 2.9GHz, the new Core i5-9400 is much like its predecessor, including its $180 price and six-core/six-thread design. As PC Labs hasn’t tested one yet, I’m using the Core i5-8400 as a point of comparison for this review.
Also in the comparison charts below, you’ll find performance stats for two less-expensive Intel processors (the $80-to-$90 Celeron G4920 and the $100 Pentium Gold G5600, which we’re also in the process of reviewing), as well as the more expensive and far more capable AMD Ryzen 5 3600, another third-gen Ryzen chip that PC Labs has tested for review. That one, though, like the rest of the Ryzen desktop CPUs that don’t end in “G,” lacks built-in graphics processing and devotes the whole die to CPU affairs.
Overall, the Ryzen 5 3400G performed as expected on most tests. That is to say, it offered roughly equivalent performance to the Intel Core i5-8400, slightly better performance than the Ryzen 3 3200G, and much better performance than both the Celeron G4920 and the Pentium Gold G5600. Note that we tested all of the G series chips on a B350 motherboard, the Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3, with 16GB of Corsair memory set to the only offered XMP profile of 3,000MHz, a bit above the 3400G’s rated 2,933MHz supported max.
Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads, shows that the Intel Core i5-8400 does have a slight advantage because of its two extra physical cores, despite the Ryzen 5 3400G’s edge in total addressable threads. The advantage holds both on the single-core test and the all-cores test. (The Ryzen 5 3600, with six cores but 12 addressable threads, dominated the field here, as it should.)
It’s worth noting that the single-core test is a decent proxy for how well a CPU can handle older software that doesn’t scale well with more cores and threads. (More on that later with our iTunes legacy test.)
The Core i5-8400’s slight advantage is also evident on the Handbrake video-encoding test, a trial that took the Ryzen 5 3400G a bit more than two minutes longer to complete. Still, both of these results are better than the cheaper Ryzen 3 3200G’s time, and vast improvements over the 40-plus minutes that the light-hitting Celeron G4920 took.
Blender 2.77a & POV-Ray 3.7
The Cinebench and Handbrake tests also establish the superiority of the Ryzen 5 3600, but the Blender test, which simulates a workflow in the popular open-source 3D rendering suite, challenges it. Here, the Core i5-8400 actually performed the best of them all.
Still, you should invest in a more expensive Core i7 or Ryzen 7 CPU if you’re planning on running powerful creative software like Blender or POV-Ray. On the all-cores benchmark built into the POV-Ray ray-tracing software, the Ryzen 5 3400G placed neatly between the step-down Ryzen 3 3200G and the Core i5-8400.
On the other hand, creating ZIP files is something that nearly every PC user has to do at some point, and it’s CPU-intensive. We simulate this process with the benchmark tool built into the 7-Zip utility. Here, the Ryzen 5 3400G offered a significant advantage over its predecessor and the Ryzen 3 3200G, and a small advantage over the Core i5-8400.
iTunes Conversion Test
Finally, if you do find yourself needing to perform a CPU-intensive task with older software that can only run on a single thread, you’ll note that the Ryzen G-series CPUs compared here performed roughly the same in our test scenario, with the Intel Core i5-8400 and AMD Ryzen 5 3600 slightly ahead of that pack and equal.
A Clear Graphics Advantage
Although the Ryzen 5 3400G, the Ryzen 3 3200G, and the Core i5-8400 offer comparable performance on CPU-intensive benchmarks, the graphics processors in the Ryzen G-series chips tell a whole other story.
The RX Vega 11 and even the RX Vega 8 outclass their Intel counterparts when it comes to playing 3D-heavy games. On all four of the games we tested, the RX Vega 11 far outran the Intel UHD Graphics 630 in the $99 Pentium G5600. We don’t have integrated graphics game-performance numbers for the Core i5-8400, but we’d expect numbers a bit better than the Pentium chip’s, but not by leaps and bounds, as they both use the same UHD Graphics 630 silicon. Even if it were to run twice as well, in almost all cases it still wouldn’t touch the RX Vega 11.
The Ryzen 5 3400G far outperformed the other CPUs on the 3DMark Night Raid game simulation. Looking at the graphics subscore on this test, it’s also clear that you should expect roughly a 25 percent 3D graphics performance improvement if you choose the Ryzen 5 3400G over the Ryzen 3 3200G.
A Little Budget Powerhouse
The Ryzen 5 3400G is among today’s best values for an entry-level CPU that will stand alone in a PC build or upgrade, without a discrete GPU. (You can always pair it with one, but if you plan to, you’re better off opting for a chip like an earlier-generation Ryzen 5 without discrete graphics.) Its price, features, and performance on CPU-intensive tasks are roughly comparable with the Intel competition, and its graphics performance is better.
The same can be said of the Ryzen 3 3200G, but you’re giving up a bit of performance across the board by choosing it in return for saving just $50. Since the CPU is arguably the most important component in any PC build, we recommend investing the extra cash and springing for the Ryzen 5 3400G.
The calculus changes significantly if you can find any of these chips on sale, though. (Previous-gen Ryzen CPUs are seeing some steep discounts at this writing.) It’s also a different game if you are looking for an upgrade to an existing Ryzen- or Intel Core-based system. In the latter case, compatibility with existing components becomes much more important. So long as you’re on an AM4 motherboard, this chip ought to be compatible if the board maker has issued a BIOS update supporting the third-gen Ryzens.
Overall, however, the Ryzen 5 3400G takes the undisputed title of king of entry-level PC builds away from its predecessor, and earns our Editors’ Choice award.