When building your custom PC, don’t be surprised to learn you may need both a central processing unit (CPU) and a graphics processing unit (GPU). While searching for these parts, you might come across something called an accelerated processing unit (or APU). This nifty little part combines a CPU and a GPU into one compact product. It’s a smart idea on paper. But here’s the question: How do you find the best APUs for gaming? Let’s go over some of the most alluring offerings in the realm of APUs today.
- Best Overall: AMD Ryzen 7 5700G
- Best on a Budget: AMD Ryzen 5 4500
- Best for Casual Gaming: AMD Ryzen 5 4600G
- Best for High-Intensity Gaming: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
- Best APU Without a Budget: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
Best Overall: AMD Ryzen 7 5700G
- 8 Cores and 16 processing threads
- Bundled with the AMD Wraith Stealth cooler
- 4.6 GHz Max Boost (unlocked for overclocking)
- 20 MB cache, DDR4-3200 support
The AMD Ryzen 7 5700G is my pick for the best all-around APU for gaming. Built with 8 cores and 16 threads, it gives you great gaming performance and excellent multitasking and productivity in one. Plus, its integrated Vega graphics make it so you don’t need a separate GPU, either. It’s a powerful yet cost-effective solution for gamers in search of a good APU overall.
The 5700G operates at a base clock of 3.8 GHz and a boost clock of 4.6 GHz. This promises smooth gaming across a variety of video game titles. Broadly speaking, its well-balanced specs make it a smart choice for gamers who want a reliable APU. Simply put, it delivers where it counts — both with gaming and productivity tasks.
|Dependable for both gaming and productivity.
|Higher price point than some APUs.
|Comes with integrated Vega graphics.
|Limited overclocking potential.
Check out the AMD Ryzen 7 5700G on Amazon.
Best On a Budget: AMD Ryzen 5 4500
- Affordable option
- Comes with an unlocked multiplier
- Perfect for entry-level gamers
- Comes with Wraith stealth cooler
If you’re more into budget-friendly builds, the AMD Ryzen 5 4500 is a standout choice. Coming with 6 cores and 12 threads, the 4500 strikes a healthy balance between affordability and performance specs. Its unlocked multiplier adds an extra layer of versatility, as well. This allows you to toy with overclocking for even more gaming power.
While the 4500 might not match the sheer power of some of AMD’s higher-priced APUs, the thing is still more than capable of meeting your gaming needs. (And without breaking the bank in the process, either.) Its accessible price point makes it a top-notch pick for entry-level gamers building a gaming PC on a budget.
|One of the most affordable APUs.
|Only equipped with six cores.
|Comes with an unlocked multiplier.
|Doesn’t have integrated graphics.
Check out the AMD Ryzen 5 4500 on Amazon.
Best For Casual Gaming: AMD Ryzen 5 4600G
Casual gamers probably won’t have much use for a high-powered APU. With this in mind, the AMD Ryzen 5 4600G is an ideal APU for less demanding games on the market. Built with 6 cores and 12 threads, it can easily handle both everyday tasks and casual gaming without issues. Relaxed gamers may want to gravitate toward this one.
The 4600G’s unlocked multiplier only makes it better. This addition gives you the chance to try overclocking for even better performance. Plus, its Vega graphics make sure you’ll have perfectly satisfying visuals without the need for a dedicated GPU. It’s one of the best balances between low cost and high power available today.
|Balanced between price and performance.
|Cannot compare to higher-end APUs.
|Has integrated Vega graphics.
|Might struggle with more demanding games.
Check out the AMD Ryzen 5 4600G on Amazon.
Best for High-Intensity Gaming: AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
- 6 cores and 12 processing threads, which provide impressive multitasking capabilities
- Reaches 100+ FPS
- The AMD Wraith Stealth cooler is included
- Supports DDR4 memory, with a max boost of 4.6 GHz and 35 MB of cache
- Compatible with PCIe 4.0 on X570 and B550 motherboards
For more serious gamers who spend hours playing intense titles, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X might be your best bet. Coming with 6 cores and 12 threads, it gives you the graphics and performance you need without requiring a separate GPU and CPU. (Just look at those clock speeds ranging from 3.7 GHz to 4.6 GHz.)
The Ryzen 5 5600X gives you seamless, lag-free gameplay, even in more demanding titles. You’ll hardly be able to tell it lacks integrated graphics. With its focus on raw processing power and high-quality visuals, this APU is one of our top choices. (Especially for those who want a processing unit with uncompromising performance.)
|Better suited for high-intensity gaming.
|Doesn’t have integrated graphics.
|Cost-effective without sacrificing power.
|More expensive than other APUs on the market.
Check out the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X on Amazon.
Best APU Without a Budget: AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
- 12 cores and 24 processing threads
- 100 + FPS performance
- Max temperature: 90°C
- 4.8GHz Max Boost
- Unlocked for overclocking
- 70MB of cache, DDR-3200 support
If you’re a gamer who can afford to shop without thinking about the budget, the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X is worth considering. Boasting an impressive 12 cores and 24 threads, it stands as a real powerhouse in the APU landscape. (And with the price tag to prove it.) You’re likely going to need a cooler for this one!
The 5900X has a base clock of 3.7 GHz and reaches up to 4.8 GHz without issue. These numbers only underline its unmatched processing power. It proves it can handle both gaming and multitasking without letting you down (financially or otherwise). It’s my go-to choice for gamers who want nothing but the best in their APU at any price.
|Has 12 cores and 24 threads.
|You may need to add a dedicated GPU.
|It offers a high base and boost clock speed.
|The most expensive APU we’ve included here.
Check out the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X on Amazon.
How to Pick the Best APUs for Gaming: Step-by-Step
Even after reviewing these five APUs listed above, you still might not know which accelerated processing unit is the best pick for your gaming needs. For those who remain uncertain, consider these step-by-step instructions below. These three considerations — price, performance, and graphics — will help you figure out how to pick the best APU for your unique gaming setup.
When picking an APU for your gaming rig, thinking about your budget is incredibly important. Consider your financial needs, then base your search around that consideration. Look for the APU that best balances affordability and performance. Research various models in your price range and compare and contrast their features carefully, never losing sight of that price tag.
Second to budget is performance. Fine-tune your search for an APU choice based on your performance needs. If you’re a casual gamer, you can settle for fewer cores and threads and a lower clock speed. If you need something more powerful, look for models with higher counts and faster speeds. (For guidance, look to the specific requirements of the games you want to play.)
Lastly, think about whether you need integrated graphics or not. For those with a tight budget or a love for less demanding games, an APU with integrated graphics can save you money without hurting performance. Conversely, more intense gamers with more demanding graphics needs might want to opt for models without integrated graphics so they can invest in a dedicated GPU.
What to Know Before Buying an APU
Because APUs combine a CPU and GPU into a single part, performance can vary pretty significantly across the APU market. For this reason, you need to know that research is key. Do some digging into each of the specific models listed above to determine which APU is the best bet for your specific PC needs.
While APUs can be a budget-friendly fix for CPU and GPU needs, you should also know that some simply prefer to buy a separate CPU and GPU instead. Dedicated graphics cards have been known to outperform integrated ones, especially for such demanding applications as gaming or video editing.
On this note, it’s worth acknowledging that bigger, more powerful games from recent years might not run optimally with an APU alone. Cheaper, less heavy-duty models lack the sheer computing and graphics power you’ll need for the smoothest gameplay. Check the specs of some contemporary games for more information to compare.
Using APUs for Gaming: What It’s Like
Finally settled on an APU from the list above and now wondering what you can expect? Here’s what you should know about using APUs for gaming. On the positive side, APUs provide a budget-friendly option that saves you the trouble of having to buy a separate CPU and GPU. This can be a great option for casual to moderate gamers or those on a tight budget.
However, APU users may struggle to get optimal performance out of more graphics-intensive games. APUs often struggle to meet the demands of newer, larger, maxed-out titles. The integrated graphics might not deliver the smooth and high-quality visuals you’d expect from a GPU alone. You might need to lower your frame rate or graphics settings to play without interruption.
On that note, serious gamers might not be the happiest using an APU. If you are disappointed in your APU’s performance, you may want to ensure the product you bought has a decent return policy. If you decide you’d prefer a separate CPU and dedicated GPU, you’ll need to make sure you can return the APU and get your money back first.
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