New MSI BIOS Unlocks Overclocking on AMD’s $55 Athlon 200GE CPU

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Overclocking has always appealed to two broad groups of customers: Enthusiasts, looking to squeeze more performance out of already top-end chips, and poorer enthusiasts trying to squeeze more performance out of affordable, lower-clocked CPUs. The march of history hasn’t been kind to either group. While grognards like myself wax poetic about the days of 50 percent Celeron overclocks, 1GHz+ Durons, and the old Pentium 4 Northwood, the amount of headroom available at the top of the market has decreased dramatically, as both Intel and AMD tend to absorb their top frequency ranges for themselves. AMD’s Ryzen, in particular, isn’t known for having much frequency headroom at all, at least not at the top end.

Things are better at the lower end of the market, but both Intel and AMD tend to multiplier lock their lowest-end SKUs to prevent enthusiasts from buying these products and then cranking up the clock speed in lieu of buying more expensive parts. This particular move has a rich, long heritage in computing, dating back to that one time Intel discovered it had accidentally allowed anyone to build a multi-CPU system out of Celerons as opposed to the significantly more expensive Pentium II. RIP Abit BP6. But thanks to a UEFI screwup by MSI, anyone today can buy an Athlon 200GE with two cores, 4 threads, a base clock of 3.2GHz, and three onboard GPU cores (192 GPU cores total), and crank it up as fast as their heart desires (or at least as fast as silicon will take them).

That’s one giant leap for enthusiasts… and one massive product positioning screw-up that will never be repeated.

TechSpot recently took the 200GE for a spin at a stable 3.8GHz to see what kind of performance improvement they saw with the overclocked chip. In theory, the 200GESEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce should occupy a similar performance spot to the dual-core/quad-thread Pentium CPUs Intel has pushed since just before Ryzen launched, and that’s the position we see the chip occupying according to TS’ benchmarking.

Cinebench R15

Cinebench R15 performance. Image and data by TechSpot

Cinebench shows us an Athlon 200GE that sits just behind the Core i3-7100, and a bit ahead of the Pentium G5400. Gaming performance is a bit different, with the 200GE and Pentium G5400 generally trading shots when tested with an RTX 2080 Ti. Which CPU is faster in these circumstances came down to a game-by-game scenario. The ‘trading shots’ label, however, only applied to the overclocked Athlon 200GE — the stock-clocked version of the chip was significantly behind the Pentium G5400 in every test. The G5500 (the replacement chip for the G5400) is a $95 CPU at Newegg, however, compared with just $55 for the Athlon 200GE.

There are two ways to look at an opportunity like this. On the one hand, I can’t really recommend buying into the 200GE. As the graph above shows, the 2200GSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce offers an additional 1.35x performance over even the overclocked 200GE and 1.53x more performance over the stock variant. It also comes with a substantially more powerful integrated GPU with 8 GPU blocks (512 GPU cores) rather than 192. RAM clocks on the 2200G can also scale higher than the 2666MHz the 200GE is stuck with, and AMD’s Ryzen APUs respond well when you give them additional memory bandwidth to play with. At just $100, that chip has a particularly strong value position. Four full cores and a much stronger GPU position it very well against competitive parts from Intel, particularly if you intend to use both the CPU and GPU portions of the chip.

But the flip side to this situation is that sometimes you either want to build a machine for as little money as possible or you simply don’t need all that much performance. From the cost-conscious perspective, the Athlon 200GE looks pretty reasonable, especially if you’re willing to overclock a bit. The closest comparison to the Athlon 200GE on price is the Celeron G4900, a 3.1GHz chip only compatible with 300-series motherboards that lacks Hyper-Threading. That’s going to give the Athlon 200GE a likely performance advantage over its Celeron rivals, particularly once overclocked. For certain low-impact systems, the Athlon 200GE may be a reasonable option, with this overclocking performance ladled on top for a bit of extra gravy.

Now Read: AMD’s New $55 Athlon 200GE Desktop CPU Combines Zen Cores, 4 New AMD Ryzen CPUs Target Lower Power, Higher Performance, and AMD Ryzen 7 2700X Review: Can AMD Cream Intel’s Coffee Lake?