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Is the AMD A8 9600 CPU good for a beginner’s budget gaming PC?

by Ben Miles

AMD is on a success streak

AMD has been on a surge in recent years, delivering hit after hit in the CPU space and some seriously competitive options for graphics card upgrades. But if you’re on an extreme budget and look at the £150+ majority of AMD’s new CPUs and think you might opt for something older to save a few pounds, think again.

Almost nothing from before first generation Ryzen processors is worth considering. And that includes the AMD A8 9600.

Photo of two AMD A8 9600 CPU boxes sat on a shop counter

Ryzen was a revolution

It used to be par for the course that AMD was competitive with Intel. In the mid ’00s AMD’s Athlon 64 and successor CPUs were as good, if not better than the Intel competition at just about everything. Intel came back hard with its Conroe range of CPUs and although AMD did its best to keep up, the terrible Bulldozer architecture in 2011 set it back years, by dropping instructions per clock in favour of broader multi-core support. Something that the software space just wasn’t ready for.

For years after, AMD revised its design and made some improvements, but Intel remained far ahead. And even with the CPUs released just months ahead of the first-generation of Ryzen, AMD still couldn’t keep up at the top end. At the entry-level things were very different. So, if you’re asking is the AMD A8 9600 good for a beginner’s budget gaming PC? The answer is yes… if you’re living in late 2016. It’s not bad. But from there on out? It’s Ryzen all the way.

First Gen Zen

The first-generation Zen CPUs hit the market in Spring of 2017 and they were an unprecedented improvement over AMD’s previous efforts. With a major architectural redesign, AMD’s Ryzen 1000 CPUs offered a more than 50 percent improvement in instructions per clock over their predecessors, including the A8 -9600. That, combined with the improved efficiency from a 14nm (rather than 24nm) process node, and higher clock speeds, meant that even entry-level gaming chips like the Ryzen 3 1300X absolutely decimate the A8-9600, offering between 60 and 80 percent improvement in single threaded, and multi-threaded tasks.

The AMD A8-9600 may not seem drastically different from the first-generation Ryzen CPUs. It’s based on the same socket design, AM4, and was released only a few months before. But as it’s an accelerated processing unit (APU), as AMD is wont to do, it’s based on a last-generation architecture. In this case Bulldozer. It has four cores and supports only four threads (with no simultaneous multithreading) and though it does have an onboard GPU, it’s far weaker than modern Vega alternatives. It certainly falls far behind the offerings from Intel onboard graphics, and any single dedicated graphics card released in the past few years.

Image of an AMD Ryzen 1000 series box stylishly placed on a fallen tree during golden hour

The evolution continues

Considering the leaps made with the first generation of AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, you might expect more recent generations of CPUs in 2018 and 2019 to make more modest improvements and you’d be right, but only to an extent. AMD has made major strides in performance, certainly enough that those running systems with first-generation Ryzen processors should consider upgrading.

Zen+ cores in the Ryzen 2000-series improved upon the first generation by increasing clock speeds and instructions per clock by single digit percentages. That wasn’t a major increase in itself, but was notable for closing the gap between Intel and AMD that bit further; especially considering Intel’s lacklustre improvements between its eighth and ninth-generation processors.

Zen 2 in 2019, however, was a much bigger deal. Moving to an entirely new, second-generation Zen architecture, AMD improved instructions per clock by a further 15 percent. They introduced a smaller 7nm process node, a new chiplet die design, and further clock speed enhancements. Ryzen 3000 CPUs gave AMD the instructions per clock lead in the race with Intel for the first time in well over a decade and showed that its CPUs could be just as good, if not better than Intel’s at gaming, in many cases. For a more in-depth look, check out this blog about whether Intel or AMD CPUs are better for your gaming needs.

Even more impressive is how well this performance was available throughout the pricing spectrum. AMD’s Ryzen 3000 CPUs are fantastic at the top-end and entry-level making for some exciting options for those looking to build a budget AMD gaming machine in 2020.

Is the AMD A8-9600 good for gaming in 2020? No. There are far better alternatives.

Promotional image of the AMD Ryzen 3000 series CPUs that shows a CPU hovering above a motherboard with an orange glow around its edges.

What should you buy instead?

If you’re considering the AMD A8-9600, then chances are you’re building the lowest of low budget machines. That’s OK! You can get a great budget gaming system for just a few hundred pounds. Just check out our AMD system configurator and have a play around.

The absolute best super-budget AMD CPU you can buy right now is the AMD Athlon 3000G. It’s based on the first-generation Zen architecture, but an enhanced version of it. It’s running at 14nm, but with some of the tweaks we saw with Zen +. You don’t get all the benefits of a modern day CPU, but it’s still plenty fast for low-setting, low-resolution gaming and it only costs around £40 – an absolute steal. It’s a dual core CPU with simultaneous multi-threading, so can support four threads at the same time, and has a decent base clock of 3.5GHz. Making it even better is the basic three-core onboard graphics chip.

The real selling point of this chip though, is its overclockability. We’ve seen overclocks without the need for hefty coolers, pushing the CPU core up to 4.0GHz without too much difficulty. The onboard GPU can be overclocked too, making for very playable frame rates in popular games like Fortnite and League of Legends.

Not interested in overclocking? 

If you’re not interested in overclocking and can afford to stretch your budget a little further, another chip worth considering is the AMD Ryzen 3200G. At just shy of £80, it’s noticeably more expensive than the 3000G, but it comes with a number of advantages. The chip has four full cores, so though it lacks simultaneous multi-threading, has a little more multi-core power to better handle modern Esports games. It also runs at 4GHz out of the box and is based on the Zen+ second-generation Ryzen architecture, so enjoys some of the benefits of that range, including the more efficient 12nm process, rather than the 14nm process of the 3000G.

Additionally, it has Vega 8 graphics, which means much better frame rates and the possibility of higher resolutions and detail settings if you’re willing to play with the options in your favourite games.

The 3200G is one of our favourite chips to build custom AMD gaming PCs with, so be sure to give us a call if you’re interested in building a custom budget gaming PC with AMD hardware at its heart.

Image of the Chillblast Fusion Ryzen 3 GTX 1650 Custom Gaming PC
Chillblast Fusion Ryzen 3 GTX 1650 Custom Gaming PC

If you’re building it yourself though and plan to add in a dedicated graphics card too, we’d recommend the Ryzen 2600. It’s a fantastic six-core CPU with support for up to 12 simultaneous threads, and it’s come down so far from its launch price that you can now find it for not much more than £100.

What about Intel?

With AMD surging in recent years, Intel has had to do something it hasn’t done in a long time: compete on value. That’s meant price cuts, which is fantastic news for anyone also considering Intel for a budget gaming system.

CPUs like the Pentium Gold G5400 are an option, offering two cores and four threads, with a clock speed that goes up to 3.7GHz. It’s around the £65 mark, so noticeably more expensive than the AMD 3000G. It can’t overclock and its graphics chip isn’t great either, but it does perform comparably to the 3000G out of the box at least. If you’re adding in a dedicated graphics card, the Core i3-9100F is a fantastic buy at £65, but you do need that added GPU which raises the overall system cost.

Check out this blog for further insight into the best bang for buck overclockable chip from Intel.

Close up photo of a CPU locked in place on a motherboard.

AMD is best for budget, and almost anything else

In 2020 AMD has closed the performance gap with Intel considerably, making its top chips the best option for productivity workloads, and for anyone who games and works on the same system. That goes for budget system builders too, and though there are some alternatives in Intel’s camp, AMD’s are just that bit better.

If you want any help building your budget gaming system, be sure to give us a call. Our experienced system builders will help you make the most of your money.

More Resources:

Check out this blog for more information on which AMD Ryzen CPU is the best for gaming!

Check out this blog if you are looking for a CPU for no more than £200!

Check out this blog if you are looking to buy a £1000 PC but can’t decide whether to have an Intel of AMD CPU!

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