I’m going to have to build a new PC for Zwift soon and I wanted to know if I can finally get away without a standalone graphics card. I searched around on this for months and it’s hard to get any hard data on modern APUs, particularly with Zwiftalizer’s benchmarks gone. So I ended up just testing this myself.
I got a Ryzen 5700G for $299 at Microcenter. Prices move around. There’s also the 5600G which is about 85% of the graphics capacity of the 5700G, and may be a lot cheaper. Both of these are worlds overkill on the CPU side for Zwift. Intel is a non-starter here and Apple M1 is, among other things, not a DIY option.
Some prefacing: I did not buy most of the parts or build this computer for this test and so it is not a budget build. I recognize this. I also don’t have a APU laptop to test, so don’t ask.
The build setup:
- Ryzen 5700G APU
- Asrock B550 Taichi motherboard
- I forget NVME SSD
- 32GB DDR4 3600mhz CAS16
- Windows 10 (11 should be the same here)
I turned on XMP for the memory and installed Ryzen Master so it does its auto-overclock thing but haven’t done any further system tuning. I installed the latest Radeon drivers from AMD’s website. Zwift version was 1.0.85684 (last week, just before this Neokyo upgrade.)
For initial testing, I start up Zwift and select ‘Just Watch’. I don’t know any better way to do a Zwift benchmark. This goes into Watopia which isn’t the most graphics-aggressive world, but it is what it is. These first few runs are just a minute or two long. I’m not connecting a bike or other devices, but this shouldn’t matter for the graphics engine.
Starting Zwift, it starts in 576p. Zwift forces Basic graphics profile for APUs. This looks like hot garbage but I got well over 100FPS average. I don’t know why Zwift even has this as an option on the PC client.
Keeping Zwift as is but changing the resolution to 1080p, I’m still averaging 100FPS. The game still looks bad, Basic profile stinks. My logs show minimums into the high 50s but I think that’s when futzing with the menus.
So now to do some very light hacking per Zwift Insider’s config tweaks page. I go into the profile folder, back up the Basic profile and overwrite it with High. Zwift now looks worlds (!) better and my average framerate is down to 90 FPS.
I do this again with Ultra and we’re now in ‘glad I bought a PC for this’ territory. On my short test run I averaged FPS in the 70s.
So now to test stability and get good numbers. To do this I repeated this process but ‘Just Watched’ for an hour, only clicking to occasionally thumbs up whoever it was watching. I noted no technical issues and obviously no crashes. I then closed Zwift, went into the log and deleted a single 15FPS entry it recorded on my way out through the menus for some reason. Zwiftalizer log analysis gives:
An average of 73 FPS with a P1 of 50 and minimum (minus my one weird menu entry) of 45. That is very very playable. I haven’t tested at 4k yet and that’s probably going too far but we’ll see.
I forgot to screenshot my temperature trends but they were low and unremarkable and nowhere near limits. I’m using a big quiet Noctua heatsink which again isn’t a budget build item, but consensus with these 5000 APUs seems to be the included Wraith Stealth in a decently ventilated case is plenty. With a laptop APU thermals are the big unknown.
300 bucks for a CPU isn’t cheap but it’s hard to get a new GPU by itself for that these days. Other people’s testing has shown you lose a few percentage points with cheaper memory but not much, and 16GB of RAM isn’t that expensive (I wouldn’t go down to 8GB on an APU build as the CPU/GPU memory is shared.) The rest of the computer can be really cheap too, especially if you have leftovers from other builds. Irritatingly the Windows license, if you need one, is a big chunk - shame we can’t run all this on Linux.
Hopefully this helps someone else trying to figure out how to build out a reasonably budget PC for bike-riding.