Computers and laptops have indeed become an integrated part of our life. These devices can be broken down into three simple components that drive every other element. The Central Processing Unit or the CPU, the Accelerated Processing Unit or the APU, and the Graphics Processing Unit or the GPU.
All three have their importance and functionalities. The CPU performs logical and arithmetic operations. The GPU is responsible for the rendering of graphics as the CPU instructs it to be. The APU is roughly a cascade of both CPU and GPU but cannot render AAA games.
This article mainly focuses on the difference between CPU and APU laying a little emphasis on GPU as well.
What are APUs and CPUs?
What is a CPU?
CPU or otherwise known as the processor is the mastermind behind all the processes executed in the computer. Every information is processed by the CPU and is directed for the request to be performed.
Depending on the clock speed, the number of cores, thread count, and the rate of processing vary significantly. During the earlier days, the CPU was designed to be dual-core or quad-core. However, modern CPUs have up to 16 cores and can work with 3 GHz speed. 1 GHz is normally the speed to process 1 billion instructions. Therefore, 3 GHz means that the CPU can process up to 3 billion instructions per second.
What is a GPU?
The responsibility to render graphics properly in the case of video games as well as video editing falls with GPU. It renders everything from simple images of the interface provided by the system to complex graphical files.
The GPU can perform repetitive operations in high volume to render frames. This is known as the frame rate. The graphics displayed on the screen is better when the GPU frame rate is high. GPU cards are generally costly and are avoided for buyers with a strict budget.
What are Integrated Graphics?
The function of the CPU is to process information. The work of the GPU is to render the images properly to signify the original image. These two functionalities can be achieved with a Central Processing Unit, which has an integrated graphics card.
The drawback to placing both the processor and the graphics card on the same chipset is that it limits the potential. Due to the cramped space, one of them cannot deliver its maximum performance.
Integrated Graphics comes with Intel CPUs. Both APU and integrated graphics have a similar working ideology. However, when it comes to gaming, it is clear that APU takes the lead over the CPU as integrated graphics is just embedded in the CPU.
What Is An APU?
The APU is a brainchild of AMD. It is a CPU with an integrated graphics card. The APU comes with functionalities of both CPU and GPU. It is similar in application to GPU as both of them serve as an entry-level solution to graphic rendering for non-gaming laptops and budget strict computers as well.
There are various APUs that satisfy consumers with different budget levels. The Ryzen series are the best APUs available in the market and have a good fanbase. The A-series is the simplest and weakest of the lot. These are used in cheap-built computers with a low budget. The Athlon series is somewhere in the middle. The VEGA graphic cores outperform the A-series and are budget-friendly as well.
CPU With Dedicated Graphics Card
In the case of a dedicated Graphics Card, the CPU houses the GPU. The GPU as a separate entity has its memory, i.e., the video RAM and the cooling system. A balance between these two is essential to enjoy a smooth gaming experience.
CPUs with dedicated Graphics card have high performance when it comes to rendering AAA video games but has its downside. The price of the overall setup increases. The cooling system and the video RAM adds to the cost.
APU Without A Dedicated Graphics Card
APU is capable of handling graphics rendering and is quite good for cost-conscious gamers. However, to use APU means to compensate for high graphics rendering power. The bright side of AMD APUs is fast-acting memory and dual-channel.
Which Option is Better for Gaming
To consider which one performs better when it comes to gaming is kind of a no-brainer. APU acts as both CPU and GPU so it will outperform a CPU. However, it is not the case in real-world scenarios.
Why Even Consider an APU in a Gaming PC?
Gamers often like to pair their CPU with a dedicated GPU to boost their gaming experience. When it comes down to people with a stringent budget, they prefer APU. As the APU can fulfill the role of a processor and a GPU in mid-range.
Some Past Problems With APUs (for Gaming)
AMD has not developed APUs compatible with mainstream motherboard sockets. This led to difficulty in upgrading the APUs in the future. At that time, CPUs had sockets that were compatible with processors and GPUs if deemed necessary while upgrading.
The rise of e-sports demands higher specifications of computer systems. The high-end CPUs and GPUs are very fast and operate efficiently than APUs. However, rapid operational rates produce more heat. This requires a separate cooling system for exhausting the heat and thus prolonging the usage. This provides a strain on the overall cost but is worth the investment.
Where APUs Make More Sense
Modern-day laptops were a result of the idea to combine various electronic components onto a single chip. This technology came to be known as SoC or System on Chip. The primitive version of SoC is the APU.
The compact design of the APU houses both the CPU and the GPU. The small physical distance between the two aces in data and graphic processing helps to transfer data faster and efficiently. In setups where the two are installed separately, this efficiency and rate of transfer drop noticeably.
The optimization of the GPU to process calculations faster takes some load off the CPU. However, this transfer delay is more in the case of separate setup than in APUs. Even after considering this valid point, it is seen that the APU cannot hold ground while working against a dedicated GPU and a CPU.
The APU is viable for reducing the cost as well as the space of the device. A very good example is laptops. However, if the high graphical output is desired, the choice shifts to dedicated processors.
Where CPUs Make More Sense
The Central Processing Unit is the soul of the computer that handles all operations. The three stages of operations handled by the CPU are Fetch, Decode and Execute. By receiving the input commands, it fetches the data to be processed. Now the processing of data is performed by decoding the ASCII coded commands. Finally, to execute the operations, it is directed to the necessary components.
The CPU helps to perform everything on your computer system. Opening simple software to booting up the operating system, nothing happens without the watch of the CPU.
Earlier, dual-core and quad-core CPUs were a real deal. Nowadays, it seems like a mere speck in front of octa-core and sixteen core processors. To state the obvious, in places that require rapid logical processing, high-end CPUs are preferred. The APUs or the GPUs are just an alien concept in this scenario.
APUs vs CPUs: Who Wins?
In a battle to choose over CPU or APU, the result is based on different reasons. Generally, users opt for a CPU with a dedicated graphics card over APU. This choice solely lies in the budget.
In case you are not tensed about your budget, buying a good CPU with a high thread count and core is a wise choice. Paired with this comes the high frame rate GPU. This combination will give you the utmost smooth experience in gaming. The separate cooling system of the GPU prevents it from overheating.
The compact technology of the APU has moderate performance as it houses both a CPU and a GPU. The absence of separate memory for the GPU and also a cooling system prevents both of them to reach their full potential. The APU is enough to satisfy your mediocre gaming needs until you can upgrade to a better computer.
Hopefully, this clears all the confusion about which is better. To sum it up in a few words, the CPU is the brain of the computer. The GPU can represent the brawl, which sheds load off the CPU and also performs heavy rendering tasks.
The APU could be considered as the part that can manage both the tasks in absence of the CPU and GPU. Choosing between the two options is certainly up to your budget and necessity.