With a million different pieces making up the hardware, a computer is arguably a mechanical marvel. In addition to the hardware, computers also run on thousands of lines of code. Therefore, the software is a bare necessity for every computer.
Here we will try to understand the difference between APU and CPU, two facets of the processing ability of every machine. They are significantly different, and knowing about them would help users a lot. Let’s begin.
What is a CPU?
The central processing unit, the processor, is commonly referred to as the computer’s brain; a CPU is the most crucial part of any machine. It is the hub that connects the hardware and software.
It handles all the instructions that arise inside a machine. Because of your CPU’s grace, you were able to access this web page and read this article. It understood the commands you sent and advised the rest of the machine to comply with them.
While the function of a CPU sounds simple, it is a complicated process in reality. All the processing is handled by a chipset embedded into the CPU’s body.
The chipset is also called the processor. It is the most integral element inside a computer since it executes every input and delivers a staunch output, all within a matter of nanoseconds.
The processor is also responsible for maintaining contact between the peripherals – mouse, keyboard, etc. – and the software that runs the computer.
Structure and function of a processor
The processor chipset is placed inside a PC on the motherboard. A motherboard, as the name suggests, is a location where all components of a computer meet. It is connected to every part of your PC since the motherboard is responsible for delegating necessary tasks to those parts.
Processors produce heat as they work, and therefore have to be placed in special cases where the heat will not affect their functionality. First, you must understand that every computer in the world needs a CPU.
That is because a CPU gives rise to a computer’s BIOS (Basic Input Output System). It is the only link between the hardware and software. The CPU itself executes every task assigned by the user.
The chipset or processor sits next to the memory (RAM) inside a CPU. It is fundamentally a collection of millions of transistors clubbed together in one chip. These transistors allow users to run programs that are stored in your CPU’s memory.
They turn on or off to communicate with the device in binary format. These encoded messages tell the machine to follow through on the required user demands.
Every CPU has a specific processing speed. You might have heard about something called Moore’s Law when talking about computer hardware. It applies to CPUs; the more the number of transistors, the faster the processing speed.
The number of transistors on a processor can be increased by making every individual transistor smaller in size. That is Moore’s Law playing out in real life.
CPUs are an integral component of any smart device. For example, all your smartwatches, smartphones, digital thermostats, etc., are run by CPUs.
What is an APU?
APU stands for Accelerated Processing Unit. It is a recent invention fronted by multiple tech companies in the last decade.
The rise of APU technology has been instrumental in laying the foundation for smartphone processors, so you can guess how important and efficient it is. APUs are, in essence, chips that have multiple electronic components fitted inside them. Today, they are known as SoC (System on Chip) processors.
Every computer is run by a CPU along with a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). Since most new technology has bigger display screens, GPUs have become an inseparable aspect of modern technology. An APU is a combination of the two different processors on a single chipset. So, why did companies do this?
The job of a processor is to delegate work to other PC components and get it done as soon as possible. So, tech companies decided to merge CPUs and GPUs into a single chip to increase the clock speed of processors and induce faster data transfer, all while reducing production costs.
GPUs are wired to generate higher processing speeds. Therefore, CPUs are expected to offload work to the GPUs to get it done faster.
However, the physical distance between the two cancels out the fast processing speeds, and we are none the wiser. However, with the distance between the CPU and GPU taken away in an APU, you can access monster clock speeds.
Chipset manufacturer AMD debuted the APU technology. Later, Intel also began producing the same processors.
Gradually, every large hardware manufacturer in the market started creating APUs based on the original product. As tech companies used more and more APUs in mobile phones and smartphones, their production numbers rose significantly.
Is it the same as an integrated GPU?
A graphics card or video card is commonly referred to as the GPU. An integrated GPU includes a graphics card already embedded into the device. Thus, it is also called an iGPU. The better the graphics card, the higher the quality of visuals on your computer.
An APU is a combination of the CPU and GPU. While it is easily capable of running the functions of a GPU, the two processing units are not the same.
AMD introduced the world to its APUs that contain integrated graphics in 2011. Soon, they were followed by Intel, who launched their own set of CPUs with integrated graphics. However, these were not APUs.
The difference may be a little difficult to grasp; it is subtle. However, dedicated graphics cards (GPUs) give much better performance than integrated graphics (iGPUs). Furthermore, since APUs contain a fully functional GPU, they deliver much better graphics than any iGPU.
What is the purpose of an APU?
Let’s clear up a few things. First, we have always collectively sought faster processing speeds. The discovery of an APU has been a step in that precise direction.
Second, APUs increase the performance potential of a computer while simultaneously reducing power usage. Third, they reduce the distance between individual processors and unite their abilities to form one singular mega-processor.
You can understand the purpose of APUs using the Pencil and Eraser Metaphor. The CPU-GPU system is like a pencil and an eraser.
On the other hand, an APU is like a pencil with an eraser on top. Using an APU reduces your effort of keeping the pencil down, picking up the eraser, using it, and picking up the pencil again. With an APU, you can do the same task much faster and with less effort.
Where do you use an APU?
An APU is a more efficient alternative for a variety of tasks. A few of these are:
APUs have been nothing short of a boon for gamers. Professional gamers have always needed superfast processing speeds for their plays, streams, and everything in between.
Building a CPU to cater to these special needs might be a little over budget for most people. The APU has come to the rescue of gamers looking for an affordable option for their chipsets. Gamers generally look to build their CPUs by purchasing individual parts, processors, and graphics cards.
It would be helpful to know that an APU with integrated graphics produces the same clock speed as a CPU with a dedicated graphics card. The only difference – the APU costs less.
If you have a budget of USD 300, you can quickly get your hands on an AMD APU. It will offer you better performance than any CPU-GPU set up on the same budget.
Therefore, APUs are perfect for gamers working on a limited budget. Most affordable AMD APUs have a dual-processor design that can access RAM at rapid speeds. It is often enough for games like Fortnite and Dota 2.
Software developers need to work with high-end technology to achieve massive feats of creating code. Most applications that software developers use require a considerable amount of processing speed. These speeds are only available via APUs.
These applications also require concurrent computing, done by the CPU, and processing, done by the GPU. However, in a generic system, the CPU and GPU do not work together. Therefore, APUs are the clear favorites for software developers. Lastly, APUs are less expensive than a CPU-GPU setup.
Digital Content Creation
Ask any digital content creator what the most important thing is in their profession. We bet that most of them would not compromise the quality of their visual content. Rendering, editing, and sharing visual content may cause it to lose its quality.
However, with APUs, content creators do not have to worry about losing out on quality. AMD, the company that first developed the APU, sold it to digital content creators, allowing them to move their content to larger screens without spoiling quality.
APUs also streamline content creation by enabling creators to clean up photos and videos with ease. In addition, the processing power needed to handle the demands of these content creators is only available through APUs.
Does an APU outperform a CPU?
Let’s look at this question from a variety of angles.
A CPU setup can give a tough fight to an APU when it comes to gaming. However, to find the real winner, we will have to test each design independently. When we run enough tests, the APU triumphs over the CPU any day.
The APU has integrated graphics, whereas a CPU needs external video cards to get additional graphic processing power. Therefore, the APU defeats the solitary CPU in the battle of clock speeds.
However, most gamers do not use an isolated CPU. Instead, they pair the CPU with a dedicated graphics card. In that case, the CPU-GPU setup provides faster speeds and better graphics than an APU. However, it is crucial to know that a CPU-GPU setup is more expensive than an APU.
The math is pretty simple regarding budgetary decisions of APUs or CPUs – APUs for lower budgets and CPUs for higher budgets.
If you are running a tight ship regarding building your PC, you might want to explore the possibility of getting an APU for your processor. It would give you high-level processing speeds along with mid-level graphics quality since an APU contains integrated graphics.
On the other hand, if you are willing to spend considerably more money – north of USD 500 – on your processor or PC, you have to look no further than a CPU-GPU setup.
You can get your hands on such processors if you are running on a budget higher than average. High processing speeds along with top-notch graphics are promised with a top-quality CPU and a mid-quality GPU working together.
In most cases, a CPU working with a dedicated graphics card will trump over the functionality of a lone APU. However, people who find gaming PCs too expensive for their pockets can look at APUs as a safe and valuable investment. They may not be the best choice when you are hell-bent on getting the best speeds, though.
CPUs and APUs are both computer processors that handle the BIOS of a machine. Their function is to understand commands fed into input peripherals and assign tasks to the hardware and software. The result of each task must be communicated to the user as the output.
APUs are a combination of CPUs and GPUs infused into a single chipset. Today, APU tech, developed in the early 2010s by AMD, is called SoC (System on Chip) processor. APUs enable faster processing speeds than a CPU while using less power. Moreover, they provide better graphics than a single CPU.
APUs are used in hordes of forums. Any place that requires a lot of speedy machines at low costs will look to use APUs. However, in certain conditions, when a dedicated GPU is working with a CPU, the duo can subdue the efficiency of an APU. The only problem is that a CPU-GPU setup may be a tad heavy on your pocket.
Martha Davis is a computer hardware specialist who works extensively in designing and manufacturing hardware devices, researching advanced computer technology. She built GadgetGangster.com as a platform to share her insight on computers and PC assembly with the web. Currently, she is carrying out her research on Robotics and Computer Vision and working privately to deliver services. Martha makes sure that readers of GadgetGangster.com master the basics of setting up computer components like motherboard, CPUs, and GPUs through the informative articles that she writes.