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CPU vs GPU vs APU - What’s The Difference?

CPU is the brain of a computer that regulates & integrates the operations of the computer. GPU is essentially the graphics card that handles rendering & computing tasks. APU, A chip that contains both CPU and GPU & just another CPU from AMD. APU is a form of CPU with integrated graphics.

CPU vs GPU vs APU - What’s The Difference?

If you're new to PC gaming and especially to PC building then chances are you've encountered a whole slew of technical terms and jargon that everyone seems to understand but that sounds like your gibberish to you.

But in case, you are new to this, here's an article made just for you or will decipher a few of the technical terms you've probably encountered and elaborate on each of them. The main topic today is GPU vs CPU vs APU. But we'll also touch on things like bottlenecking.

They may sound similar and they do have some inherent similarities but at their core. These terms are quite different and we're going to highlight these differences.

CPU vs GPU vs APU - What’s The Difference?

What’s a CPU?

CPU vs GPU vs APU - What’s The Difference?

CPU stands for the ''Central Processing Unit". It is also commonly known as a processor, but in the most basic sense, a CPU is simply an extremely powerful calculator. So powerful, in fact, that it is capable of handling countless calculations at any time.

It is also the brain of all computers in the sense that it tells all the other components what to do. Today, CPUs are made up of billions of tiny transistors and are divided into several courses. Each of these CPU cores is capable of handling a single task at any time.

By extension, single-core CPUs that you thankfully no longer have to deal with, even on smartphones, are only capable of handling a single task at a time. And the way they gave off the illusion of multitasking was by switching between tasks really fast.

In addition to the cores, one of the most outstanding specifications of any CPU is its clock speed. This speed is measured in gigahertz, where each hertz equals one instruction. So if you have a 3 gigahertz CPU, it can handle three billion instructions per second.

So obviously the faster the clock speed, the faster and more powerful your PC will be. Each CPU has a core clock speed that is the factory default clock but many CPUs can be overclocked to be even faster. However, keep in mind that doing this will cause the CPU to generate more heat.

So if you plan to overclock, you better make sure you have a great cooling solution that can handle this extra heat. But of course, the most important component for gaming is still the GPU and not the CPU. The CPU tells all the other components what to do which also includes the GPU.

So if you have a ridiculously powerful GPU and a CPU that's underpowered, by comparison, the CPU won't be able to take full advantage of that GPU. It's as if in school you were much better in certain subjects than everyone else, so you finish the homework, you didn't have long before and then you just sit idly by.

This is how GPUs feel when they are being monitored by an inadequate CPU and this is what we call a bottleneck. Now thankfully, you only need a mid-grade CPU to take full advantage of even the most advanced GPUs but you can't always play it safe.

What’s a GPU?

CPU vs GPU vs APU - What’s The Difference?

GPU stands for "Graphics Processing Unit" and it's responsible for rendering. Everything you see on the monitor is there as a result of the work of your GPU. From simple things like images and videos to more complex things like professional video game animation, 3D software rendering, etc.

GPUs and graphics cards technically aren't exactly the same stuff. For example, the RTX 2080 is a GPU. A chip developed by Nvidia with its own specifications like CUDA cores, etc. This ship is the part that does the actual calculations needed to render and then display something on your monitor.

Graphics cards, on the other hand, are all based on this GPU. They all have the chip inside them but they vary in other respects like cooling and V-RAM, etc. So while there is only a single RTX 2080 GPU, there are numerous graphics cards that use this GPU.

Some faster, some slower, some with 2 fans, other 3 you get. Regardless, you can refer to the two as interchangeable for all intents and purposes. We just wanted to explain this right now to avoid any more headaches.

What is e-GPU?

CPU vs GPU vs APU - What’s The Difference?

You may also come across the term e-GPU. e-GPU stands for "External Graphics Processing Unit." This actually refers to a separate enclosure that houses just one graphics card. The graphics card in question is like any other, but instead of taking refuge in a PC case with all the other hardware components, you prefer to chill and it is Batcave.

It connects to PC via Thunderbolt 3 connection instead of PCI Express through 16 connections that all other graphics cards use. This connection is slower but a great solution if you want to equip your laptop with extra performance or you just don't have room in your PC case for the graphics card you want.

Now besides normal GPU speed in the form of regular graphics cards but with their own bat caves. We also have integrated GPUs.

Integrated GPUs

These GPUs generally integrate with the CPU but they can also be integrated into a motherboard.

So this is where the distinction between GPU and graphics cards comes into play. Integrated GPUs have the chip and nothing else. Not even your own dedicated V-RAM. So instead they have to use regular system RAM.

They are much cheaper than real graphics cards but they are also much less powerful and better suited to casual users. But more on integrated graphics when we get into APU.

What’s an APU?

CPU vs GPU vs APU - What’s The Difference?

Now, even some people know perfectly well what CPUs and GPUs are. May have a bit of trouble with APUs and that's perfectly understandable. Since APU is a relatively new term. It was coined by AMD in 2011 when the first generation of APU was released. This acronym stands for ''Accelerated Processing Unit'' which doesn't really tell you all that much.

What is APUs exactly?

Well, in essence, an APU is a single die that has both a CPU and a GPU in it. If this sounds a lot like integrated graphics that's because it basically is. There is a technical difference between APUs and integrated GPUs but they serve the exact same purpose to offer entry-level graphics to budget PCs and non-gaming laptops.

So we will use integrated graphics as an umbrella term that covers APUs as well. Just know that there is a technical difference, unlike other integrated GPUs. However, APUs can actually be rather powerful. For example, both the PS4, the Xbox One, and therefore key variants use AMD's Jaguar APUs.

As for PC gamers, they currently have the choice among the A-series APUs Athlon APUs, and Ryzen APUs which scale and power in that order. So if you're looking to game on a budget and don't want to buy a dedicated graphics card, we highly recommend getting one of the latest Ryzen APUs as they genuinely push the boundaries of what integrated graphics have been capable of.

APU vs CPU vs GPU. Which One Is Best For Gaming?

CPU vs GPU vs APU - What’s The Difference?


The CPU essentially receives all the data that is entered and heads where to go. Computer software sends instructions that need to be processed and the CPU executes these instructions. A processor with more cores and threads will allow the CPU to receive more tasks at once which translates into higher productivity. A CPU will also have a certain clock speed. The faster the speed = faster those processing tasks are completed.


A graphics card is the main component of gaming-based computers. Since games are visually demanding, they require a more powerful graphics card than your standard office PC. Graphics cards are often the most expensive part of building your game and can be a tough mountain to tackle when you're on a tight budget.


An '' Accelerated Processing Unit '' APU is just another CPU from AMD, except, it has integrated graphics onboard. In other words, the APU is the best of both worlds. It provides a combination of CPU and GPU in a single component. AMD was able to use its GPU architecture to create a better graphics experience than Intel with integrated chips. Most Intel CPUs have integrated graphics, as do all AMD APUs. Both versions of integrated graphics work in a similar way.

However, AMD's Vega graphics can offer a much better gaming experience. So APU vs Gaming CPU, APU takes the win with ease. But if you like to play graphics demanding games or you like to play on high settings then you will need a graphics card, that's just the sad ceiling. The APU is the perfect choice for price-conscious gamers looking for the next low-budget version.

While this cost-cutting solution may give you more money to spend elsewhere. It will sacrifice graphics performance as the power of these is quite limited, let's be honest. A pair of CPUs with a dedicated GPU will always provide the best gaming performance. However, this will increase the total cost of building. So it all depends on your budget and needs.


So to summarize, the CPU is the brain of the computer that tells everything else what to do. The GPU is essentially the graphics card that handles rendering and computing tasks and the APU is a form of CPU with integrated graphics.

At the moment, the only two names in the CPU business are Intel and AMD and in the GPU business, these are Nvidia and once again AMD. If you find it informative tell me in the comment section and consider sharing it as well.


Q. Can an APU work with a GPU?

A. APUs can work with GPUs. You can add an NVIDIA GPU to your APU but it will not add to the power of your APU. but it will use your APU's cores as a normal CPU processor and the computer will use the NVidia card only for graphics purposes.

Q. Is APU better than CPU and GPU?

A. APU is a more efficient, cost-effective, and power-efficient solution than a CPU and GPU combo. An APU combines the CPU and GPU on a single chip, providing performance that is better than a CPU or GPU on its own. This can reduce power consumption by up to 30% when compared to a CPU and GPU combo.

Q. Will APU replace GPU?

A. GPUs are the most expensive component in a PC. It is possible that AMD's new product APU will replace GPUs. The APU is an AMD product that combines a CPU and a GPU on a single chip. This means that the APU will not only be cheaper but also consume less power than a GPU. The APU will not be able to compete with GPUs in performance, but it will be able to provide a satisfactory experience for many people. APU can be used for rendering 3D graphics, but GPU is still better at this.

Q. APU vs CPU vs GPU efficiency & performance?

A. The APU (accelerated processing unit) is a chip that combines a CPU and GPU on a single chip. The CPU is a traditional computer processor that executes instructions, while the GPU is a graphics processing unit that is designed to execute graphics instructions. AMD and Intel offer CPUs with integrated GPUs, but the graphics performance is not on par with standalone GPUs.

Q. APU vs CPU vs GPU price?

A. An APU is a CPU and GPU on the same chip. APUs are becoming more popular because they are much cheaper than having dedicated GPU and CPU in separate chips.
Average cost -
APUs - $100 to ~$400 depending on the features.
CPU - $200
GPUs- The average eBay selling price for a GPU in February was $1,094.

Q. Can you upgrade an APU?

A. In short, the answer is No. The APU is not upgradable and it will always be limited to the memory and processing power that it was made with. A lot of people are interested in upgrading their APU, but the answer is no. 

Q. Does RAM matter for APU?

A. If you’re using an APU, you’ll want to make sure you have faster RAM than having more ram. Also, APUs are basically CPUs with a GPU, so having enough RAM for the CPU to store its own data without having to compete with the GPU for RAM is essential. APUs have their own graphics processing unit (GPU) that performs graphics tasks, and this GPU can’t work as well if it has to share RAM with the CPU.

Q. How much RAM do I need for an APU?

A. A common rule of thumb is that you need 8 GB of system RAM. However, it is important to take into account the other hardware in the system and the type of APU.

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