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CPU vs GPU: What's the Difference?

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

Both CPUs and GPUs are made up of billions of transistors, both have processing powers, both have memories, both have clock speeds, and process thousands of operations per second.

What is the CPU?

We all know that the CPU is referred to as the central processing unit, which does all your calculations and produces results. It is an expensive metal square you place in your motherboard, which is basically the brains of your computer. But let's discuss it a little deeper. The CPU is often called the brain of the computer and it contains millions and billions of transistors that perform switching to solve various problems through calculations.

CPU vs GPU: What's the Difference?

A CPU can have between 1 core to 64 cores, Yes you heard that right 64 cores. A single chip can have 64 cores because recently AMD has launched its 7-nanometer Rome series of ''EYPC'' server CPUs with up to 64 cores' highest core counts in any single processor chip ever. A standard CPU have cores clocked at 1 gigahertz to 5 gigahertz.

CPU vs GPU: What's the Difference?

A CPU is powerful because it contains multiple cores with large arithmetic logic units and control units which work on a large instruction set and can perform a variety of operations of different types simultaneously.

CPU vs GPU: What's the Difference?

CPU is programmed by programmers by broad instruction sets and long feature lists shared by all CPU manufacturers thus making it a general-purpose processing chip. CPU's architecture is basically designed to be a general-purpose systems brain processor or even multi-core processor that works on a single process at a time and switches between processes to create a parallel working illusion.

But if the code is well written and relies on parallel threads it can keep good use of parallel techniques. CPU also runs at higher maximum clock speeds and are capable of managing the input and output of computer components. That's all the precise information about CPUs. Now keeping them in mind.

What is the GPU?

A GPU is a specialized type of microprocessor, it is optimized to display graphics and do very specific educational tasks. It runs at a lower clock speed than a CPU but has many times the number of cores than a CPU. Think of a GPU as a specialized processor that is built for a very specific purpose. Video rendering is all about simple mathematical operations over and over again and that's what the GPU is best at.

CPU vs GPU: What's the Difference?

A GPU will have thousands of processing cores running simultaneously, each core slower than a CPU core that is said to be efficient at the basic math operations required for video playback. This massive parallelism is what makes GPUs are capable of rendering complex 3D graphics required by modern games.

CPU vs GPU: What's the Difference?

GPUs, however, are most of the time misunderstood a little bit. The terms graphics card, video card, and GPU are often interchanged to mean the same thing. This is true for the first two terms but we have to draw the line at that third one. GPU?

CPU vs GPU: What's the Difference?

The GPU is the actual chip on your graphics or video card. This is an important distinction because graphics cards are made up of the GPU memory called VRAM or video RAM and their own cooling systems. Many graphics cards can actually share the same GPU but not the other parts. So the graphics card itself is like a small computer within your computer. Has its own processor, ram, motherboard, cooler.

What is the difference between the processor and your graphics card and the processor on your motherboard?

To understand the differences we need to look at the type of tasks each will be performing because these are wildly different. The CPU has to perform a wide range of tasks for the entire system. These processors are great for serial tasks this is switching from different things back and forth as needed. The GPU has a narrow range of tasks though with specific specialized areas of work.

They are great for highly parallel repetitive tasks. These mostly include mathematical calculations for images and videos.

For this one, I like to think the CPU is a chef and the GPU is one of the chef's prep workers. The prep person is great at dicing up all the ingredients needed for the cook. They can cut thousands of potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, super-fast very similar motion but they are the best at it. Meanwhile, the chef has to take these parts and mix them all together
using the correct temperature, timing, and mix them in the correct order.

And in this scenario, of course, the chef can also do the same work as the prep person but it's much more efficient to offload that work onto someone who specializes in it and can perform it faster. The CPU will take tasks like images and videos and send them to the GPU to deal with since the GPU's architecture is designed for more parallel tasks.

Physical difference

CPUs will have the advantage of larger pools of cache memory and GPUs have a huge advantage in the brute force of their thousands of cores.

So for example, a modern CPU say the Ryzen 5 3600 which is a 6-core CPU, or intel i7 10700 k which is an 8-core CPU are typical CPU core sizes, you know, 6 to 8 there's even some super high-end ones that go over 20. But that pales in comparison to the amount that's in say a 3080. RTX 3080 has 8704 Cuda cores that it has to work with.

And a lot of these are done parallel processes all doing different calculations for the same thing at once. And just to compare that to an older graphics card a 970 which was 2 to 3 generations ago still has 1664 Cuda cores. These cores while they might act differently than CPU cores do what they need to do for the GPU.


CPUs are more flexible than GPUs because they have a larger instruction set by which they can perform a wider range of tasks. CPUs can be organized and integrated with virtual memory, which is essential for running a modern operating system. That is something that a GPU cannot achieve, but what GPUs can achieve in today's world brings us into a new field of study and that is GPU computing.

CPUs and GPUs have similar purposes but are optimized for different computing tasks an efficient computer will need both to run. CPUs are very good all-round general-purpose microprocessors that were designed to handle all the random stuff that you throw at them. They are serial processors. However, serial processors suck at rendering graphics that is why you have a specific processor a GPU that is for rendering graphics which is a parallel processor.

But people have discovered that parallel processors can also be used to do other things. So actually that wasn't very complicated, was it? I hope this kind of helped you understand the differences between these two processors and the advantages and disadvantages of both of them but they work together to create what you see today. If you have any other questions leave them below in the comments.

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