An accelerated processing unit (APU) is a microprocessor that combines the central processing unit (CPU) with the graphics processing unit (GPU) on a single computer chip. It makes a computer a bit faster than if the processors were set far apart from each other because, in that case, it would take more time for them to communicate.

You can compare an APU to a pencil with an eraser at the other end. There’s no need to drop the pencil and grab an eraser, erase the mistake, and then exchange the eraser back. Instead, you can easily and quickly make corrections to your work with a single tool. The APU works like that for today’s powerful gaming computers.

Other interesting terms…

Read More about an Accelerated Processing Unit (APU)

The APU was born when software programmers and manufacturers found that GPUs were not performing at their maximum potential. They thus turned toward “parallel processing,” which enabled a GPU to work alongside a CPU. An APU improves the data transfer rate between a CPU and a GPU, allowing a computer to complete tasks while consuming less power than if the components worked separately.

What Sectors Benefit from Using APUs?

APUs have seen various applications in several disciplines.

Software Development

APUs allow software developers to use heterogeneous computing architectures that combine CPU and GPU technologies. This combination makes it easier for them to work on applications that require speed and massive processing capability.

It also helps that today’s APUs support Open Computing Language (OpenCL) images. OpenCL provides a standard interface for parallel computing using task- and data-based parallelism. Most tasks require high computing power (from CPUs) and fast image-processing speed (a GPU feature). But CPUs and GPUs don’t normally process data at the same time. APUs, which combine these features and allow parallel processing shortens the process.

Also, APUs are cheaper compared to paying for a CPU plus GPU setup, making them ideal for software developers whose tasks are not that processor-heavy.

Visual Content Creation

A majority of digital content today relies heavily on visuals. With an APU-powered computer, digital content creators can easily craft high-quality videos that take user experience to another level.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), who first developed APUs, allow content creators to use built-in universal video decoders (UVDs) to refine video content so it would retain its quality when shown on a large screen.

Aside from providing high-quality displays, APUs also allow content creators to clean up photos and videos, thus simplifying and streamline content creation processes.

Gaming

APUs are also useful for gamers who want to build their computers from scratch. The systems allow them to benefit from better and faster graphics processing, which enhances their gaming experience without breaking the bank.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using an Accelerated Processing Unit?

While APUs provide better graphics performance compared to traditional CPUs with integrated graphics capability, their integrated GPU cannot match the performance of a dedicated one. And even if an APU’s GPU component can handle parallel processing tasks efficiently, its CPU component may not offer the same level of performance as a high-end standalone CPU.

In addition, while integrating both processing units on a single chip saves space and allows for use in portable devices, APUs can generate a significant amount of heat, which can be challenging to dissipate effectively. They require adequate cooling solutions to maintain optimal performance, which can complicate the design of compact systems.

Upgrading a system with an APU can be more cost-effective than upgrading both a CPU and a discrete GPU, especially for users with moderate performance needs. However, since APUs are all-in-one solutions, users cannot upgrade the CPU or GPU independently. This limitation can be a drawback for users who wish to enhance their system’s performance over time.

Balancing power consumption and performance can be challenging. While APUs are generally more power-efficient than separate CPU-GPU setups, high-performance APUs can still consume significant power.

Finally, while APUs are versatile and can be used in various devices, they may face compatibility issues with certain motherboards and other hardware, limiting their flexibility in system configurations.

Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) Pros and Cons

Should You Buy an Accelerated Processing Unit?

Not everyone needs an APU, but it is indeed a great addition to your computer if you work as a software developer, digital designer, or professional gamer. Compared to upgrading your CPU and GPU, purchasing an APU and installing it costs less. The table below compares the prices of the best among each processor type.

Processor TypeModelPrice
CPUAMD Threadripper 3970X (according to Tom’s Hardware)Between US$1,973.76 and US$2,653.75
GPUAMD Radeon RX 5700 (based on Techradar)Between US$399.99 and US$489.99
APUAMD A10-9700 (according to GamingScan)Between US$90.99 and US$102.32

Using the price points indicated above, you’ll see that upgrading your CPU and GPU can cost an average of US$2,758.75 while settling for probably less processing power using an APU only amounts to an average of US$96.66. This computation is, of course, very simplistic and doesn’t take into account the processors’ specifications, but it should give you an idea when making a purchasing decision.

Trivia

Did you know that an APU was first known as “Fusion”? AMD, the creator of the first APU, used “Fusion” as the marketing term for its 64-bit microprocessors that combined a CPU and a GPU in one unit.

Key Takeaways