APU vs. CPU: What’s the Difference?

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APU vs. CPU: What’s the Difference?

APU and CPU are two terminologies we frequently use when discussing computing technology. Although these phrases may sound alike, they relate to various computer system components.

In simple terms, APU refers to the Accelerated Processing Unit, and CPU stands for Central Processor Unit. Both are essential parts of a computer system and handle data processing and computation.

Let’s examine the main distinctions between the the APU and CPU and their functions and effects on computer performance to help you understand.

APU vs. CPU: Side-by-Side Comparison

Full FormAccelerated Processing UnitCentral Processing Unit
FunctionCombines CPU and GPU functions into a single chipHandles data processing and calculations
PerformanceGood for general use and light gamingExcellent for heavy computing and gaming
Power ConsumptionGenerally lower power consumptionCan be power-hungry
CostGenerally less expensiveCostly due to its standalone nature
UpgradabilityLimited upgradability as the CPU and GPU are integrated on a single chipHigh upgradability as the CPU and GPU are separate components
CompatibilityCompatible with motherboards that support the APU’s specific socket typeCompatible with motherboards that support the CPU’s specific socket type
AvailabilityFewer options available compared to standalone CPUs and GPUsWide range of options available from various manufacturers

What is the APU?

An Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) is a single chip that integrates a CPU and a GPU, eliminating the need for a separate graphics card. This type of unit combines central processing and graphics processing capabilities, allowing users to carry out tasks that would typically require both elements.

APUs are frequently found in low-cost computers and laptops because they provide an affordable option for multimedia tasks like streaming and gaming. Compared to a separate CPU and GPU, they use less power and produce less heat, making them perfect for low-power and small form factor systems.

AMD solely makes APUs and only works with motherboards that can accommodate the particular socket type used by APUs. Despite their restricted upgradeability, they offer a fantastic blend of performance and power efficiency for everyday computing needs.

What is a CPU?

A Central Processing Unit (CPU) is a standalone processor that performs most processing tasks in a computer system. It is often referred to as the “brain” of the computer as it controls and coordinates all the operations performed by the other components.

The CPU executes instructions and performs calculations for various applications and programs, including the operating system, word processors, web browsers, and more. It also manages and communicates with other system components like memory, storage, and input/output devices. CPUs vary in performance because of factors such as the number of cores, clock speed, and thread count. 

Intel and AMD are among the top CPU manufacturers. Because of the high clock rate and many cores, modern CPUs offer high performance and upgradability, making them ideal for power users, gamers, content creators, and heavy-duty computing tasks. However, they consume more power and generate more heat than an APU, requiring additional cooling measures to prevent overheating.

APU vs. CPU: What’s the Difference?

From the definitions of the two processors, they are clearly different in many ways. Let’s look at the key differences in detail.


APUs and CPUs differ significantly in terms of functionality. An APU is specifically designed to combine the capabilities of a CPU and GPU on a single chip. APUs are exclusive AMD products with similar functionality to Intel’s Integrated Inclusive CPUs. Since standalone GPUs and CPUs are costly, AMD allows its users to access the functionality of both processors on a single chipset at an affordable price.

Users can stream, game, and perform other multimedia tasks using an APU. Although the performance could be better than the standalone counterparts, APUs are an ideal low-cost option for casual gamers who do not require the performance of a high-quality GPU. CPUs are dedicated processors for high-performance computing tasks such as video editing, gaming, and heavy-duty computing. It offers excellent processing power and high upgradability, making it ideal for intensive users and professionals.

Graphics Processing

The difference here is clear. APUs have an integrated GPU and can perform process graphics, while CPUs cannot because they don’t have an inbuilt GPU. Because of this, users can use APUs for graphics-intensive applications like gaming, video playback, and image processing. Although they may not offer the same degree of graphics performance as a dedicated graphics card, APUs provide a practical, affordable option that is enough for most casual gamers and daily computing requirements.

However, a CPU primarily focuses on tasks related to central processing, leaving graphics processing to a separate GPU. The integrated GPU in an APU is substantially less powerful than a dedicated GPU, a separate component created particularly for graphics processing. This makes a CPU and dedicated GPU combo perfect for demanding graphics-intensive jobs like professional video editing, 3D modeling, and high-end gaming.


APUs are exclusive products of AMD, a company specializing in CPU and GPU technology. Due to AMD’s ability to combine CPU and GPU technologies onto a single chip, APUs with processing and graphics capabilities are now available. AMD offers a range of APUs that cater to different needs and budgets, from entry-level APUs suitable for basic computing tasks to high-end APUs that can handle demanding applications and games.

Contrarily, various businesses, including Intel, AMD, and ARM produce CPUs. Intel is one of the most well-known CPU producers, and desktop and laptop computers mainly use its processors. In addition to manufacturing CPUs, AMD also manufactures CPUs, offering an alternative to Intel’s offerings. Another significant CPU producer, ARM, focuses on building processors for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

AMD exclusively produces APUs, while you can find CPUs and GPUs from a variety of chip manufacturers.


Energy Efficiency

An APU is a processor that combines a CPU and a GPU on a single chip for improved integration and communication. APU offers better energy efficiency as there is no longer a need for a separate GPU, which can use much power.

Contrarily, a CPU is a general-purpose processor created to handle a variety of functions, such as arithmetic, logic, and input/output activities. An APU is often seen as being more energy-efficient than a CPU. However, an APU’s energy efficiency depends on the workload and particular use case. For instance, a CPU may be more energy-efficient than an APU if the task calls for more CPU resources than GPU resources.


APUs are typically less expensive than CPUs and dedicated GPUs in terms of price since they integrate both processing units onto a single chip, which lowers manufacturing costs. Because they provide adequate graphics performance without the need for an external graphics card, APUs are a popular option for entry-level gaming PCs and low-cost laptops.

Yet, despite the extra expense, a dedicated CPU and GPU arrangement may be more suitable if you’re seeking high-end gaming or workstation performance. High-end CPUs offer more cores and faster clock speeds, improving overall computing performance, whereas dedicated GPUs are made to handle more complicated graphics processing. 

APU vs. CPU: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • APUs are exclusive AMD offerings, while other companies such as Intel, ARM, and AMD manufacture CPUs.
  • A CPU can only handle general-purpose computing operations, while APU combines a CPU and GPU on one chip. Due to this integration, APUs are more effective in processing data and rendering visuals, especially in gaming and multimedia applications.
  • APUs can’t handle as sophisticated computational jobs as CPUs because they typically have fewer processor cores and lower clock speeds.
  • As they combine CPUs and GPUs on a single chip, APUs have lower production costs making them generally more economical than CPUs.
  • While CPUs are more frequently found in high-end gaming and workstation systems, APUs are commonly found in entry-level gaming PCs and low-cost laptops.

APU vs. CPU: Which is Better?

APUs are favored for entry-level gaming PCs and low-cost laptops because they combine a CPU and GPU on one chip. This produces cheaper manufacturing costs, greater data processing efficiency, and better graphics rendering. However, they are less suited to more complex computing tasks like high-end gaming or professional applications since they have less processing capability than dedicated CPUs and GPUs.

CPUs are more capable than APUs and can tackle more difficult computational jobs. They are better for high-end gaming and workstation configurations that demand maximum performance. Despite their incredible computing performance, CPUs need to be supplemented with a specialized GPU to handle graphics processing, and they are typically more expensive than APUs.

Your specific computing requirements and spending capacity will ultimately determine whether you choose an APU or CPU. An APU might be the best option if you require basic computing and graphics performance at a reasonable price. Dedicated CPU and GPU setups are more expensive but necessary if you need more performance for professional or gaming applications.

APU vs. CPU: What’s the Difference? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is an APU better than a CPU?

It depends on your specific use case. APUs are cost-effective and energy-efficient as they combine CPU and GPU on a single chipset. However, their performance is limited and is only suitable for low-resource-intensive applications. CPUs are more costly but robust and reliable for more complicated computational jobs.

What is the disadvantage of APU?

The main drawback of APUs is that they do less computationally intensive tasks, such as high-end gaming or professional applications, than dedicated CPUs and GPUs due to their lesser processing power.

What are the advantages of an APU computer?

Compared to separate CPU and GPU systems, an APU computer has reduced manufacturing costs, more effective data processing and graphics rendering, and lower power consumption. APUs provide adequate graphics performance without needing an additional graphics card, making them an excellent choice for entry-level gaming PCs and low-cost laptops.

Does APU benefit from more RAM?

Additional memory helps APUs perform better in data processing and graphics rendering. But, the specific model and the amount of memory bandwidth available determine how much RAM an APU can utilize successfully.

Is CPU better than APU for gaming?

An APU is typically inferior to a dedicated CPU and GPU setup for high-end gaming. High-end CPUs offer more cores and faster clock speeds, improving overall computing performance, whereas dedicated GPUs are made to handle more complicated graphics processing. On the other hand, APUs can deliver respectable graphics performance for budget laptops and entry-level gaming PCs at a more reasonable price range.

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