Contrary to the trend of APU vs CPU vs GPU, this comparison is not one and the same, as it makes more sense to compare APU to CPU and GPU. Why this way? You'll discover below that APUs are a hierarchy of AMD. The company is famous for producing gaming accessories that combine a CPU and GPU. Simply put, it's AMD's fastest and most powerful GPU and CPU combination while keeping the legendary AMD fast and responsive performance.
As you know that, GPU handles all the complicated chores related to rendering any computing task. The CPU (is the brain) of a computer and leads each and every process. Now here’s AMD’s new addition to the list. An APU(Accelerated Processing Unit) is a combination of CPU and GPU that can handle both tasks while costing more minor but aren't as powerful as CPU + GPU.
What’s An APU, “The Accelerated Processing Unit”? Explained: permalink
The AMD Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), previously known as Fusion, is a 64-bit microprocessor that acts as CPU and GPU on a single unit. Through back to history, Advanced Micro-processing Devices(AMD) launched the first-ever APU in 2011. Furthermore, this brand doesn't have the first integrated graphics chip. Still, the most crucial part is that they produce chips powerful enough to support a frame rate and resolution suitable for playing games.
One of the most famous generations of APU is the Raven Ridge. It comes with CPU cores following AMD’s Zen architecture. Plus, AMD’s Radeon Vega graphics allows you to play powerful games at 720p and some low-spec games at 1080p with medium settings. Another thing, nowadays, you’ll find Picasso APUs (U-series and H-series). The U-series chips are 8 percent more efficient and powerful than Raven Ridge because they consist of Vega graphics and Zen+ CPU cores.
In spite of being similar to U series APUs, generation H has higher TDP, meaning that they can boost more frequently and for more extended periods. According to some reports, the latest chip to come(5000 series) has a total of 8 physical cores and 16 computing threads, making it the most powerful APU of all time. Although there’s no detail of the base clock until now, we expect it to have a 4.7GHz max clock speed.
Threads are like virtual cores or additional cores. Having said that, only one core exists physically. In fact, it acts like two cores when it comes to managing tasks and processes. It's the simplest of the versions.
The graphics of an APU directly refers to the built-in “GPU.” On most of the budget APUs, the hierarchy starts from Vega 8 and ends on Vega 11 at the peak performance, up till now.
As previously mentioned, APU has a dedicated CPU and a graphics processor under a single die. So basically, it's a great innovation by AMD, and its processing performance is way better than Intel HD graphics. Similarly, it outperforms many low-budget GPU and CPU combos and runs many games (even many newly launched).
Aside from its performance, it would help if you never considered an APU for high-end, aka serious gaming (as advertised by AMD). However, it’s well furnished for multimedia and casual computing. Most importantly, it can run many games at an acceptable frame rate of 720p (if you get the 7850K model).
If you’re looking to patch an APU with GPU, then listen carefully! As a matter of fact and performance, you can integrate an NVIDIA GPU to your APU, but what’s the idea left of getting an APU if you’re going to purchase a separate component? Isn’t it great to go with a CPU rather than an APU because you’re going to buy an additional gadget no matter what?
If this condition is currently on your mind, and you have a small budget, then APU will be best other than that. If you want raw power and get the best bang for your buck, GPU + CPU is the best option.
As you likely know, almost all Intel chips feature integrated graphics and all AMD APUs as well. The Intel comes with Intel UHD graphics. However, AMD’s Vega graphics delivers much greater and enhanced performance than Intel. So, here we can say that APU leads the chart for gaming.
On the other hand, integrated graphics (iGPU) allow you to play on a tight budget because its graphical power is far better than some entry-level dedicated GPUs. In other words, if you prefer graphically intensive games or like to play at high settings, then you'll probably need a graphics card.
CPU + GPU: A World-Famous Combo permalink
Central Processing Unit (CPU) and Graphics Processing Unit(GPU) is always a powerful yet costly combination that performs every computer hard chores you assign. Further, you can play every game and fulfill every computing task such as rendering, producing great 3D models in blender, or creating multiplayer games in Unity. This combo is an all-in-one solution for you.
Furthermore, one of the best combo regarding performance is Core i9 10900K and the GeForce RTX 2060 Super. This combo lets you play at 1080p and 60fps under the $1200 range. However, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has uplifted the prices of the computing device and so with the GPU and CPU prices. Therefore, if you want a Gaming PC on a regular, this combination is for you.
Besides that, an APU will not compete with a CPU with a separate graphics card in terms of performance. Because two different components perform better and complete tasks more efficiently, but unless you're working on an all-singing, all-dancing gaming superstation, that shouldn't be taken for granted.
What Makes An APU Bad For Gaming permalink
Well, APU isn’t that bad for medium and low graphics settings players. But when it comes to playing AAA titles like Far Cry Primal or Fortnite at super high settings, you may experience some difficulties. It includes unexpected lags, frame drop and sometimes a blue screen leading to restart and losing that match. Well, this happens due to two reasons. At first, it's improper heat dissipation. As you know, there are two components, a GPU and a CPU on the similar chip, that’s why it can’t bear load of multitasking and lose the confidence of running your games.
The second terrible thing for high-end gamers is lack of memory. Let me clear this. The PCI-e connector transfers lots of memory at a time, and that’s your problem. In simple words, the APU doesn’t have enough memory such as the separated GPU and CPU has, which transfers the memory in a matter of second when separate. But, with the APU, there’s only one chip and the memory is lower, so your whole budget PC will have to wait to serve both. Plus, the main memory is not usually the fastest kind as to its old model such as 2666 MHz or similar to that
Why Even Consider APU For Gaming in 2021? permalink
We’re not in favor of APUs for mid-range or high-end gaming computers. Although, they offer entry-level, or you can say low game settings at 720p and slightly higher central processing power than Intel chips. Adding an APU to your system allows you to kill two birds with one stone in terms of price because you’ll get a budget processor as well as a budget GPU under one roof.
In addition, I would like to know in what circumstance would it make more sense to use an APU over a budget processor and graphics card?
Where CPUs Takes The Lead From APUs: permalink
Undoubtedly, if you have a ~$500 budget or higher, it makes more sense to opt-out with a budget-friendly CPU and a mid-range graphics card. Even though, you’ll find CPUs with a thermal cooler attached with a thermal paste to offer you better performance. Right now, in a $500 gaming PC build, we recommend you to go with an AMD Ryzen 5 2600 process and an AMD RX 580 GPU. Ryzen 5 2600 coupled with the RX 580 will put Ryzen 5 3400G out of its league in any scenario, be it gaming or CPU-intensive tasks.
Therefore, we don’t find a lot of price points where AMD’s APUs make sense. However, the price ranges where these new chips lie are somehow “crucial” ranges because many gamers want to play games but have a very tight budget. In order to enjoy their favorite games, they only require an entry-level setup that can play the games at least on medium and low settings at 720p and 30 frames per second or lower down the road. And, those gamers will appreciate an APU.
APU vs CPU vs GPU: Who Wins The Battle? permalink
At the very end of the day, if you’re struggling in between whether to select an APU or the classic CPU + GPU combo, then there’s only one way to figure out this problem, your pocket. As mentioned earlier, APUs can save tons of money if you’re building a budget gaming PC. Nevertheless, even the current fastest APU (Ryzen 4000-series) will find it challenging to keep up with anything that isn't an indie or eSports game.
Ending the APU vs CPU vs GPU debate, APUs are never a good choice for gamers, but they can serve as an excellent entry-level option until you can afford a more powerful CPU and dedicated graphics card.