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APU Vs CPU Vs GPU: Differences & Which Is Best For Gaming?

Choosing a suitable processor for your PC can significantly impact game performance and everyday tasks.

But it can be a confusing choice. In this article, we will break down the key differences in the APU vs. CPU vs. GPU debate. This will help you to make your decision in the future.  

An APU is a processor with an integrated graphics card. APU stands for an Accelerated Processing Unit. A microprocessor combines the CPU and GPU on a single microchip.  

It has the same functionality as the CPU and GPU but is seen as an entry-level option for people looking for processors, so there's always a debate between the APU vs. CPU vs. GPU.

The primary function of the APU is processing and graphic rendering. However, it can also be used for software development, visual content creation, and gaming.  

Inside a Desktop Computer

In terms of an APU v CPU comparison, which is better? The APU offers a budget-friendly processor for your PC build. This gives it a place in the APU vs. CPU vs. GPU debate.

On average, they cost less than $100. Also, its graphics card can be easily upgraded, and the APU will work as a standard processor. The CPU lacks the additional functions of an APU. 

  • Budget-friendly 
  • CPU and GPU functionality 
  • Easy to upgrade 
  • Good for gaming and video editing 
  • Consumes less energy 
  • Not suitable for serious gaming 
  • No separate memory for GPU 
  • No efficient cooling system 

CPU Explained (Pros & Cons)  

CPU stands for Central Processing Unit and is known as the computer's brain.

In simple terms, it is a super-effective calculator able to manage an indefinite number of computations and calculations at any one time.

It processes all of the data because when the computer sends instructions to the CPU, the CPU interprets and executes them.  

CPUs work by using millions of transistors and are made up of multiple cores like dual core and quad core. This allows them to multitask efficiently.  

Motherboard with CPU

CPUs are more effective at rendering when it comes to CPU vs. APU comparisons. You don't need to spend any money on expensive graphic cards.

Also, depending on the CPU you have, you can generate images faster than GPUs and APUs. CPUs are great for high-quality rendering, but they’re not as quick as most GPUs.  

  • Generates images faster 
  • High-quality rendering 
  • Efficient cooling system 
  • Processes data quickly 
  • Generally doesn’t render as fast as GPUs 
  • Can be expensive to buy 
  • Generate a lot of heat 

GPU Explained (Pros & Cons)  

GPU stands for Graphics Processing Unit. It is also commonly known as the Graphics Card or Video Card. Its main task is rendering graphics correctly, mainly for video games and video editing.

It renders everything from the operating system icons to the most advanced video game graphics.  


The GPU works by taking repetitive graphical tasks and performing them at high speeds to render frames. This is known as the frame rate. Both the GPU and CPU affect frames per second (FPS).

The higher the GPU frame rate is, the better the graphics on the screen are. Graphics cards are generally quite expensive and aren't aimed at those on tighter budgets.    

The CPUs are more efficient than GPUs at rendering due to algorithms that process substantial data blocks in parallel. 

This is because CPUs are tailored for general operations, while GPUs are designed to work with specific data.

However, the CPU + GPU combination almost always comes out on top when comparing an APU vs. CPU vs. GPU. 

  • Improves CPU performance 
  • Allows you to play graphic-demanding games 
  • Reduces the chances of lagging 
  • Highly efficient video editing 
  • Lets you watch higher quality videos 
  • Can be very expensive 
  • High resolution and colors can affect performance 
  • Overheating - requires a cooling system 

APU Vs CPU Vs GPU Rendering: Key Differences Explained  

Quality and Performance 

The CPU performs arithmetic and logical tasks. It is the computer's brain and ensures that all other components do their job.

The GPU is made to render graphics so that the visuals of all tasks are smooth and fast. The APU combines the functions of the CPU and GPU.  

The most common combination is the CPU + GPU combination. This is because it gives the best quality and performance. However, an APU will outperform a CPU in terms of gaming.

This is because APUs are a hybrid of the CPU and GPU. They are power-efficient, cost-effective, and suitable for laptops because they don't require much space.   

For Entry-Level Gaming 

For entry-level gamers, you might want to consider your budget and how elite and competitive you want to be while gaming.

As mentioned already, the APU is perfect for those on a tighter budget. You will be able to save money to spend on other parts of your next PC build.

However, you will be sacrificing graphics performance because power is limited.  

For Expert Gaming 

For serious gamers, the most popular choice is the combination of the CPU + GPU. However, this will be an expensive investment, but it is worth it if you want to be a serious gamer.

The CPU and GPU are equally essential for gaming and balancing your overall PC performance.  

While many think the CPU is the most crucial aspect of a PC, you won't be able to enjoy most games without a dedicated graphics card.

A GPU has a separate chip, a separate power supply, standalone memory, and a dedicated cooling system. This gives your PC more power to play with.

Related: What Are The Pros And Cons Of GPU Scaling?


In terms of speed, APUs can be faster than CPUs and GPUs.

For example, the Ryzen 3 3200G APU with Vega 8 Graphics can be 2 – 3 times faster when compared to Intel's Core i7-9700K and UHD Graphics 630. 

AMD's Ryzen series APUs can even outperform some of the entry-level discrete GPUs, which makes sense because AMD makes GPUs along with CPUs. 

Related: How Fast Of A CPU Do I Need?

For Graphically Intensive Tasks 

If you're looking for high quality and performance for graphic-intensive tasks such as video editing and gaming, then the CPU + GPU combination is the better choice.

This is because CPUs are generally the most effective at processing instructions.

When combined with a GPU, the GPU will do a lot of the heavy lifting for all graphics-intensive tasks, ensuring that everything gets rendered as it should. 

For Video Editing 

A powerful graphics card is more important than a CPU when editing videos with most video editing software for video editing.

You should consider buying a GPU when editing or rendering because this hardware acceleration technology can significantly improve video editing performance, especially if you're editing 4K and 8K videos.

You can still use an integrated GPU or CPU, but a combination of CPU and GPU is better.  

Intel Core i5 CPU


In terms of the cost, an APU is far cheaper than a CPU or GPU. An APU generally costs less than $100, making it a suitable entry-level option for those on a stricter budget.

Meanwhile, the average price of a CPU is anywhere between $100 to $900. GPUs are always in high demand and generally cost an average of $300 and upwards.  

Frequently Asked APU Vs CPU Vs GPU Questions 

Can you use an APU with a GPU? 

Yes, you can use an APU with a GPU. You can install a new GPU, and the integrated graphics card will automatically become disabled once the graphics card is detected.

Then the new GPU will become your primary display adapter.  

How do you increase APU performance? 

One way to increase your APU performance is to purchase and install more RAM. It's better to have higher frequency RAM matched with your APU.

You can also install a dedicated graphics card to help with more graphic-intensive tasks.  

How much RAM does an APU need? 

APUs on-chip video and processing power are directly linked with RAM. A higher DRAM frequency means the entire system works faster.

For gaming, a minimum of 8GB should be sufficient for gaming on an APU.  

Does APU affect CPU? 

No, they are separate processors. An APU can perform all of the CPU and GPU tasks together and can perform them with superior quality.

This is why APUs don't affect standalone CPUs; they replace them. 

How do I switch from APU to AMD GPU? 

Open the 'Control Center .'Go to the 3D settings and click 'Manage 3D Settings.'

Then go to the 'Program Settings' tab and select the program from the drop-down menu for which you want to install a graphics card.

From the drop-down menu, choose your preferred graphics processor.  


If you're still weighing up the options between the CPU v GPU v APU, the deciding factor will be your budget. While the CPU and GPU are expensive, they're the best for gaming.

However, a more cost-effective APU might be less efficient but can perform all of the tasks of a CPU and GPU. This should help you decide which of the combinations is best for gaming.