Difference Between Graphics Card GPU IGPU and APU

There are many terms used to describe graphics cards and gpus. Sometimes these are used interchangeably when they shouldn’t be. The terms we will discuss are: Graphics Card, GPU and IGPU. For most people that aren’t tech savvy, would not know the difference between each and so terms are sometimes used incorrectly but, you will usually always understand what they mean. In this guide we will show the difference between Graphics Card GPU IGPU and APU.

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Quick Compare Table - Difference Between Graphics Card GPU IGPU and APU

Type Simple Explaination
Graphics Card Contains the GPU, VRAM, Cooling, Ports and more. Refers to the whole PCB and anything attached.
GPU Refers to the graphics processing unit only. Manipulates and alters memory in order to create images in a frame buffer which can then be sent as video to a display. Rquires other components to function.
IGPU Integrated within the CPU chip. The IGPU works in the same way as a GPU but all the cooling, ports, memory etc are taken from other components.
APU AMD's IGPU. AMD’s APUs support Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) which allow for the CPU and GPU to be on the same bus and thus reducing communication latency.

Graphics Card

graphics card Difference Between Graphics Card, GPU and IGPU
RTX 2060 Super Graphics Card

A graphics card refers to the whole PCB with all its components. Graphics cards, also referred to as video cards, display cards, graphics adaptor and display adaptor, are used to connect displays in order provide video output. 

The graphics card consists of many components one of which is the GPU. Graphics cards have their own dedicated video memory (VRAM), Display output ports, Power Connectors and cooling heat sinks. All these components combined and any extra parts on the PCB make up a graphics card.

Graphics cards take a lot of the heavy graphical tasks away from the CPU and provide it to the GPU where the GPU can use its own ram and processing power.

GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)

GPU
A Graphics card without the heatsink. GPU is marked red

GPU, also know as graphics processing unit is a processor designed for graphical computation. It manipulates and alters memory in order to create images in a frame buffer which can then be sent as video to a display. Many embedded systems use GPUs in order to take advantage of the highly efficient manipulation of computer graphics. This includes but is not limited to: PCs, Phones, and Game Consoles.

The term GPU came about from Sony in 1994 when referring to the PlayStation’s GPU. It was later popularized by Nvidia in 1999 where they marketed the GeForce 256 as “the world’s first GPU” and went on to create the GeForce Series Graphics Cards.

Like a CPU, a GPU requires its own memory and works with other components to complete scheduled tasks.

IGPU (Integrated Graphics Processing Unit)

cpu
Intel i5 CPU with GPU Integrated (Intel HD Graphics 530)

An IGPU or Integrated Graphics Processing Unit is where the GPU is included within the CPU. The IGPU works in the same way as a GPU but all the cooling, ports, memory etc are taken from other components.

The memory is taken from your typical desktop ram. Because of this, faster dual channel memory always works better with IGPUs. Ports are obtained from your motherboard and cooling is taken from your CPU Cooler.

Having an IGPU will usually always be slower than a dedicated GPU as it has to obtain and share resources from other components. Furthermore, IGPUs tend not to be as fast as dedicated GPUs which cause lower overall performance.

Intel IGPU Diagram

APU (AMD Accelerated Processing Unit)

AMD Ryzen APU
Ryzen 5 3400G APU

AMD Accelerated Processing Unit or APU is a type of IGPU. AMD launched the APU in 2011 and is still used today.

The main difference from an IGPU, is the way the CPU and GPU can transfer information. The chip has the CPU and GPU on the same single die like some intel CPUs but AMD’s APUs support Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) which allow for the CPU and GPU to be on the same bus and thus reducing communication latency. The steps are reduced for each instruction as the memory and tasks are shared.

APU Diagram
AMD APU Diagram

Here we can see the shared memory and the GPU and CPU on the same bus.

Conclusion

We have gone through the terms Graphics Card, GPU, IGPU and APU. GPUs are contained within each of these items. They all have their positives and negatives but for the most part graphics cards with a dedicated GPU come on top. We also know that Graphics Cards contain a gpu and refers to the card as a whole with its cooling, memory and ports. Check more articles on our site.