The Dawn of Processor and Graphics Convergence

It's no longer a text-based, 2D world inside your PC. New, graphics-heavy applications like Google Earth and photo editing applications are increasingly prevalent. High definition video is everywhere, from Blu-ray players in laptops, to YouTube video, to Netflix streaming content. Tomorrow’s applications will be even more demanding, with next-generation, visually-intensive web browsers coming soon.

Many of these apps take advantage of GPU acceleration, but the traditional CPU that ships with every PC is better suited for the older, linear style of applications, which aren't going away any time soon. The traditional CPU, particularly when mated to old-style integrated graphics in low end PCs, struggles with HD content.

The solution is a new type of PC processor altogether — one that incorporates the best of the traditional processor and adds GPU functionality. It's called the APU, or accelerated processing unit. Developed by Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), the APU marks the dawn of a new era in processing, one that offers consumers the best of both CPU and GPU worlds.

AMD is shipping its first generation of APUs, which consist of a CPU and a fully programmable discrete level GPU built onto a single chip. With this new type of chip, systems with CPU and parallel GPU compute capabilities will be available in lower cost systems that use less power.

With the convergence of CPU and GPU, the APU can handle familiar desktop applications like word processing and spreadsheets, plus newer, more graphically-intense applications like video transcoding, high definition video and large scale digital photo manipulation. The APU can also play the current generation of DirectX 11 games, including Civilization V and Lord of the Rings Online.

So what do all these APU benefits really mean to you? First, you won’t be forced to choose between entry level systems with limited GPU capabilities and pricier systems with discrete graphics. You'll also get great GPU and CPU performance right out of the box. If you’re a gamer or digital media editor and demand greater graphics performance, you can always buy a system with an APU and a discrete graphics card. The graphics portion of the APU and the discrete GPU will work in tandem, delivering even greater overall performance and responsiveness.

Graphics cards won’t disappear. In fact, the next-generation APUs are based on new high-end graphics cards from AMD, incorporating video features well suited to high definition playback and transcoding. New GPU features will be available sooner in new AMD GPU chips before they’re built into an APU. Add-on AMD Radeon graphics cards will be available to deliver higher levels of performance for serious gamers and visual content creators. However, even those users will benefit from the additional capabilities of the APU.

The computing landscape is more dynamic than ever before, with a new generation of visual computing applications that demand highly responsive, graphically-based systems. Thanks to the APU from AMD, you can have a low cost, power-saving system that delivers the graphical performance boost necessary to run newer applications.

Subscribe to the Power Tips Newsletter