What’s the Difference Between a Graphic Card and a Graphics Processing Unit?
If you are new to the world of graphic cards, it is easy to confuse a video card with the graphics processing unit (GPU). They both have similar functions, and may even be described as performing the same tasks. However, they are not really one and the same.
This question is asking the difference between a graphic card and a graphics processing unit.
In computing, a graphics card is more commonly known as a video card. It is an expansion card that produces the images on your computer monitor. The GPU, meanwhile, is the heart of most graphics cards. In fact, it’s what makes them work.
The GPU performs all the calculations necessary to render images on the screen. It takes care of the graphical intensive tasks, like polygon rendering and pixel filling.
Let’s say you’re playing a 3D game on your computer and you want to enable some cool effects. These effects, such as anti-aliasing, are calculated by your GPU rather than your CPU.
Not all GPUs are created equal, though. Some are more powerful than others because they have higher clock speeds or higher processing power. Some GPUs can even process two things at once!
As you shop for a new graphics card, you’re likely to come across the terms “graphics card” and “graphics processing unit,” or GPU, in your search. What’s the difference between them?
A graphics card consists of dedicated video memory and a graphics processing unit (GPU) that handles all sorts of calculations, like mapping textures and lighting surfaces while rendering millions of polygons.
A GPU is a single-chip processor primarily used to manage and boost the performance of video and graphics. It is designed to be efficient at manipulating computer graphics and image processing. GPUs are very efficient at manipulating computer graphics and are generally more effective than general-purpose CPUs for algorithms where processing of large blocks of data is done in parallel. This makes GPUs well suited for use on computer vision applications.
The terms graphic card and graphics processing unit (GPU) are often used interchangeably. The two terms are closely related, but there is a subtle difference between the two.
Graphics cards were once their own expansion cards. They were a single strip of hardware that plugged into your motherboard with a PCI or AGP slot and allowed your computer to output images to a screen or monitor. These days, graphics cards may still be contained in their own expansion card, but they can also be integrated into the motherboard’s chipset. While there are some exceptions to this rule, most of the time when someone is talking about a GPU they are referring to an integrated solution on your computer’s motherboard.
On laptops and lower-end desktop computers, you’re not likely to see an expansion card for a GPU. Instead, these computers will have an integrated GPU that shares resources with the CPU and other components of the system. In some cases an integrated GPU will even use part of your system RAM as its own memory.
The graphics card is a physical component that’s installed in your computer. It contains the GPU, which is what does all the work, along with the video RAM (VRAM) and other components. If you’re shopping for a new computer or looking at upgrading your PC, you’ll see a large variety of graphics cards out there.
The GPU is a component on the graphics card, just like the CPU is on the motherboard. The GPU used to be part of the motherboard, but as processors got more powerful, they required more power than motherboards could deliver. Today, only low-end PCs have integrated GPUs built into the motherboard.
You may hear people use the term “graphics chip” to refer to either “GPU” or “graphics card.” It can be confusing because manufacturers advertise their graphics cards with specific model numbers and chipsets—and those model numbers aren’t always directly related to how powerful they are.
A graphics card, or video card, is a PC component that is essential for any computer that needs to display an image on a monitor. It contains the GPU (graphics processing unit) as well as video memory (RAM) and other components.
A graphics processing unit, or GPU, is specialized hardware for producing images. It contains the chip that performs calculations needed to render graphics on your screen. It also contains dedicated video RAM (random-access memory), which stores the data being processed by the GPU.
In most cases, these two terms refer to the same thing. In fact, some manufacturers don’t even use these terms anymore — they refer only to their products as GPUs. AMD calls its GPUs APUs (accelerated processing units). Nvidia refers to its GPUs as “visual computing modules.”
Graphic cards and GPUs are two different things that do the same thing: They make your computer better at displaying and processing graphic. What’s the difference between them? Not much.
Over the years, the terms “graphics card” and “video card” have become interchangeable, but they’re not exactly the same thing. Instead, a graphics card is one component of a video card, which is an expansion card that plugs into your motherboard to add visual capabilities to your PC. The term “graphics card” is often used to refer to a video card that specializes in 3D rendering or gaming, while the term “video card” refers more generally to an expansion card that handles visual display functions.
A similar distinction exists between GPUs and graphics cards. A GPU is a graphics processing unit, or chip designed for handling 3D-rendering and other graphics-related tasks. A graphics card will always include a GPU, but a GPU may not be included in every graphics card.
In practical terms, you should probably just refer to all of these as “graphics cards.”