What is a GPU?

What is GPU Explained

In today’s complex tech world, a lot of abbreviations like CPU, RAM, and HDD are terms that have probably been in our minds for quite some time now. Yet, do we really know what they all mean? In this blog, we will be covering what GPU is. Thus, although its existence might make something along the lines of high-performance e-gaming PCs first come to your mind, the role of the GPU is far greater and encompasses very much more than creating realistic processing value. Well, let’s hold on tight while we take a detailed insight about what is GPU, what is the full form of GPU, its evolution and more in this blog.

GPU Definition

The GPU full form is Graphics Processing Unit. GPUs can do complicated calculations quite rapidly, which is helpful for any graphics work on a computer. GPUs are also called Graphics Processing Units, graphic cards, or video cards. Traditional GPUs originated with the purpose of enhancing frame rates in video games and Computer-Aided Design (CAD). They can handle large chunks of data at the same time, and this makes them be used in other applications where similar mathematical computations are needed, such as machine learning, video processing/creation, and artificial gaming. One important aspect is that GPUs are best utilized when working in parallel since their strength is in repetitious mathematical computation. If you have understood what does GPU stands for, let’s decode its evolution.


Evolution of GPU: Digging the Past

The actual history of the GPU goes back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time when computer graphics, or rather the lack of them, needed to be more logical. This means that the past technologies that gave the world blocky pixels forming what could be called primitive shapes were the epitome of advancement. When computers were first introduced, they were not capable of handling the calculation involved in enough processing to get quality animation. This brings us to the next device called the GPU or the graphic processing unit; this device helps reduce the workload on the CPU, particularly with regard to graphical processing.

Originally, the GPU working was configured to perform designated graphical operations such as rendering of lines and polygons. It relieved the CPU from performing a load of work as required in the PCSX system, which in return increased the overall graphical performance. It was a game changer, literally, for people behind the gaming industry to produce much more intricate games than before, hence cultivating the video games as we know them today.

But what makes the GPU so good at it, and why is it considered better and more optimal for certain tasks than the CPU? Architecture is the key to success in this case. Also, unlike the CPU, which is built to handle tasks one after the other (and referred to as being ‘instruction based’), the GPU excels at handling concurrent tasks.

All these computations are possible because of what is in the GPU. One of them that stands out in the performance is that it has a large number of cores, some of which are dedicated to handling some graphical calculations. These cores are operative in parallel, and these are the ones that perform data calculations at an incredibly high speed. It is best suited for applications such as rendering large scenes in 3D, where thousands of calculations must be done on each frame.

GPU Use Cases

Although it is clear that GPU for gaming is one of the arenas where it is used, its uses go far beyond that of gaming. The GPU’s parallel processing abilities make it a valuable asset in various fields. Here is a detailed breakdown:

  • Scientific Computing: From folding protein chains to predicting the climate, the GPU’s prowess in performing complex mathematical calculations has greatly advanced scientific simulation and study.
  • GPU for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: The essence of training AI models is the analysis of huge amounts of data-sets, and this aligns perfectly with the GPU’s associative processing model.
  • GPUs for Video Editing and Animation: The GPU is used especially for rendering high-quality videos, high-quality animations, and other graphics; it has the function of simplifying the work a lot.
  • Cryptocurrency Mining: GPUs are also used in mining cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoins, due to their computational capability.

These are only several examples; however, with the advancements in technology we have witnessed over the recent years, GPUs have broadened the horizons of possibilities in numerous sections.


What’s Inside the GPU?

As we have seen what is a GPU and why it is essential, it is time to know how it is. The following outlines the crucial parts of the system that will give you an understanding of how does a GPU work.

  • Streaming Multiprocessors (SMs): These are the soul of the GPU; there are many cores that work on the graphical data.
  • Tensor Cores and RT Cores (Optional): These are specialized cores present in most modern graphic cards to perform highly specific functions such as ray tracing and AI.
  • Video Memory (VRAM): This is a type of RAM that holds the graphical information in a format that is easily accessible to the GPU for carving.
  • Video Output Interface: This interface enables the GPU to communicate with the display and sends out the final rendered image of the screen to the monitor.

The individual effectiveness and capabilities of such components depend on the particular GPU model and its users’ requirements. When it comes to gaming GPUs, manufacturers concentrate on computed graphical competency, while professional GPUs can contain focused cores for applications such as video editing.

GPU vs Graphics Card

A GPU is a graphics processor that is usually integrated into a computer, while a graphics card is a hardware component that needs to be installed into a computer. Interestingly, people often mistakenly consider both the names, that is a graphics processing unit and the graphics card, as having one and the same meaning but it’s different.


Graphics cards are an Advanced Interface Board (AIB) that are inserted into a slot in the computer system’s central processing unit. Graphics cards, as a component of a computer, do not reside within the frame of the computer; they are rather cards that can easily be replaced. GPU is a feature that is used whenever you buy or build a graphics card.


GPU vs Graphic CardThe GPU is the only component that is found more densely in graphics cards. It coexists with other elements, such as video RAM, or VRAM, for video storage and other parts like the HDMI or Display Port for signal transmission and a cooler. However, a GPU can also be on the motherboard, or it may be done with an all-in-one chip solution for the rest of the parts.

Also Read: Difference between CPU and GPU

Decoding Different GPU Technologies

Streaming Multiprocessors (SMs)

Picture a facility with a wide range of sectors and a highly populated area. That is the simplified concept of an SM. An SM is central to a GPU and contains several elements of a RISC processor. They cater to a plethora of cores, and each is highly skilled at managing particular graphical or computational processes. This helps in the dispersion of workload essential for the GPU, which always results in tasks being accomplished faster compared to a CPU with fewer cores.

Unified Memory Architecture (UMA)

In the past, the CPU and the GPU had their own individual memory pool through which they could access assets. UMA narrows this divide, thereby improving access to a single comprehensive memory that is available to both processors. It thus cuts the number of transfers of having to copy data back and forth, therefore increasing performance.

Shader Model

The shader model can be described as hardware-dependent instructions for the GPU that are available to the developer. It determines how the GPU will handle various kinds of graphical data – lighting, textures, and specific effects. Indeed, each new version of shader models brings a whole plethora of improvements that extend GPU’s abilities to render increasingly realistic and detailed images.

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Final Words

Today, the GPU has evolved far beyond its original role of just processing graphic rendering calculations. It represents one of the most powerful and influential processors that produce technological breakthroughs in games, artificial intelligence, sciences, and more. It is capable of handling parallel processing tasks practically at the speed of light, hence making it an invaluable tool regardless of the industry one is in.

So, let’s dig in and learn the actual GPU meaning, regardless of whether you are a gamer who cannot settle for less than regular graphics, a content creator who needs a beast to handle complex software, or simply a person who has decided to embark on the journey of this new-age technology called machine learning. This helps you to make some choices whenever you want to create a new order for a new computer or assemble your own one.

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What exactly does a GPU do?

In simple terms, a GPU can be described as a digital coprocessor which is specialized in performing parallel computing. A GPU is ideal for handling graphic-related issues such as video editing, video games, and 3D modeling tasks. It is well suited for these tasks since it can handle many computational operations on large sets at a go.

Do laptops have GPUs?

Certainly, you can find the GPU in most of the laptops existing in the market today. They come in two forms: share (implemented as microcode in the CPU) for simple uses and general- (on a different card) for complex operations.


GPUs and CPUs each have their own memory sometimes called RAM or memory . For quicker processing, to store the images, textures and visual data, it uses GPU RAM.

Can a GPU replace a CPU?

GPUs cannot replace CPUs, but instead, work as coprocessors. CPUs perform tasks related to general functions of the computer, whereas GPUs perform calculations related to visuals in particular. It proves that they complement each other to achieve a high level of functionality.

How do GPUs work?

GPUs have many cores to compute millions of instructions in parallel implemented in their architectural structure. This makes it possible to handle visuals that involve different aspects separately and in a coordinated manner.

Why are GPUs needed?

Over the years, GPUs have enhanced the performance of applications that are highly graphical in nature. Otherwise, simple operations and organizational processes such as video editing or indulging in games would be extremely slow and cumbersome.

Who made the first GPU?

There is no strong evidence found, but the exact origins with hardware from IBM and SGI in the 1960’s and 1970’s considered to be pioneering in terms of early graphics processing.

What is GPU main purpose?

The primary role of a GPU is to help in rendering and rendering output graphics on your computer effectively.

About the Author
Posted by Dharmesh Gohel

I am an SEO content writer with a passion for crafting high-quality, optimized content. Specializes in boosting online visibility and driving organic traffic.