As we geeks know, the typical I/O system of a desktop or laptop system usually consists of a CPU and a GPU. CPU stands for Central Processing Unit and is in charge of managing… well… pretty much everything really. And the GPU which stands for Graphics Processing Unit is usually in charge of… you guessed it… graphics.
But what is an APU? Is it better? Is it more efficient? Well this article aims to show you the difference and help you make the decision between an APU system and a conventional system.
APU stands for Accelerated Processing Unit, sounds fancy doesn’t it? That’s because it is. It is a truly tiny chip that typically resembles a small CPU, but inside of the APU is where things get really interesting. Whereas on the typical laptop or desktop system, the CPU and GPU are separate, they are both by the use of some sort of magic crammed into this one little chip, and hello, the APU is born.
Both Intel and AMD make APUs (including a few other companies which aren’t as well known) but it has mostly been AMD who have really been pushing this new system to the masses, with increasingly positive results.
So lets go over the main advantages with an APU:
- It’s Small
Yes they’re absolutely tiny! Which means we have more room for extra goodies or quite possibly even an overall slimmer, more compact device. This proves especially well when used in the likes of tablets, which typically are required to be as slim and light as possible with the least amount of moving parts.
- It’s Cool
Very cool in fact! Whereas a typical AMD CPU may register a temperature of around 35-45ºC at idle, an APU is typically much cooler (lower clock speeds) and remains cool even when under extreme load.
- It’s Efficient
APUs work wonders in general use laptops if only because they have low clock speeds and require less cooling. This means that whereas a laptop battery may last 2 hours with a typical AMD CPU, the battery life could be doubled and then some via the use of an APU.
- GPU Memory Is Usually Dedicated
When AMD set out to create their new APUs they wanted to make them ok for gaming, and they are for the most part. This is because most of the APUs that AMD make use dedicated memory. Dedicated memory is typically favoured over shared memory if only because it will deliver better graphics performance and enable you to multitask more efficiently.
- They’re Cheaper
Yes, oddly enough it’s one form of product miniaturization where the smaller more efficient product is actually overall cheaper than it’s larger counterpart. This is mostly due to the manufacturing process, seeing as only one company are involved with the making of the one chip, there are less costs for the original manufacturer and due to the small size of the APU, less materials and less energy is used in the making, compared to the much larger CPUs.
So these are probably the main advantages of APUs but let’s take a look on the flip side and see what disadvantages there are.
There are two main disadvantages with APUs and they are as follows.
- You Can’t Upgrade Them
There are typically no user serviceable parts to an APU system, the APU is usually physically soldered to the mainboard, so unless you’re very VERY skilled with a soldering iron with an insanely tiny tip, you’re stuck with what AMD give you.
- Low Overall Horsepower
APUs just aren’t as powerful as the conventional system of separate CPU and GPU. Period.
The problem which is also it’s strong point is it’s efficiency. Because the CPU is usually clocked within the 1-1.6GHz range, intense photo, video or audio processing is near impossible. This is where the raw untamed power of the likes of a Core i5 Processor starts to show. Trust me I’ve tried even light video editing on my Compaq Presario laptop at 1.00GHz and it was just too frustrating to even contemplate carrying on, let alone trying more heavier processor-intensive tasks.
The Conclusion: Are APUs The Future?
I’m fairly convinced that more and more technology will be fused into a single chip. A non-upgradable, non-customizable system that you buy, keep for 2 years, throw away, get a newer more powerful one. Then do it all over again. It’s just the way it’s going these days. We live in a more disposable society, make do and mend is fading away and it’s semi-oldschool geeks like myself who still try to help. APUs will be the next CPU and GPU system, though I also believe more systems as mentioned previously will be fused together, such as mainboard controller chips for audio, I/O, bus speeds and even RAM is starting to be soldered onto the mainboard these days.
So tell me, do you use a system with an APU? Would you?