What is a GPU?

by George Lovell | | 0 comments

It's a graphics processing unit. It's responsible for the image on your computer.

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The GPU is a specialised processor that renders graphical data. The CPU (Central Processing Unit) works in conjunction with software, and sends graphics information to the GPU. The GPU takes this data, and decides how to utilise the pixels on the display to create an image. It does this by performing billions or even trillions of complex mathematical and geometric calculations per second.

Many devices including smartphones have a GPU chip or an integrated system on chip (SoC), which contains the CPU, GPU, and other electrical components.

Most computers and larger devices have a graphics card - as pictured. This is an expansion card, which generates graphics to display on an output device, i.e. a monitor. The GPU sits in the middle of the card, and does the same job as described above. Notice the big fans on the card. The GPU gets extremely hot, and so it needs to be cooled by fans, thermal paste and a heat sink to avoid degradation.

Video games and other animated programs require large amounts of power, as each frame has to be calculated and drawn individually - typically at a rate of 60 frames per second.

The power of a GPU and it's functions are not just limited to gaming. Computers that are used for engineering with CAD (computer-aided design) require a powerful graphics setup to create 2D and 3D models and designs. CAD is used in architecture, manufacturing, product design, and many other industries. GPU's are also used for mining cryptocurrency, because they are more efficient at solving repetitive math problems than CPUs.

You may be aware of current shortages and subsequent high prices of computer parts - especially GPUs which are already very difficult to make. Increased popularity and use of cryptocurrencies, plus more people working from home has caused an increase in demand for GPUs. Supply chain issues have made it more difficult to produce and distribute the hardware, (thanks COVID). The main manufacturers of GPUs and graphics cards are AMD, Intel and Nvidia. These companies are working hard on new technologies and solutions to satisfy the increasingly high demand for better products. Hopefully, people will actually be able to buy graphics cards later this year, without having to re-mortgage or sell their children on the black market.

As always, we hope you learned something. Have a great day.

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