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APUs explained: What are they and why they’re great for budget gaming PCs

As the global shortage of GPUs continues to make them very expensive and out of reach for most gamers looking to build a gaming PC on a budget, APUs are slowly becoming more popular than ever. But what is the APU? How are they different from processors? Why are they so popular with budget players? Read on to find out.

APU: What are they?

APU or Accelerated Processing Unit is a term for a series of processors that basically act as a CPU (central processing unit) and GPU (graphics processing unit) on a single die. In fact, these are processors with integrated graphics.

PCs that have an APU installed on the motherboard instead of a processor already have a GPU inside the processor, eliminating the need for a dedicated graphics card to boot the system, perform graphics tasks or play games. APUs are also found on game consoles that do not have a dedicated GPU separate from the processor. Examples include consoles like Sony PlayStation 4 and 8th generation Microsoft Xbox One.

While the term APU traditionally refers to AMD’s 64-bit series of processors that come with integrated Vega graphics, you also get Intel processors with integrated graphics. Intel chips don’t support HSA or heterogeneous system architecture though.

What makes APUs so popular?

When building a work or gaming PC, the processor and graphics card will be the two most critical components. However, it also makes these two most expensive components to build your PC. While a decent processor from Intel or AMD can cost you Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000 depending on your needs, a graphics card can be much more expensive given the current high prices and costs over 1 lakh for top-end GPUs.

This puts budget gaming PC makers indefinitely awaiting GPU price reductions so they can complete the build. Until they have a graphics card, however, the rest of the built PC is practically useless as it cannot be booted without a GPU.

AMD Ryzen 3 and Ryzen 5 APUs are some of the popular APU options for budget gaming PCs. (Image source: AMD)

APUs offer a simple solution – get a processor with a decent integrated GPU for now and upgrade to a suitable graphics card later when you can afford it. If your computer is running on an APU, it can boot without a separate dedicated GPU or graphics card. Also, later, when you install a dedicated graphics card, the APU will continue to work as a normal processor.

Cons of the Armed Forces

Getting an APU will almost always be slightly more expensive than a conventional processor in the same performance segment. However, this price difference will always be less than that of a new graphics card. Hence, purchasing an APU only makes sense if you don’t plan on purchasing a dedicated graphics card in the near future.

Think of it this way: a processor can hold a limited amount of resources to power your computer. All of this can be used in the CPU (as in any conventional processor), or the same resources can be shared between the CPU and GPU (as in an APU). So the onboard GPU also means that your APU is probably not as powerful in terms of sheer performance compared to a regular processor in the same price range.

Hence, if you are going to get a graphics card either with the rest of the components or shortly thereafter, purchasing an APU may make little sense as the graphics processing aspect of your APU will be useless after the graphics card is installed. This unused processing power also cannot be transferred to your processor and will simply be wasted. Invest in an APU only if the video card is long-range or vague.

Do you need an APU?

GPU prices in India are still very high due to the lack of supply and crypto mining. At double the starting price, GPUs won’t be available anytime soon. With that in mind, if you’re looking to build your gaming PC right now without stretching your budget too much, an APU might be your best bet right now.



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