APU vs. CPU

The introduction of the APU has allowed for the integration of processing and graphics functions onto a single chip, creating an individual unit that can be used in place of a separate CPU and graphics card. The new availability of options when it comes to processor selection begs the question “CPU vs APU?”  This article hopes to help you p determine which is best when building your computer.

Table of Contents


The Short Answer

The quickest answer to this question can be determined by which of the following factors is more important to you when building your PC: Price or Performance.  The graphics card is one of the most expensive portions of a computer build, so if you buy a CPU and graphics card separately, it will almost certainly be more pricey.  If you go with an APU, you will save money from not having to purchase the graphics card and will be free to use the additional money for other components of the computer.  However, if price does not matter to you as much as performance, then the CPU is the way to go.  CPUs have been around for much longer, and offer a wider variety of selection with more processing capabilities than can be typically found on an APU.

CPU vs. APU Pros Cons

CPU

  • Performance
  • Better for gaming
  • Multiple interchangeable parts for upgrading
  • More expensive
  • Need to buy a graphics card
APU

  • Cheapest option
  • Simple solution
  • Limited performance
  • Less optimal for gaming


APU vs CPU Performance

Since the APU is a combination of both the CPU and graphics card, it allows for a better transfer rate than a traditional CPU and graphics card.  This is because the GPU (graphics component) portion of the APU can help shoulder the burden of the various processing tasks.  Another consequence of this is that the APU also ends up using less power than the alternative setup, allowing for a nice baseline of graphics capabilities.

However, the performance offered by the APU will simply not be enough for gaming. Gaming is a highly demanding task, and the processing power of the APU is usually not enough to meet the performance needs of most gamers.  For gaming the best option would be to buy one of the highest end CPUs like the Intel Core i7-8700K or Intel Core i9-7900X . You can pair those with a superior graphics card like the GeForce GTX 1080 EVGA or GeForce GTX 1080 TI.


Customizing an APU vs a CPU

If you are building your own computer  you will be continually looking to upgrade your parts.  With a CPU, you have the most flexibility with the future of your build.  At any time, you can upgrade either your processor or graphics card, or both.  This is compared to the APU, where if you want to upgrade either your graphics or processing capabilities, you would have to get an entirely new APU.  Switching out these parts is straightforward on most motherboards, the only thing to consider would be the amount of ports taken up with the APU vs. CPU.  The use of an APU would allow for the freedom of an extra port that would not be occupied by the graphics card.


Price

If price is your sticking point, and it is the difference between building your computer and not, the APU is the road for you.  Most graphics cards will cost in the range of $200-$1500, which is pricey. This cost, paired with a good CPU which can go for $200-$1,000, would put you at a total cost of $400-$2,500.  This is clearly a lot of money, and may not be for everyone.  Conversely, the best APUs will go for around $100-$300. Getting an APU will leave you with a load of savings to help you construct the rest of your computer.


Conclusion

Once again, we come back to the question of which is more important to you, performance or price?  If you are a gamer and are looking for top level processing speeds and high-end graphics, then a definitive CPU and graphics card combination are the best option for you.  Keep, in mind this will get pricey, especially if you decide to upgrade more and more over time.  The APU is the best option if you are not a gamer and need a budget under $300.  This can be a great avenue for those on a budget and are looking for a way to build their own computer when it otherwise may not be possible.