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

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

APUs: What are they?

An APU, or Accelerated Processing Unit is the term given to a series of processors that basically act as a CPU (Central Processing Unit) and a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) on a single chip die. They are essentially processors with in-built graphics.

PC’s built with an APU in the motherboard instead of a CPU already have a graphics processing unit inside the processor, thereby eliminating the need for a dedicated graphics card for the system to boot, do graphical tasks or play games. APUs are also found on gaming consoles that do not have a dedicated GPU in them that is separate from the CPU. Examples include consoles like the Sony PlayStation 4 and 8th Gen Microsoft Xbox One.

While the term APU traditionally refers to AMD’s series of 64-bit processors that come with built-in Vega graphics, you also get Intel processors with built-in graphics. Although, Intel’s chips don’t support HSA, or Heterogeneous System Architecture.

What makes APUs so popular?

When building your work or gaming PC, the processor and graphics card are going to be two of the most important components. However, this also makes these two the most expensive components for your PC build. While a decent processor by Intel or AMD could cost you between Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000 based on your needs, a graphic card could be much more expensive given the current surged prices, costing upwards of over Rs 1 lakh for top-end GPUs.

This puts budget gaming PC builders on an indefinite waiting time for GPU prices to come down so that they can complete their build. However, until they have a graphic card, the rest of the built PC is practically useless since it cannot be booted up without a GPU.

AMD’s Ryzen 3 and Ryzen 5 APUs are some popular APU options for budget gaming PC builds. (Image Source: AMD)

APUs offer a simple solution – get a processor that has a decent built-in GPU for now, and upgrade to a proper graphic card later on when you can afford one. If your PC runs on an APU it can boot up without a separate dedicated GPU or graphic card. Further, when you do install a dedicated graphics card, later on, the APU will continue to work as a regular processor.

The cons of an APU

Getting an APU will almost always be a tad more expensive than a regular processor of the same performance segment. However, this difference in price will always be lesser than that of a new graphic card. Hence, getting an APU only makes sense if you are not planning to get a dedicated graphics card in the near future.

Think of it this way – a processor can hold a finite number of resources to power your computer. This can either be all used in the CPU (as in any regular processor) or the same resources could be split between a CPU and GPU (as in an APU). The built-in GPU also hence, means that your APU is likely not as powerful in terms of raw performance compared to a regular CPU of the same price range.

Hence, if you are going to get a graphic card, either with the rest of your components or soon after, getting an APU may make little sense as the graphic processing aspect of your APU will be useless once you install a graphic card. This unused processing power is also not transferable to your CPU and will just be wasted. Invest in an APU only if a graphics card is a distant plan or an indefinite one.

Do you need an APU?

GPU prices are still very high in India thanks to a shortage in supply and crypto mining. With prices that are twice as much as the launch price, GPUs aren’t going to get affordable anytime soon. With that in mind, if you want to build your gaming PC right now without stretching the budget too far, an APU maybe your best option right now.

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