GPU stands for graphics processing unit. You’ll also see GPUs commonly referred to as graphics cards or video cards. Every PC uses a GPU to render images, video and 2D or 3D animations for display. A GPU performs quick math calculations and frees up the CPU to do other things. Whereas a CPU uses a few cores focused on sequential serial processing, a GPU has thousands of smaller cores made for multi-tasking and is found in the best graphics cards for gaming.
There are two different types of GPUs:
- Integrated GPUs are located on a PC’s CPU and share memory with the CPU’s processor.
- Discrete GPUs live on their own card and have their own video memory (VRAM), so that the PC doesn’t have to use its RAM for graphics.
Bottom line: For best performance, opt for a discrete GPU.
Many graphics cards today run on GDDR SDRAM, which stands for graphics double data rate synchronous dynamic random access memory. Further variations, from worst to best performance, are: GDDR2, GDDR3, GDDR4, GDDR5, GDDR5X, GDDR6 and GDDR6X.
This article is part of the Tom's Hardware Glossary.