Stands for "Graphics Processing Unit." Like the CPU (Central Processing Unit), it is a single-chip processor. However, the GPU is used primarily for computing 3D functions. This includes things such as lighting effects, object transformations, and 3D motion. Because these types of calculations are rather taxing on the CPU (Central Processing Unit), the GPU can help the computer run more efficiently.

The first company to develop the GPU was Nvidia, Inc. Its GeForce 256 GPU can process 10 million polygons per second and has over 22 million transistors. Compare that to the 9 million transistors found on the Pentium III chip. Now that's a lot of processing power. There is also a workstation version of the chip called the Quadro, designed for CAD (Computer Aided Design) applications. This chip can process over 200 billion operations a second and deliver up to 17 million polygons per second.


Whats the Difference Between a GPU and a Graphics Card

A graphics processing unit or GPU is a specialized processor that offloads 3D graphics rendering from the microprocessor. It is used in embedded systems, mobile phones, personal computers, workstations, and game consoles. Modern GPU's are very efficient at manipulating computer graphics, and their highly parallel structure makes them more effective than general-purpose CPU's for a range of complex algorithms. In a PC (Personal Computer), a GPU can be present on a video card, or it can be embedded on the motherboard. More than 90% of new desktop and notebook computers have integrated GPU's, which are usually far less powerful than those on a dedicated video card.

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A video card, video adapter, graphics-accelerator card, display adapter, or graphics card is an expansion card whose function is to generate and output images to a display. Many video cards offer added functions, such as accelerated rendering of 3D scenes, video capture, TV-tuner adapter, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 decoding, FireWire, light pen, TV output, or the ability to connect multiple monitors, while other modern high performance cards are used for more graphically demanding purposes such as PC games. Early graphics cards from the 80's and 90's did not produce much heat, un link modern graphics cards that come with their own dedicated heat sink. Modern graphic card heat sinks, can be air cooled by fans, or water cooled, using an internal water block.

Video Memory

The memory capacity of most modern video cards ranges from 1GB to 8GB. Since video memory needs to be accessed by the GPU and the display circuitry, it often uses special high-speed or multi-port memory, such as VRAM (Video RAM). The effective memory clock rate in modern cards is generally between 1GHz to 7GHz.Video memory may be used for storing other data as well as the screen image, such as the Z-buffer, which manages the depth coordinates in 3D graphics, textures vertex buffers, and compiled shader programs.


(How a modern day gaming graphics card looks like)


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