Computer GPU’s (Graphics Processing Units)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

What are GPU’s?

The Graphics Processing Unit in your computer is designed to handle the video output workload of your machine; while they are the core device for displaying on your monitor, it also takes care of the heavy lifting when it comes to gaming, video editing and design apps.


Types of GPU

There are several types of GPU out there, and each has its time and place depending on the type of machine you are using and the workloads you are trying to do.

  • Integrated GPU: These are built into the CPU (such as Intel Iris XE or AMD Vega) and offer a lightweight graphics option that can handle lower-powered gaming and light video/photo editing
  • Discrete GPU: These are separate, dedicated hardware plugged into your computer (typically using the PCI slot on the motherboard, but there are limited external options). Dedicated GPUs are much more power-hungry but can also handle much heavier tasks, whether larger/intense video editing, design work using AutoCAD or high-resolution gaming.

The two most prominent players in the GPU market are Nvidia and AMD. However, Intel has recently entered the market with their Intel Arc series of GPUs.

Which GPU is best?

Much like other computer parts, everyone has their preferred manufacturer when it comes to GPUs. Historically, Nvidia provided better raw power, whereas AMD offered a solid budget option. However, the gap between power levels and price points has closed over recent years.

Now that Intel has released their Arc series of GPUs, we may see other changes to the landscape over the next few years, but this remains to be seen as Intel are still the new boys on the block, and early reports show that their GPU’s are decent for the price, but not viable for high-end computers just yet.

Nvidia has recently streamlined their offering, opting to focus on its GeForce branding and offering two sets of drivers (the software that handles the Operating system’s ability to communicate with the GPU) for “Game Ready” or “Studio” for consumers/gamers and creators/designers respectively.

AMD have a seemingly more straightforward offering with their Radeon series GPU that strongly focuses on gaming and quality video options. It focuses on core specifications of high compute power and memory sizes to achieve the highest gaming FPS.

Intel Arc is aimed more at the gaming market and leans more towards the budget end of the market, but it offers decent performance. As their first foray into the discrete GPU market, it remains a solid option if you are building or upgrading your machine and have a limited budget.

What are the best options right now?

I will preface this with that while objectively; some GPUs are just better than others, there is a subjective element to this depending on your budget, expectations and other components in the machine… But here we go:

  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 – This is objectively and subjectively the best GPU on the market right now. It is an absolute beast of a GPU in terms of raw power, size, and supply. However, you are looking at spending several thousand pounds for the privilege.
  • AMD Radeon RX 7900 – The best AMD GPU out there, and at almost half the price, it is a strong contender for a high-end gaming machine as it can regularly beat the Nvidia RTX 4080 in certain games.
  • Nvidia RTX 4070 – The best GPU around the mid-range price point and beats the top cards of the older generation with ease despite being a few hundred less than they are still selling at now!
  • AMD Radeon RX 7600 – This one regularly tops the best budget GPU lists, and for a good reason: at under £300, it performs far above its competitors.
  • Intel Arc A750 – Not wanting to leave out the newest kid on the block, this Intel GPU offers similar performance to the AMD above but comes in a little cheaper – although I would still go for the AMD for the compatibility and support on offer.

Are you looking to build your own PC?

Whether you are an experienced PC builder or looking to build your first PC, then Iconology can help! We can help source and supply parts, offer support and help in building your PC, and give tips on the minefield of cable management.

Reach out to us today to discuss your requirements or answer any questions you may have.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does a GPU differ from a CPU?

While a CPU (Central Processing Unit) is a general-purpose processor designed for handling a wide range of tasks, a GPU is specialized for parallel processing tasks, especially those related to graphics rendering. GPUs are highly efficient in performing repetitive calculations simultaneously, making them ideal for rendering images and videos.

What is the difference between integrated and discrete GPUs?

Integrated GPUs are built into the same chip as the CPU and share system memory. They are suitable for basic graphics tasks. Discrete GPUs, on the other hand, are separate cards with dedicated video memory. They offer higher performance and are essential for demanding graphics applications like gaming and professional work.

What is CUDA and OpenCL?

CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) is a parallel computing platform and programming model developed by NVIDIA for its GPUs. OpenCL (Open Computing Language) is a similar framework that is not GPU-specific and is supported by various GPU manufacturers, including AMD and Intel. Both allow developers to harness the power of GPUs for general-purpose computing tasks.

How does VRAM affect GPU performance?

Video RAM (VRAM) is the memory used by a GPU to store textures, frame buffers, and other graphics-related data. The amount of VRAM can impact a GPU’s ability to handle high-resolution textures and multiple displays. For gaming and graphic-intensive tasks, a higher VRAM capacity is beneficial.

What is ray tracing, and why is it important for GPUs?

Ray tracing is a rendering technique that simulates the way light interacts with objects in a scene, producing realistic lighting and shadows. It places a significant computational load on GPUs. Recent GPU architectures, like NVIDIA’s RTX series, feature dedicated hardware for real-time ray tracing, enhancing the visual fidelity of graphics in games and applications.

Can I use multiple GPUs in a single system?

Yes, it is possible to use multiple GPUs in a process known as SLI (NVIDIA) or CrossFire (AMD). However, not all applications and games take advantage of multiple GPUs, and scaling can vary. Additionally, motherboard and power supply compatibility must be considered.

What is GPU overclocking? Is it safe?

GPU overclocking involves increasing the clock speeds of a GPU to achieve higher performance. While it can result in improved performance, it may also lead to increased heat generation and potentially reduce the lifespan of the GPU. Overclocking should be done cautiously, and users should monitor temperatures to prevent overheating. Many GPUs come with built-in software for overclocking with safety features.

3rd Line Engineer at Iconology Ltd