A GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) can never replace a CPU (Central Processing Unit) as GPUs were initially designed for and even today are mainly used for processing graphical data, for videos and video games.
Your CPUs and GPUs architecture complement each other. Since, your CPU handles data processing for a main application, while any repetitive or complicated calculations that need to be performed for this application are processed by your GPU.
A CPU can be considered as a manager of your entire system, since its role is to coordinate all basic and necessary computing tasks, while, a GPU is assigned specific tasks for parallel processing.
If you are still confused about your CPUs and GPUs role in your computer as well as their importance, you need to understand why CPU is better than GPU.
In This Article
Reasons Why CPU is Better Than GPU
CPUs and GPUs have a lot in common, as both are silicon-based microprocessors that carry out extensive calculations and process data. However, CPUs and GPUs have different architectures and are built for different purposes.
CPUs are well suited for a variety of workloads, especially those where per-core latency and performance are important.
As a powerful execution engine, CPUs focus a small number of cores on a single task to get things done quickly. This makes it uniquely equipped for tasks ranging from serial computing to running databases.
GPUs started out as specialized ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits) designed to accelerate specific 3D rendering tasks.
Over time, these fixed-function engines have become more programmable and flexible.
While increasingly realistic graphics of games remain a key feature, GPUs have evolved into general-purpose parallel processors capable of handling more and more applications.
Here are some reasons why CPU is better than GPU
1. More Flexible
Your GPU’s architecture is based on one primary function i.e., graphical data processing.
However, your CPU is designed to be more resilient and flexible since it is responsible for processing numerous tasks other than graphical data.
Your CPU processes tasks in a serialized order, so if multiple applications are running simultaneously on your computer, tasks line up according to the time they were created.
This makes it possible for your CPU to successfully multitask while using a wide variety of applications.
Therefore, if you have a strong or high-end CPU it increases your overall processing speed.
This speed also directs your GPU’s speed as your GPU cannot process data quickly, if it does not receive commands at this high speed.
2. More Powerful in Certain Contexts
Your GPU cannot compete with your CPU’s processing speed in specific situations, some of which are listed below:
- RAM – Your RAM (Random Access Memory) is a temporary memory unit connected mainly to your CPU. Your GPU does not use this RAM as it has an internal RAM, which mostly stores graphical data and is only connected to your system’s GPU.
- Managing OS – OS (Operating System) is a software program that decides which task will be executed in which order. It schedules your CPU’s resources, processing power and order of execution. Your system’s OS does not have much impact on your GPU as it is not connected directly. Furthermore, operating systems are not designed to run on a GPU as they do not have the necessary processing power to carry out all of a CPU’s tasks.
- Managing I/O operations – Your CPU acts as a bridge between all I/O data and memory or other components including your GPU. Your GPU cannot send or receive any information to your I/O components directly, as all transfers take place through your CPU.
- Mid-range computational operations
3. Better at Precise Calculations
Your CPU might not be able to compete with your GPU when it comes to speedy calculations due to your graphics card’s (GPU’s) ability to process parallelly.
However, your CPU is better at performing calculations with a greater precision.
This factor becomes significant when you are gaming, especially games which require aiming and precision.
During gaming it is your CPU that processes how accurately anything gets hit. Your GPU has to process data related to motion, textures, colors and other effects.
Your GPU and CPU are designed to process data in different ways, and therefore get called as the brawn and brain of your system.
Since, your CPU is referred to as your system’s brain, it is able to work on a wide variety of calculations whereas your GPU is considered as brawn, owing to its ability to focus all of its processing power on specific tasks.
Your CPU has greater precision because even though it can handle a wide range of tasks, it only focuses on one task at a time.
All of its cores are optimized to process data in a sequential manner, so your CPU focuses on one task at a time. Only after it is done processing one task, does it start focusing on its next task.
4. Direct Access to Memory
A CPU has direct access to RAM as well as your system’s main memory which is a primary storage location.
It is also known as internal storage, main storage and is not your RAM. This is a permanent memory component which does not delete any details by itself, unless it starts malfunctioning.
Your CPU has direct access to this memory component through your motherboard; however, your GPU might not have this connection.
If yours is a latest model GPU, your graphics card might be able to access your CPU’s RAM or main memory, as latest GPU models have been engineered to directly communicate with main memory to access any data.
Since, everyone has not made this switch to a latest model GPU, your GPU still relies on your system’s CPU to receive and send data to and from memory components, I/O devices and other internal components.
Main memory is generally considered a part of your CPU; however, it is not exactly a part of your CPU.
When a program/application is running on your computer, your main memory collects all information required to operate this program and moves it into your RAM.
A RAM allows quicker access as all information is stored in a fixed order, and also physically closer to your CPU.
If an application is not currently running actively or in your system’s background, data regarding this application will not be stored in your RAM.
- Firstly, RAM is a temporary or volatile memory which becomes completely blank as soon as your computer is turned off. If your system is powered off, it does not have any applications running and therefore RAM does not have any data regarding any applications stored in it.
- Secondly, if several programs are actively running on your computer, and your system does not have sufficient RAM, information regarding the current task will be prioritized. Therefore, this information will get stored in your RAM and deleted as soon as its task is completed.
Even if RAM is not insufficient, no program gets priority and cannot claim to have your RAM’s memory store exclusive data.
- Lastly, once data has been processed it is in queue to get deleted as it no longer has any use in your RAM.
Without your CPU this process cannot be coordinated and run successfully.
Even if your GPU can access your main memory and RAM and extract data, it does not know what to do with it.
Your GPU does not know what to do with this data until your CPU guides it according to instructions specified through processes of any active applications.
5. Higher Availability and Lower Cost
Unlike GPUs, CPUs have never had any issues with availability or unusual price hikes.
Overbuying of GPUs by cryptocurrency miners led to this situation, however, CPUs have never had this type of demand in the market.
CPU prices have always increased moderately according to economic conditions.
6. Better at Scheduling and Multitasking
All new CPUs are capable of multitasking, regardless of the number of total cores in their system.
Multitasking refers to processing of multiple tasks simultaneously or in a serialized sequence while sharing the same resource i.e., your CPU.
Your GPU is not required for parallel processing in this situation as a GPU is not designed to handle basic processing tasks.
Previously, a single CPU could only process one task at a time, with all remaining tasks lined up in queue.
Now, even with a single CPU two tasks can be processed simultaneously, due to multithreading.
Even when multithreading was not common in CPUs an illusion of parallelism could be created by scheduling tasks.
For your computer to operate even when it looks like it is idle, your CPU is always executing tasks.
If these tasks are not executed, your computer is unable to function as your CPU controls every action performed by your computer through these tasks.
Therefore, even with a single CPU and only one task being processed at a time, your computer can behave as if it is multitasking.
This is done by scheduling tasks, and making different queues for a set of tasks.
When your CPU gets assigned from one set of tasks to another or from a task of one application to a task from another application, it is known as context switching.
Since CPU processing speeds are high and it takes a small part of a second for any process to be completely executed, frequent context switching easily creates an illusion of parallel processing, even though all CPUs do not support it.
Like GPUs operating systems are also not designed to use a GPU for processing of necessary tasks.
Therefore, the operating system creates scheduling strategies for CPUs.
7. CPU Necessary for All Games
A CPU is the most important part in a computer, and your computer will not work properly or have a long life, if you choose an inferior or low-quality CPU.
Even if you have a high-end GPU, monitor, keyboard and mouse suitable for gaming, you will not be able to experience a satisfactory gaming session if your CPU is not up to mark.
Gaming computers do more than just allow a user to play games smoothly.
Custom built or high-end CPUs, make your gaming session much more enjoyable by extracting more information from your game.
Your CPU and your GPU both have their specific roles during gaming, however, CPU quality and specs are much more important than GPU.
Since, all games require a high-end CPU but only about half of these require a high-end GPU.
A GPU focuses more on visuals; however, your CPU has to handle much more important tasks including understanding and interpreting physics of a game.
You might want to consider your CPU and your GPU as a bundle when it comes to gaming experience, but CPUs still play a major role even in this bundle.
Without your GPU you do not completely stop seeing graphics, only images and video are just not smooth enough or enjoyable.
However, gaming or even operating a computer without a CPU is not possible. Also, if your CPU specs are not up to mark it will cause a bottleneck.
If it is absolutely necessary for you to choose between upgrading or updating either one, you should start with your CPU.
Your GPU plays a huge supporting role in this scenario, so ensure choosing a CPU which is highly compatible with your GPU.
If your GPU is slightly weaker or slower than your CPU, then your CPU covers for its shortcomings and vice versa.
Latest games wish to provide realistic lighting effects as well as high-resolution textures with plenty of fine details.
This can only be done through a GPU, as not even your high-end CPU can process this data and render an image or animation or motion video according to specified quality.
These games that are highly dependent on GPUs are called GPU intensive games and cannot be played without your GPU’s parallel processing power.
Your CPU is responsible for handling physics, logic and shadows in any game. Long game draw distances might tax your CPU more than your GPU. These games require a more robust CPU to run properly.
Your CPU consists of billions of transistors, each capable of performing a task, and is made up of several different parts.
Each of these transistors is responsible for operating a system, which allows passing of signals to all other internal components.
Your CPU is made of multiple cores, and each core is like its own little CPU.
Your CPU can perform more functions and have higher processing power and speed with more cores. Although there are several other factors which determine processing speed, CPUs with multiple cores and multithreading turned on are more powerful than other CPUs.
Your CPU not only processes game commands, but also runs your system’s operating system and other active programs.
When streaming gameplay or playing in VR, a powerful CPU is even more important than simple gaming, as more features need to be supported simultaneously.
After going through all aforementioned reasons why CPU is better than GPU if you are still left wondering, all you need to understand is that your GPU only processes certain specific fields of data.
However, your CPU has to operate your entire computer while simultaneously offering its processing power to several other applications.