CPU vs. GPU: Powerful options for your computing needs.

Central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs) are fundamental computing engines. But as computing demands evolve, it’s not always clear what the differences between them are. And what about with the addition of an NPU (neural processing unit) for accelerated AI?

Know When to Rely on a CPU and When to Choose a GPU

  • CPUs and GPUs each have unique strengths for your future computing needs.

  • GPUs are an important part of Intel’s current products in the form of graphics directly on a CPU and discrete GPUs.

  • Processors that incorporate the GPU onto the same package as the CPU offer consumers a blend of high performance and extreme energy efficiency for AI-powered experiences, immersive gaming, and creating.



From gaming to video editing to productivity or complex AI experiences, computing systems today are being asked to do more than ever. CPUs, GPUs, and NPUs have different roles and their own unique strengths.

What is a CPU?

Constructed from billions of transistors, the CPU can have multiple processing cores and is commonly referred to as the “brain” of the computer. It is essential to all modern computing systems, as it executes the commands and processes needed for your computer and operating system. The CPU is also important in determining how fast programs can run, from surfing the web to building spreadsheets.

What is a GPU?

The GPU is a processor that is made up of many smaller and more specialized cores. By working together, the cores deliver massive performance when a processing task can be divided up across many cores at the same time (or in parallel). The GPU is an integral component for modern gaming, enabling higher quality visuals and smoother gameplay. GPUs are also useful in AI.

What is the difference between a CPU and GPU?

CPUs and GPUs have a lot in common. Both are critical computing engines. Both are silicon-based microprocessors. And both handle data. But CPUs and GPUs have different architectures and are built for different purposes.

The CPU is suited to a wide variety of tasks, especially those for which latency or per-core performance are important for tasks such as web browsing. A powerful execution engine, the CPU focuses its smaller number of cores on individual tasks and getting things done quickly. This makes it uniquely well equipped for jobs ranging from serial computing to running databases.

GPUs began as specialized ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) designed for a specific purpose—such as accelerating specific 3D rendering tasks. Over time, these fixed-function engines became more programmable and more flexible. While graphics and hyper-realistic gaming visuals remain their principal function, GPUs have evolved to become more general-purpose parallel processors as well, handling a growing range of applications, including AI.

What about a CPU/GPU combination?

In some cases, shared graphics are built right onto the same chip as the CPU. These CPUs include a GPU instead of relying on dedicated or discrete graphics. These are processors with built-in graphics and offer many benefits.

CPU/GPUs deliver space, cost, and energy efficiency benefits over dedicated graphics processors. Plus, they provide the horsepower to handle processing of graphics-related data and instructions for common tasks. Processors with built-in graphics are a great choice for immersive gaming, 4K streaming, video editing, and exploring the web with lightning-fast connectivity.

Processors with built-in graphics are most often used in devices where compact size and energy efficiency are important, such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and some desktops.

Accelerating deep learning and AI

Today, certain CPUs also come with NPUs (neural processing units), which cofunction with GPUs directly on the processor to perform the kind of high-performance inferencing tasks required by AI. These AI accelerated processors are ideal for preparing pre-trained neural networks for the all-important inferencing stage of AI— where capabilities learned during training are used to make predictions. As AI becomes increasingly important, the NPU/GPU combination will become a mainstay of future computing systems.

In a nutshell: the CPU/NPU/GPU processor, along with sufficient RAM, offers a great testbed for deep learning and AI.

Decades of leadership in CPU development

Intel has a long history in CPU innovation, beginning in 1971 with the introduction of the 4004, the first commercial microprocessor completely integrated into a single chip.

Today, Intel® CPUs enable a range of scalable AI experiences on the x86 architecture you know. From high performance Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors in the data center and cloud to power-efficient Intel® Core™ processors at the edge, Intel delivers a CPU to match any need.

Introducing 3D performance hybrid architecture: Intel® Core™ Ultra processors

Intel’s next architecture evolution, Intel® Core™ Ultra processors, introduce an all-new 3D performance hybrid architecture1. With built-in Intel® Arc™ GPU2 and an integrated NPU, Intel AI Boost, these chips deliver an optimal balance of power efficiency and performance. The result is a single processor that lets users enjoy extreme AI acceleration, immersive gameplay, 4K streaming, and lightning-fast connectivity.

Intel® Core™ processors (14th gen)

Intel Core 14th gen processors leverage performance hybrid architecture with faster Performance-cores (P-cores) and more Efficient-cores (E-cores) with industry-leading tools to maximize performance and multitasking capabilities.

Select Intel Core 14th gen processor-based laptops may include Intel® Iris® Xe graphics or its latest high-performance graphics solution, Intel® Arc™ GPU. Built on Xe HPG microarchitecture, Intel® Arc™ GPU enable built-in machine learning, graphics acceleration, and ray tracing hardware for laptops, desktops, and professional workstations.

Intel® Iris® Xe graphics feature Intel® Deep Learning Boost-powered AI for better content creation, such as photo and video editing, as well as low-power architecture for longer battery life.

Today, it is no longer a question of CPU vs. GPU. More than ever, you need both to meet your varied computing demands. The best results are achieved when the right tool is used for the job.

Discrete GPUs options

Intel offers three discrete GPU options.

  • Intel® ArcTM GPU is a high-performance graphics solution that lets you create compelling content, captivate your audience, and supercharge your gaming experience. Built on xe microarchitecture, Intel® Arc™ GPU enable built-in machine learning, graphics acceleration, and ray tracing hardware for laptops, desktops, and professional workstations.
  • Intel® Iris® Xe MAX Dedicated Graphics is a discrete GPU with graphics card options for laptops and desktops. Based on Xe architecture, you get even more performance and new capabilities such as Intel® Arc™ Control for enhanced content creation and gaming.
  • Intel® Data Center GPU is a GPU that supports emerging technologies, such as AI, rendering, analytics, and simulations. It also adds powerful parallel processing capabilities to data center CPUs.

From CPU to GPU to hybrid

Whether you’re looking to enhance gameplay, bring your creative ideas to life or explore the world of deep learning, Intel® processors provide the CPU, GPU capabilities—and more— that you need for a superior computing experience.