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Graphics processing units (GPUs) - statistics & facts

The graphics processing unit (GPU), a type of processor that resides in computers and other electronic devices, is a silicon-based integrated circuit that specializes in accelerating the creation and rendering of images, video, and animations. GPUs began as specialized application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), developed to accelerate specific 3D rendering tasks. Today, GPUs have evolved to become more general-purpose processors, working in parallel to other computer components to handle a growing range of applications, notably artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tasks.

They are made available to consumers either as integrated or discrete components. Integrated graphics, where Intel dominates, refers to a computer where the GPU is built onto the same die as the central processing unit (CPU). In a discrete component, the GPU is not part of the CPU, but instead a standalone component. They can also be referred to as a graphics add-in-board (AIB), with Nvidia and AMD having complete control of this market.

A GPU provides the fastest graphics processing, and for gamers, the GPU is a standalone card plugged into the computer via a peripheral component interconnect express (PCIe). The more sophisticated the GPU, the higher the resolution, and the faster and smoother the motion. Improved framerates, or the number of frames per second the game runs at, means there is less stutter or freezing due to excessive load on the CPU, enhancing the gaming experience.

In smartphones and other mobile devices, GPUs feature as part of a system-on-a-chip (SoC) and are also capable of rendering graphics. Examples include the Qualcomm Snapdragon, and the Apple A13 Bionic chip found in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, with both SoCs using Arm’s processor architecture.

The next development in the semiconductor industry are chips that support artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Some of the biggest names are involved in the development of AI chips, including traditional players like Intel, Samsung, Nvidia, and Qualcomm. GPUs have been favored for AI applications due to their ability to perform millions of mathematical operations in parallel. In recent years, AI chip startups have emerged as they look to disrupt the market, notably Graphcore who have developed the intelligence processing unit (IPU).

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Graphics processing units (GPUs)

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Application processor (AP)

AI chips


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