Every working PC requires some form of graphics processor (GPU) to generate a display. Now this graphics processor may be integrated or dedicated, but the basic purpose remains the same: display & rendering of frames.
While the term GPU in common language mean a dedicated graphics. The term GPU actual relates to both dedicated and integrated. Dedicated GPUs are standalone devices that plug into the PCIe slot on your motherboard.
A dedicated GPU does not share any resources with the system. Although this reduces the overall toll on the RAM and CPU, additional power is required to run modern medium to high-end GPUs.
In addition to that, dedicated graphics can get quite expensive particularly if you wish to game on decent frame rates and graphics quality.
The alternatives to dedicated GPUs are CPUs with integrated graphics. AMD CPUs with integrated graphics card are popularly known as APUs.
The APUs (accelerated processing units) are AMD version of CPU’s with integrated graphics. The processors come equipped with iGPUs, which can perform on par or slightly lower than some entry level dedicated graphics cards.
The iGPU’s VRAM is shared with the system’s main RAM i.e., it does not have its dedicated memory. The memory clock and speeds are subsequently dependent on the system RAM’s specifications.
The APUs reduce the overall cost of the system, since you do not have to spend on a dedicated graphics card. At the same time, they offer respectable graphics processing for very light gaming (particularly for online titles).
A dedicated GPU certainly performs exceptionally better than any AMD APU with its integrated graphics card, as it has its own resources and power and the chip is designed for 3D rendering.
On the other hand, the benefit of having an APU as it reduces the overall cost of your system cannot be overlooked.
To compare the two, we can check out the benchmarks, and performance to cost ratio of both!
Difference Between APU vs GPU?
So we have already established above that APU themselves have GPUs, but they are of the integrated kind.
The other type of GPUs are dedicated GPU. The essence of the topic in hand APU vs GPU, is actually to compare the integrated APU vs dedicated GPUs.
What is an APU?
The APU (accelerated processing units) can be defined as AMD’s CPU with a an integrated graphics card.
The basic idea behind an APU is to take the standard dedicated GPUs out of the picture, which cuts the cost and additional wattage requirement of the system while maintaining a decent graphics performance level.
The performance of the AMD’s iGPU are certainly not on par with mid to high end dedicated graphics card, but compared to some of the lower range dedicated GPUs, the performance is quite respectable.
The first desktop APU was the A8-3850, released in January 2011. The integrated graphics processor on this chip was the Radeon HD 6550D, a 400-core iGPU. AMD released multiple APUs in the same lineup (from the A4-3200 to the A8-3870K). The Sempron and Athlon II series was released in late 2011 and 2012.
In recent times, AMD has released multiple APUs as a part of their Ryzen series. These APUs come in all budget options, ranging from a relatively cheaper $99 Ryzen 3 2200G to the expensive & high-end $359 Ryzen 7 5700G.
The following table shows all the recent AMD Ryzen CPU with integrated graphics cards:
|Ryzen 2000 |
|Ryzen 3 2200G||RX Vega 8
|Ryzen 5 3400G||RX Vega 11
|Ryzen 3000 |
|Ryzen 3 3200G||RX Vega 8
|Ryzen 5 3400G||RX Vega 11
|Ryzen 3000 |
|Ryzen 3 4300||RX Vega 6
|Ryzen 3 4350||RX Vega 6
|Ryzen 5 4600G||RX Vega 7
|Ryzen 5 4650G||RX Vega 7
|Ryzen 7 4700G||RX Vega 8
|Ryzen 7 4750G||RX Vega 8
|Ryzen 5000 |
|Ryzen 3 5300G||RX Vega 6
|Ryzen 5 5600G||RX Vega 7
|Ryzen 7 5700G||RX Vega 8
It should be noted that while the integrated GPUs may share the same name, they can be world apart in terms of performance.
Take for instance the Ryzen 3 2200G and the Ryzen 7 5700G. They both have the Radeon Vega 8 iGPU, however, there is a significant performance different between the two.
While the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G Vega 8 has a G3DMark score of 1704, the Vega 8 on AMD Ryzen 7 5700G has a G3DMark score of 2717. The Vega 8 on AMD Ryzen 7 5700G is thus on part with the dedicated NVIDIA GT 1030 or AMD Radeon RX 550 graphics cards.
It also worth noting that AMD does not refer to their CPUs with integrated graphics card as APUs as part of their branding anymore. However, popularly, AMD CPUs with iGPUs are sometimes referred to as APUs.
AMD CPUs with Integrated Graphics Have “G” Suffix
It is worth noting here that the AMD APUs with integrated graphics card all have the “G” suffix i.e Ryzen 5 3400G, Ryzen 7 5700G.
Hence, you can identify whether an AMD CPU has onboard graphics card or not through its model name.
You Need an APU for Motherboard Onboard Video Ports to Work
Motherboards do not have any onboard graphics processing.
Therefore, in for the video ports found on the back I/O panel of a motherboard to work, you need to have a CPU with an integrated graphics card.
Hence if you were to buy any other Ryzen CPU such as the Ryzen 7 5800X, Ryzen 5600X etc, then these back I/O video ports on the motherboard will not work.
In other words, you will HAVE TO HAVE a dedicated GPU in order to connect your monitor to if your AMD CPU does not have a integrated graphics card.
What is a Dedicated GPU?
Dedicated GPUs are often just referred to as GPU for short by gamers and enthusiasts (even though as explained earlier GPU can pertain to both integrated and dedicated graphics processing)
Dedicated GPUs or Graphics Processing Units are dedicated cards installed on the x16 PCIe slot on your motherboard.
The main characteristics of the dGPU are that it has its own resources (like memory) and can be controlled by the processor to perform rendering and graphics-related tasks outside the processor itself.
As such, dedicated graphics cards are far more powerful than any integrated graphics card out there in the market. This of course comes at a cost.
The dedicated GPU market has been a two-horse race between Nvidia and AMD since the release of the GeForce 256 by Nvidia in 1999 and the ATI Radeon by AMD in 2000. The GPU market has grown immensely, with new generations of dedicated GPUs being released every couple of years from AMD and Nvidia, where Nvidia alone is reportedly worth $473.2 billion.
Dedicated graphics card vary drastically in terms of range. These range from basic options such as the NVIDIA GT 1030 all the way to high-end NVIDIA RTX 3090Ti – which can cost a fortune.
APU vs GPU (Dedicated) Performance Comparison
Can an integrated graphics card in an APU compete with a dedicated graphics? In majority of the cases no, even the best iGPUs cannot beat a dedicated GPU.
There are two main things to consider when comparing an iGPU with a dGPU. The first being the performance difference, and the second one being the cost efficiency.
Now, on paper, the dedicated GPUs beat the iGPUs, thanks to the dedicated memory, cores and higher bus speeds. But suppose we want to determine whether the iGPUs can compete with the regular dGPUs in terms of performance? In that case, we must check some benchmarks and game performance.
The following tables shows the G3DMark scores (graphics processing performance benchmark) of different APUs vs GPUs (dedicated).
|Intel UHD 630||1395||As found on 8-10th Gen
|Intel UHD 750||1684||As found on 11th Gen+
|1071||AMD 2000 Series APU|
|1274||AMD 2000 Series APU|
|1704||AMD 2000 Series APU|
|2139||AMD 2000 Series APU|
|2717||As on AMD 5700G|
|NVIDIA RTX 3050||12755||Dedicated GPU
|NVIDIA RTX 3070Ti||23587||Dedicated GPU
- Scores taken from G3DPassmark
APUs Graphics Processing are Nowhere Near the Performance of Dedicated GPUs
The benchmark scores of the Vega 8 iGPU on the Ryzen 7 5700G, which one of the most powerful iGPU you can find, is nowhere near any good dedicated GPU.
The integrated GPUs can only be compared with very low end GT 1030 or the RX 550 dedicated graphics card in terms of performance. These are only intended for very light gaming (think League of Legends, DOTA 2 etc)
Indeed, the benchmarks do not represent the actual in-game performance. Let’s talk about the average FPS in different games.
APUs Beat the Intel Integrated Graphics by a Significant Margin
While APUs may not be the best choice for enthusiast gamers, it is worth nothing that they beat the Intel UHD graphics by a significant margin.
Intel UHD 630, a common iGPU on the 8-10th Gen intel CPUs is less than half as powerful as the Vega 8 graphics found on the Ryzen 7 5700G.
According to Tom’s hardware, the Ryzen 7 5700G’s Vega 8 iGPU performed well at 720p resolution, producing 86.0 average FPS in 17 games.
The dedicated RX 560 had 20% more frames on average on the exact resolution. On 1080p (standard), the RX 560 produced 37% more FPS than the iGPU. The Vega 8 only beats the GTX 1030 by small margins.
So Can You Game with APUs?
All things considered, if you are an average gamer, then even the best iGPUs such as the the Vega 8 is not suitable for gaming at all.
The Vega 8 iGPU does not perform well at all on standard 1080p resolutions. There is no point in mentioning the even higher resolutions (1440p and 4k).
The GPUs beat the APU in gaming; this is a proven fact.
However, there ARE some instance where an iGPU can be sufficient for gaming. If you only play popular online games such as the League of Legends, DOTA, CS:GO and even Fortnite (to an extent), the more powerful iGPU such as that in the 5700G can suffice.
I had actually tested Fortnite on an Intel UHD 630 (one of the weakest iGPU) and it CAN work at 60 FPS give that you heavily dial down the graphics.
While the game did maintain very smooth 60 FPS, it looked absolutely horrendous. The graphics were too pixelated for my taste.
Read in Detail: Build Guide for PC for Fortnite
Again, the only time an APU instead of a GPU can make sense is if you only have low gaming requirements or if you are not a gamer in the first place. That way, going for a CPU with an iGPU can significantly reduce the overall cost of your PC.
But does the cost cut really matter?
Cost Efficiency. Are APUs Worth it?
Another critical factor is the cost efficiency of the iGPUs (APUs). With the GPU left out, the overall system can cost much less.
The budget saved from the GPU can be spent on other parts, such as faster RAMs, better motherboards, coolers, etc. A key question is whether a cheaper system with an APU can compete with a GPU & CPU combo.
Let us take the MSRP of the Ryzen 7 5700G, which is $359. For comparison, let us consider a system with a CPU and a GPU whose combined cost is around the MSRP of the Ryzen 7 5700G.
The best option available, in my opinion, is the Ryzen 5 2600 ($149) paired with the GTX 1660 ($219). The combined price of the two is $368, just $9 over the MSRP of the Ryzen 7 5700G.
The Geekbench (OpenCL) score of the GTX 1660 is 55,712, which is 6.3 times higher than the Vega 8.
The in-game performance of the GTX 1660 paired with the Ryzen 5 2600 is excellent and almost twice the Vega 8’s performance. The GTX card produced 70.4 on 1080p Ultra settings compared to the 37.4 FPS produced by Vega 8 on medium settings on 1080p. (source: Gpucheck, Tomshardware)
Granted in terms of CPU performance, the Ryzen 7 5700G is far superior as compared to Ryzen 5 2600, but if you are a GAMER, the combination of Ryzen 5 2600 with an NVIDIA GTX 1660Ti would make a lot more sense.
GTX 1660Ti can still play many AAA games at ultra graphics at respectable frame rates, the Vega 8 in Ryzen 5700G can barely play any even at low-medium graphics.
High End APUs can Make Sense for Video and Photo Editors
The expensive APUs like the Ryzen 5700G can make more sense if you are a casual video or a photo editor. This is because, in terms of sheer CPU performance, the 5700G is a great processor, compared to the likes of Ryzen 5 2600.
Video and photo editing do not need as powerful a graphics card as that needing for gaming. Therefore, the balance of GPU and CPU performance offered by the high end APU can make sense.
You Can Cut Cost if You Are Looking for an Essential PC
If you are NOT a gamer, and you are planning on building a PC for simple home or office work, then some of the cheaper APUs can actually be quite worthwhile.
APUs such as the AMD Athlon 3000G (ultra budget CPU) or the AMD Ryzen 3 3200G can still perform quite well for basic home and office use.
They are affordable and you would not have to spend a dime on a dedicated graphics card.
Although some budget AMD APUs like those from the Ryzen 3000 series can give you relief in the budget, they do not perform well in games.
If you are a gamer worth your salt, you would avoid going for an APU.
Plus you can build a gaming PC that performance countless times better than the top APU for the same price as we demonstrated above.
If you are buying a Ryzen 7 5700G or any APU by AMD, keep in mind that all you’ll get is a good CPU that can allow your PC to display without a GPU or Graphics card.
For a good gaming experience, you will have to buy a dedicated GPU anyways. If you’re looking for a CPU that does not need a GPU for display, you can go for an APU.