The usual (gaming) computer has two separate chips doing two distinct but equally important things: the CPU and the GPU. The GPU is responsible for most of the graphics-related heavy lifting, while the CPU does pretty much everything else. “Integrated” GPUs were, for a long time, seen as something “basic”, something that’s unfit for running higher-profile games. Lately, in turn, things have changed, thanks in a large part to AMD’s efforts to deliver cost-effective yet high-performance chips that unite the two types of processors.
You’ve seen them among the best gadgets at CES 2020, you’ll see them in the upcoming next-generation consoles – let’s take a look at APUs, and if they are any good for gaming.
What is an APU?
An APU or “Accelerated Processing Unit” is a processor that includes both the “classic” processor cores and the graphics processing cores on the same chip. It’s a bit similar to the system used by smartphones with a few key differences – an SoC used in smartphone manufacturing has way more functions than an APU. The term APU was introduced by AMD a few years ago in relation to its integrated processing units.
An APU is like having the CPU, the GPU, and part of the mainboard chipset’s functions integrated on the same dye. For example, the memory controller is included on the chip, while functions like networking are not.
An APU can be much more efficient than the traditional CPU-GPU-chipset setup because it removes a serious bottleneck – the bus between the CPU and GPU is integrated with both units on the same chip, allowing them to communicate better.
Are APUs good for gaming?
As with all other types of gaming hardware, the best answer to this is “it depends”. APUs come in different flavors with different performance per dollar spent. Some of them are pretty basic, others, not so much.
You can’t expect a Ryzen 3 2200U to have the same performance as a Ryzen 9 4900H – but the price will also be very different. The Ryzen 3000 series has a wide range of mobile processors, and many of them do a decent – maybe even great – job for gaming. It all depends on the budget.
One of the low-budget solutions that do a decent job in gaming is the Ryzen 3 3200U. A laptop built around it can be as cheap as $300 but run titles ranging from Doom (2016) to Borderlands 2, maybe even Borderlands 3. And the higher you go in the roadmap, the better the performance you get. And it will be even better with the upcoming Ryzen 4000 series. The octa-core (16-thread) Ryzen 9 4900H mobile processor will be a monster in itself with its eight
AMD Radeon GPU cores running at 1750MHz.
In conclusion, we can say that yes, AMD’s APUs are indeed a good choice for gaming. A lot depends, in turn, on your budget. But even with a more modest amount to invest, you will be able to buy a decent gaming rig.