What is a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)?

A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a processor like CPU and TPU for faster graphics processing. Specifically, it designed to rapidly manipulate and alter memory to accelerate the creation of images in a frame buffer to be displayed on a screen.

The parallel structure of a GPU makes it more efficient for algorithms where several components can be executed in parallel such as Machine Learning algorithms/ inference.

This is how a GPU looks like:

graphics processing unit


Specific chips used for the purpose of rendering graphics were used since 1970s in Arcade system boards.

The term has been popularized by Nvidia in 1999 when they marketed the GeForce 256 processor as "the world's first GPU".

In 2007, Nvidia developed the CUDA platform for the development of GPU programming.
Recently, OpenCL has become widely supported. OpenCL is an open standard defined by the Khronos Group which allows for the development of code for both GPUs and CPUs with an emphasis on portability.

GPU Manafacturers

3 major manufacturers of Graphics processing unit are:

  • Intel
  • Nvidia
  • AMD (ATI subsidary)

What are GPUs used for?

Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) are widely used for a variety of use cases such as:

  • GPUs are used to drive high-quality gaming experiences producing life-like digital graphics.

  • 3D modelling software like AutoCAD, for example, uses GPUs to render models

  • Video editing : If you are working with large amounts of high-resolution files - particularly 4K or 360-degree video, a high-end GPU is a must-have in order to transcode the files at a reasonable speed.

  • GPUs are often favoured over CPUs for use in machine learning