Graphics processing unit
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A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a specialized
electronic circuit An electronic circuit is composed of individual electronic components, such as resistors, transistors, capacitors, inductors and diodes, connected by conductive wires or Conductive trace, traces through which electric current can flow. It is a t ...
designed to manipulate and alter
memory Memory is the faculty of the mind by which data or information is Encoding (memory), encoded, stored, and retrieved when needed. It is the retention of information over time for the purpose of influencing future action. If Foresight (psycholo ...
to accelerate the creation of
images An image is a visual representation of something. It can be two-dimensional, three-dimensional, or somehow otherwise feed into the visual system to convey information. An image can be an artifact, such as a photograph or other two-dimensiona ...
in a
frame buffer A framebuffer (frame buffer, or sometimes framestore) is a portion of random-access memory Random-access memory (RAM; ) is a form of computer memory that can be read and changed in any order, typically used to store working Data (computin ...
intended for output to a
display device A display device is an output device for presentation of information in visual or Touch, tactile form (the latter used for example in Refreshable Braille display, tactile electronic displays for blind people). When the input information that is su ...
. GPUs are used in
embedded system An embedded system is a computer system—a combination of a computer processor, computer memory, and input/output peripheral devices—that has a dedicated function within a larger mechanical or Electronics, electronic system. It is '' ...
s,
mobile phone A mobile phone, cellular phone, cell phone, cellphone, handphone, hand phone or pocket phone, sometimes shortened to simply mobile, cell, or just phone, is a portable telephone that can make and receive telephone call, calls over a radio freq ...
s,
personal computer A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose microcomputer whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an end user, rather than by a computer expert or techn ...
s,
workstation A workstation is a special computer designed for technical or computational science, scientific applications. Intended primarily to be used by a single user, they are commonly connected to a local area network and run multi-user operating syste ...
s, and
game console A video game console is an electronic device that Input/output, outputs a video signal or image to display a video game that can be played with a game controller. These may be home video game console, home consoles, which are generally placed i ...
s. Modern GPUs are efficient at manipulating
computer graphics Computer graphics deals with generating images with the aid of computers. Today, computer graphics is a core technology in digital photography, film, video games, cell phone and computer displays, and many specialized applications. A great deal ...
and
image processing An image is a visual representation of something. It can be two-dimensional, three-dimensional, or somehow otherwise feed into the visual system to convey information. An image can be an artifact, such as a photograph or other two-dimensiona ...
. Their parallel structure makes them more efficient than general-purpose
central processing unit A central processing unit (CPU), also called a central processor, main processor or just Processor (computing), processor, is the electronic circuitry that executes Instruction (computing), instructions comprising a computer program. The CPU per ...
s (CPUs) for
algorithm In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm () is a finite sequence of rigorous instructions, typically used to solve a class of specific Computational problem, problems or to perform a computation. Algorithms are used as specificat ...
s that process large blocks of data in parallel. In a personal computer, a GPU can be present on a
video card A graphics card (also called a video card, display card, graphics adapter, VGA card/VGA, video adapter, display adapter, or mistakenly GPU) is an expansion card which generates a feed of output images to a display device, such as a computer moni ...
or embedded on the
motherboard A motherboard (also called mainboard, main circuit board, mb, mboard, backplane board, base board, system board, logic board (only in Apple computers) or mobo) is the main printed circuit board (PCB) in general-purpose computers and other expand ...
. In some CPUs, they are embedded on the CPU die. In the 1970s, the term "GPU" originally stood for ''graphics processor unit'' and described a programmable processing unit independently working from the CPU and responsible for graphics manipulation and output. Later, in 1994,
Sony , commonly stylized as SONY, is a Japanese Multinational corporation, multinational conglomerate (company), conglomerate corporation headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Japan. As a major technology company, it operates as one of the world's la ...
used the term (now standing for ''graphics processing unit'') in reference to the
PlayStation is a video game, video gaming brand that consists of five home video game consoles, two Handheld game console, handhelds, a Home theater PC, media center, and a smartphone, as well as an online service and multiple magazines. The brand is p ...
console's
Toshiba , commonly known as Toshiba and stylized as TOSHIBA, is a Japanese multinational corporation, multinational Conglomerate (company), conglomerate corporation headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Minato, Tokyo, Japan. Its diversified products and serv ...
-designed Sony GPU in 1994. The term was popularized by
Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a large italicized lowercase "n" on products from the mid 19 ...
in 1999, who marketed the
GeForce 256 The GeForce 256 is the original release in Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a larg ...
as "the world's first GPU". It was presented as a "single-chip
processor Processor may refer to: Computing Hardware * Processor (computing) **Central processing unit (CPU), the hardware within a computer that executes a program *** Microprocessor, a central processing unit contained on a single integrated circuit (I ...
with integrated transform, lighting, triangle setup/clipping, and rendering engines". Rival
ATI Technologies ATI Technologies Inc. (commonly called ATI) was a Canadian semiconductor industry, semiconductor technology corporation based in Markham, Ontario, Markham, Ontario, that specialized in the development of graphics processing units and chipsets. ...
coined the term "visual processing unit" or VPU with the release of the
Radeon 9700 The R300 Graphics Processing Unit, GPU, introduced in August 2002 and developed by ATI Technologies, is its third generation of GPU used in ''Radeon'' graphics cards. This GPU features 3D computer graphics, 3D acceleration based upon Direct3D 9. ...
in 2002.


History


1970s

Arcade system board An arcade video game takes player input from its controls, processes it through electrical or computerized components, and displays output to an electronic monitor or similar display. Most arcade video games are coin-operated, housed in an arca ...
s have been using specialized graphics circuits since the 1970s. In early video game hardware, the
RAM Ram, ram, or RAM may refer to: Animals * A male sheep Sheep or domestic sheep (''Ovis aries'') are domesticated, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Although the term ''sheep'' can apply to other species in the genus ''Ovis'', in ...
for frame buffers was expensive, so video chips composited data together as the display was being scanned out on the monitor. A specialized
barrel shifter A barrel shifter is a digital circuit In theoretical computer science, a circuit is a model of computation in which input values proceed through a sequence of gates, each of which computes a function (computer science), function. Circuits of this ...
circuit was used to help the CPU animate the
framebuffer A framebuffer (frame buffer, or sometimes framestore) is a portion of random-access memory (RAM) containing a bitmap that drives a video display. It is a Data buffer, memory buffer containing data representing all the pixels in a complete video f ...
graphics for various 1970s
arcade game An arcade game or coin-op game is a coin-operated entertainment machine typically installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars and amusement arcades. Most arcade games are presented as primarily game of skill, games of skill and in ...
s from Midway and
Taito is a Japanese company that specializes in video games Video games, also known as computer games, are electronic games that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, com ...
, such as '' Gun Fight'' (1975), '' Sea Wolf'' (1976) and ''
Space Invaders is a 1978 shoot 'em up arcade game developed by Tomohiro Nishikado. It was manufactured and sold by Taito in Japan, and licensed to the Midway division of Bally for overseas distribution. ''Space Invaders'' was the first fixed shooter an ...
'' (1978). The
Namco Galaxian Namco was a video game developer and video game publisher, publisher, originally from Japan. Bandai Namco Entertainment is the successor to Namco and continues manufacturing and distributing video games worldwide. For Namco games released followi ...
arcade system in 1979 used specialized
graphics hardware Graphics hardware is computer hardware that generates computer graphics Computer graphics deals with generating images with the aid of computers. Today, computer graphics is a core technology in digital photography, film, video games, cell ...
supporting RGB color, multi-colored sprites and tilemap backgrounds. The Galaxian hardware was widely used during the
golden age of arcade video games The golden age of arcade video games was the period of rapid growth, technological development and cultural influence of arcade video games, from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. The period began with the release of ''Space Invaders'' in 1978, ...
, by game companies such as
Namco was a Japanese multinational corporation, multinational video game and entertainment company, headquartered in Ōta, Tokyo. It held several international branches, including Namco America in Santa Clara, California, Namco Europe in London, Na ...
,
Centuri Centuri, formerly known as Allied Leisure, was an American arcade game manufacturer. They were based in Hialeah, Florida, and were one of the top six suppliers of coin-operated arcade video game machinery in the United States during the early 198 ...
,
Gremlin A gremlin is a mischievous folkloric creature invented at the beginning of the 20th century to originally explain malfunctions in aircraft and later in other machinery and processes and their operators. Depictions of these creatures vary widely ...
,
Irem is a Japanese video game console A video game console is an electronic device that Input/output, outputs a video signal or image to display a video game that can be played with a game controller. These may be home video game console, home ...
,
Konami , is a Japanese Multinational corporation, multinational video game company, video game and entertainment company headquartered in Chūō, Tokyo, Chūō, Tokyo, it also produces and distributes trading cards, anime, tokusatsu, pachinko machin ...
, Midway,
Nichibutsu was a Japanese video game developer and publisher headquartered in Kita-ku, Osaka, Kita, Osaka. In the past they had also manufactured and sold yachts. The main video game brand of the company was Nichibutsu (日物、ニチブツ), with adult ...
,
Sega is a Japanese multinational corporation, multinational video game and entertainment company headquartered in Shinagawa, Tokyo. Its international branches, Sega of America and Sega Europe, are headquartered in Irvine, California and London, r ...
and
Taito is a Japanese company that specializes in video games Video games, also known as computer games, are electronic games that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, com ...
. In the home market, the
Atari 2600 The Atari 2600, initially branded as the Atari Video Computer System (Atari VCS) from its release until November 1982, is a home video game console developed and produced by Atari, Inc. Released in September 1977, it popularized microprocessor- ...
in 1977 used a video shifter called the
Television Interface Adaptor The Television Interface Adaptor (TIA) is the custom computer chip, along with a variant of the MOS Technology 6502 The MOS Technology 6502 (typically pronounced "sixty-five-oh-two" or "six-five-oh-two") William Mensch and the moderator both ...
. The Atari 8-bit computers (1979) had
ANTIC Alphanumeric Television Interface Controller (ANTIC) is an LSI ASIC dedicated to generating 2D computer graphics 2D computer graphics is the computer-generated imagery, computer-based generation of digital images—mostly from two-dime ...
, a video processor which interpreted instructions describing a "display list"—the way the scan lines map to specific bitmapped or character modes and where the memory is stored (so there did not need to be a contiguous frame buffer).
6502 The MOS Technology 6502 (typically pronounced "sixty-five-oh-two" or "six-five-oh-two") William Mensch and the moderator both pronounce the 6502 microprocessor as ''"sixty-five-oh-two"''. is an 8-bit computing, 8-bit microprocessor that was desig ...
machine code In computer programming Computer programming is the process of performing a particular computation (or more generally, accomplishing a specific computing result), usually by designing and building an executable computer program. Programm ...
subroutine In computer programming, a function or subroutine is a sequence of Instruction (computer science), program instructions that performs a specific task, packaged as a unit. This unit can then be used in programs wherever that particular task shou ...
s could be triggered on
scan line A scan line (also scanline) is one line, or row, in a raster scanning pattern, such as a line of video on a cathode ray tube (CRT) display of a television set or computer monitor. On CRT screens the horizontal scan lines are visually discernible, ...
s by setting a bit on a display list instruction. ANTIC also supported smooth
vertical Vertical is a geometric term of location which may refer to: * Vertical direction, the direction aligned with the direction of the force of gravity, up or down * Vertical (angles), a pair of angles opposite each other, formed by two intersecting s ...
and horizontal scrolling independent of the CPU.


1980s

The NEC µPD7220 was the first implementation of a PC graphics display processor as a single
Large Scale Integration An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as an IC, a chip, or a microchip) is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or "chip") of semiconductor material, usually silicon. Transistor count, Large ...
(LSI)
integrated circuit An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as an IC, a chip, or a microchip) is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or "chip") of semiconductor material, usually silicon. Large numbers of ti ...
chip, enabling the design of low-cost, high-performance video graphics cards such as those from Number Nine Visual Technology. It became the best-known GPU up until the mid-1980s. It was the first fully integrated
VLSI Very large-scale integration (VLSI) is the process of creating an integrated circuit (IC) by combining millions or billions of MOS transistors onto a single chip. VLSI began in the 1970s when MOS integrated circuit file:MOSFET Structure.pn ...
(very large-scale integration) metal-oxide-semiconductor ( NMOS) graphics display processor for PCs, supported up to 1024x1024 resolution, and laid the foundations for the emerging PC graphics market. It was used in a number of graphics cards and was licensed for clones such as the Intel 82720, the first of Intel's graphics processing units. The Williams Electronics arcade games ''
Robotron 2084 ''Robotron: 2084'' (also referred to as ''Robotron'') is a multidirectional shooter Shoot 'em ups (also known as shmups or STGs ) are a sub-genre Genre () is any form or type of communication Communication (from la, communicar ...
'', ''
Joust Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two horse riders wielding lances with blunted tips, often as part of a tournament (medieval), tournament. The primary aim was to replicate a clash of heavy cavalry, with each participant trying t ...
'', ''
Sinistar ''Sinistar'' is a 1983 multidirectional shooter arcade game developed and manufactured by Williams (gaming company), Williams Electronics. It was created by Sam Dicker, Jack Haeger, Noah Falstein, Robert J. Mical, RJ Mical, Python Anghelo, and Ri ...
'', and '' Bubbles'', all released in 1982, contain custom
blitter A blitter is a circuit, sometimes as a coprocessor or a logic block on a microprocessor, dedicated to the rapid movement and modification of data within a computer's Random-access memory, memory. A blitter can copy large quantities of data from o ...
chips for operating on 16-color bitmaps. In 1984,
Hitachi () is a Japanese multinational conglomerate corporation headquartered in Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan. It is the parent company of the Hitachi Group (''Hitachi Gurūpu'') and had formed part of the Nissan ''zaibatsu'' and later DKB Group and Fuy ...
released ARTC HD63484, the first major
CMOS Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS, pronounced "sea-moss", ) is a type of metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) fabrication process that uses complementary and symmetrical pairs of p-type and n-type MOS ...
graphics processor for PC. The ARTC was capable of displaying up to
4K resolution 4K resolution refers to a horizontal display resolution of approximately 4,000 pixel In digital imaging, a pixel (abbreviated px), pel, or picture element is the smallest addressable element in a Raster graphics, raster image, or the smalles ...
when in
monochrome A monochrome or monochromatic image, object or color scheme, palette is composed of one color (or lightness, values of one color). Images using only Tint, shade and tone, shades of grey are called grayscale (typically digital) or Black and wh ...
mode, and it was used in a number of PC graphics cards and terminals during the late 1980s. In 1985, the
Commodore Amiga Amiga is a family of personal computers introduced by Commodore International, Commodore in 1985. The original model is one of a number of mid-1980s computers with 16- or 32-bit processors, 256 KB or more of RAM, mouse-based GUIs, and sign ...
featured a custom graphics chip, with a blitter unit accelerating bitmap manipulation, line draw, and area fill functions. Also included is a
coprocessor A coprocessor is a computer processor used to supplement the functions of the primary processor (the central processing unit, CPU). Operations performed by the coprocessor may be floating-point arithmetic, Computer graphics, graphics, signal proce ...
with its own simple instruction set, capable of manipulating graphics hardware registers in sync with the video beam (e.g. for per-scanline palette switches, sprite multiplexing, and hardware windowing), or driving the blitter. In 1986,
Texas Instruments Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) is an American technology company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, that designs and manufactures semiconductors and various integrated circuits, which it sells to electronics designers and manufacturers globall ...
released the TMS34010, the first fully programmable graphics processor. It could run general-purpose code, but it had a graphics-oriented instruction set. During 1990–1992, this chip became the basis of the Texas Instruments Graphics Architecture ("TIGA") Windows accelerator cards. In 1987, the IBM 8514 graphics system was released as one of the first video cards for
IBM PC compatible IBM PC compatible computers are similar to the original IBM Personal Computer, IBM PC, IBM Personal Computer XT, XT, and IBM Personal Computer/AT, AT, all from computer giant IBM, that are able to use the same software and expansion cards. Such ...
s to implement
fixed-function Fixed-function is a term canonically used to contrast 3D graphics APIs and earlier GPUs designed prior to the advent of shader-based 3D graphics APIs and GPU architectures. History Historically fixed-function APIs consisted of a set of function ...
2D primitives in
electronic hardware Electronic hardware consists of interconnected electronic components which perform analog or logic operations on received and locally stored information to produce as output or store resulting new information or to provide control for output a ...
. Sharp's
X68000 The is a home computer created by Sharp Corporation. It was first released in 1987 and sold only in Japan. The initial model has a 10 Megahertz, MHz Motorola 68000 Central processing unit, CPU, 1 Megabytes, MB of Random Access Memory, RAM ...
, released in 1987, used a custom graphics chipset with a 65,536 color palette and hardware support for sprites, scrolling, and multiple playfields, eventually serving as a development machine for
Capcom is a Japanese video game developer and video game publisher, publisher. It has created a number of List of best-selling video game franchises, multi-million-selling game franchises, with its most commercially successful being ''Resident Evil' ...
's
CP System The is an arcade system board developed by Capcom that ran game software stored on removable daughterboards. More than two dozen arcade titles were released for CPS-1, before Capcom shifted game development over to its successor, the CP System ...
arcade board. Fujitsu later competed with the
FM Towns The is a Japanese personal computer A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose microcomputer whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an end user, ...
computer, released in 1989 with support for a full 16,777,216 color palette. In 1988, the first dedicated polygonal 3D graphics boards were introduced in arcades with the Namco System 21 and
Taito is a Japanese company that specializes in video games Video games, also known as computer games, are electronic games that involves interaction with a user interface or input device such as a joystick, game controller, controller, com ...
Air System. IBM's proprietary
Video Graphics Array Video Graphics Array (VGA) is a video display controller and accompanying de facto graphics standard, first introduced with the IBM PS/2 line of computers in 1987, which became ubiquitous in the Personal computer, PC industry within three years ...
(VGA) display standard was introduced in 1987, with a maximum resolution of 640×480 pixels. In November 1988,
NEC Home Electronics is a Japanese multinational corporation, multinational information technology and electronics corporation, headquartered in Minato, Tokyo. The company was known as the Nippon Electric Company, Limited, before rebranding in 1983 as NEC. It prov ...
announced its creation of the
Video Electronics Standards Association VESA (), formally known as Video Electronics Standards Association, is an American standards organization, technical standards organization for computer display standards. The organization was incorporated in California in July 1989To retrieve ...
(VESA) to develop and promote a
Super VGA Super VGA (SVGA) is a broad term that covers a wide range of computer display standards that extended IBM's Video Graphics Array, VGA specification. When used as shorthand for a resolution, as VGA and XGA often are, SVGA refers to a resolution of ...
(SVGA)
computer display standard Computer display standards are a combination of aspect ratio The aspect ratio of a geometry, geometric shape is the ratio of its sizes in different dimensions. For example, the aspect ratio of a rectangle is the ratio of its longer side to it ...
as a successor to IBM's proprietary VGA display standard. Super VGA enabled
graphics display resolution The graphics display resolution is the width and height dimension of an electronic visual display device, measured in pixels. This information is used for electronic devices such as a computer monitor. Certain combinations of width and height ar ...
s up to 800×600
pixel In digital imaging, a pixel (abbreviated px), pel, or picture element is the smallest addressable element in a Raster graphics, raster image, or the smallest point in an all points addressable display device. In most digital display devices, pi ...
s, a 36% increase.


1990s

In 1991,
S3 Graphics S3 Graphics, Ltd (commonly referred to as S3) was an American computer graphics company. The company sold the S3 Trio, Trio, S3 ViRGE, ViRGE, S3 Savage, Savage 3D, and S3 Chrome, Chrome series of graphics processors. Struggling against competiti ...
introduced the '' S3 86C911'', which its designers named after the
Porsche 911 The Porsche 911 (pronounced ''Nine Eleven'' or in german: Neunelfer) is a two-door 2+2 (car body style), 2+2 high performance Rear-engine design, rear-engined sports car introduced in September 1964 by Porsche, Porsche AG of Stuttgart, Germany. ...
as an indication of the performance increase it promised. The 86C911 spawned a host of imitators: by 1995, all major PC graphics chip makers had added 2D acceleration support to their chips. By this time, fixed-function ''Windows accelerators'' had surpassed expensive general-purpose graphics coprocessors in Windows performance, and these coprocessors faded away from the PC market. Throughout the 1990s, 2D GUI acceleration continued to evolve. As manufacturing capabilities improved, so did the level of integration of graphics chips. Additional
application programming interface An application programming interface (API) is a way for two or more computer programs to communicate with each other. It is a type of software Interface (computing), interface, offering a service to other pieces of software. A document or standa ...
s (APIs) arrived for a variety of tasks, such as Microsoft's
WinG A wing is a type of fin that produces lift while moving through air or some other fluid. Accordingly, wings have streamlined cross-sections that are subject to aerodynamic force In fluid mechanics, an aerodynamic force is a force exerte ...
graphics library for Windows 3.x, and their later
DirectDraw DirectDraw (ddraw.dll) is an API that used to be a part of Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporation producing Software, computer software, consumer ele ...
interface for
hardware acceleration Hardware acceleration is the use of computer hardware designed to perform specific functions more efficiently when compared to software running on a general-purpose central processing unit (CPU). Any function (mathematics), transformation of d ...
of 2D games within
Windows 95 Windows 95 is a consumer-oriented operating system developed by Microsoft as part of its Windows 9x family of operating systems. The first operating system in the 9x family, it is the successor to Windows 3.1x, and was Software release life cy ...
and later. In the early- and mid-1990s,
real-time Real-time or real time describes various operations in computing or other processes that must guarantee response times within a specified time (deadline), usually a relatively short time. A real-time process is generally one that happens in defined ...
3D graphics were becoming increasingly common in arcade, computer, and console games, which led to increasing public demand for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics. Early examples of mass-market 3D graphics hardware can be found in arcade system boards such as the Sega Model 1, Namco System 22, and Sega Model 2, and the fifth-generation video game consoles such as the
Saturn Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter. It is a gas giant with an average radius of about nine and a half times that of Earth. It has only one-eighth the average density of Earth; h ...
,
PlayStation is a video game, video gaming brand that consists of five home video game consoles, two Handheld game console, handhelds, a Home theater PC, media center, and a smartphone, as well as an online service and multiple magazines. The brand is p ...
and
Nintendo 64 The (N64) is a home video game console developed by Nintendo. The successor to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, it was released on June 23, 1996, in Japan, on September 29, 1996, in North America, and on March 1, 1997, in Europe and Au ...
. Arcade systems such as the Sega Model 2 and SGI
Onyx Onyx primarily refers to the parallel banded variety of chalcedony Chalcedony ( , or ) is a cryptocrystalline form of silica, composed of very fine intergrowths of quartz and moganite. These are both silica minerals, but they differ in that ...
-based Namco Magic Edge Hornet Simulator in 1993 were capable of hardware T&L (
transform, clipping, and lighting Transform, clipping, and lighting (T&L or TCL) is a term used in computer graphics. Overview Transformation is the task of producing a two-dimensional view of a 3D computer graphics, three-dimensional scene. Clipping (computer graphics), Clipp ...
) years before appearing in consumer graphics cards. Some systems used DSPs to accelerate transformations.
Fujitsu is a Japanese Multinational corporation, multinational information and communications technology equipment and services corporation, established in 1935 and headquartered in Tokyo. Fujitsu is the world's sixth-largest Information technology, I ...
, which worked on the Sega Model 2 arcade system, began working on integrating T&L into a single LSI solution for use in home computers in 1995; the Fujitsu Pinolite, the first 3D geometry processor for personal computers, released in 1997. The first hardware T&L GPU on
home A home, or domicile, is a space used as a permanent or semi-permanent residence for one or many humans, and sometimes various pet, companion animals. It is a fully or semi sheltered space and can have both interior and exterior aspects to ...
video game console A video game console is an electronic device that Input/output, outputs a video signal or image to display a video game that can be played with a game controller. These may be home video game console, home consoles, which are generally placed i ...
s was the
Nintendo 64 The (N64) is a home video game console developed by Nintendo. The successor to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, it was released on June 23, 1996, in Japan, on September 29, 1996, in North America, and on March 1, 1997, in Europe and Au ...
's Reality Coprocessor, released in 1996. In 1997,
Mitsubishi The is a group of autonomous Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, while extendin ...
released the 3Dpro/2MP, a fully featured GPU capable of transformation and lighting, for
workstation A workstation is a special computer designed for technical or computational science, scientific applications. Intended primarily to be used by a single user, they are commonly connected to a local area network and run multi-user operating syste ...
s and
Windows NT Windows NT is a Proprietary software, proprietary Graphical user interface, graphical operating system produced by Microsoft, the first version of which was released on July 27, 1993. It is a processor-independent, multiprocessing and multi-use ...
desktops; ATi utilized it for their FireGL 4000
graphics card A graphics card (also called a video card, display card, graphics adapter, VGA card/VGA, video adapter, display adapter, or mistakenly GPU) is an expansion card which generates a feed of output images to a display device, such as a computer mo ...
, released in 1997. The term "GPU" was coined by
Sony , commonly stylized as SONY, is a Japanese Multinational corporation, multinational conglomerate (company), conglomerate corporation headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Japan. As a major technology company, it operates as one of the world's la ...
in reference to the 32-bit Sony GPU (designed by
Toshiba , commonly known as Toshiba and stylized as TOSHIBA, is a Japanese multinational corporation, multinational Conglomerate (company), conglomerate corporation headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Minato, Tokyo, Japan. Its diversified products and serv ...
) in the
PlayStation is a video game, video gaming brand that consists of five home video game consoles, two Handheld game console, handhelds, a Home theater PC, media center, and a smartphone, as well as an online service and multiple magazines. The brand is p ...
video game console, released in 1994. In the PC world, notable failed first tries for low-cost 3D graphics chips were the S3 ''
ViRGE The S3 ViRGE (Video and Rendering Graphics Engine) graphics chipset was one of the first 2D/ 3D accelerators designed for the mass market. Introduced in 1995 by then graphics powerhouse S3, Inc., the ViRGE was S3's first foray into 3D-graphics. ...
'',
ATI Rage The ATI Rage (stylized as RAGE or rage) is a series of graphics processing unit, graphics chipsets developed by ATI Technologies offering graphical user interface (GUI) 2D computer graphics, 2D acceleration, video acceleration, and 3D accelerat ...
, and
Matrox Matrox Graphics, Inc. is a producer of graphics card, video card components and equipment for personal computers and workstations. Based in Dorval, Quebec, Canada, it was founded in 1976 by Lorne Trottier and Branko Matić. The name is derived f ...
''Mystique''. These chips were essentially previous-generation 2D accelerators with 3D features bolted on. Many were even pin-compatible with the earlier-generation chips for ease of implementation and minimal cost. Initially, performance 3D graphics were possible only with discrete boards dedicated to accelerating 3D functions (and lacking 2D GUI acceleration entirely) such as the
PowerVR PowerVR is a division of Imagination Technologies (formerly VideoLogic) that develops hardware and software for 2D and 3D rendering, and for video encoding, video decoding, decoding, associated image processing and DirectX, OpenGL ES, OpenVG, and ...
and the
3dfx 3dfx Interactive was an American technology company headquartered in San Jose, California San Jose, officially San José (; ; ), is a major city in the U.S. state of California that is the cultural, financial, and political center of Silico ...
''Voodoo''. However, as manufacturing technology continued to progress, video, 2D GUI acceleration and 3D functionality were all integrated into one chip. Rendition's ''Verite'' chipsets were among the first to do this well enough to be worthy of note. In 1997, Rendition went a step further by collaborating with
Hercules Hercules (, ) is the Roman equivalent of the Greek divine hero Heracles Heracles ( ; grc-gre, Ἡρακλῆς, , glory/fame of Hera), born Alcaeus (, ''Alkaios'') or Alcides (, ''Alkeidēs''), was a divine hero in Greek mythology ...
and Fujitsu on a "Thriller Conspiracy" project which combined a Fujitsu FXG-1 Pinolite geometry processor with a Vérité V2200 core to create a graphics card with a full T&L engine years before Nvidia's
GeForce 256 The GeForce 256 is the original release in Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a larg ...
. This card, designed to reduce the load placed upon the system's CPU, never made it to market.
OpenGL OpenGL (Open Graphics Library) is a Language-independent specification, cross-language, cross-platform application programming interface (API) for rendering 2D computer graphics, 2D and 3D computer graphics, 3D vector graphics. The API is typica ...
appeared in the early '90s as a professional graphics API, but originally suffered from performance issues which allowed the Glide API to step in and become a dominant force on the PC in the late '90s. 3dfx Glide API However, these issues were quickly overcome and the Glide API fell by the wayside. Software implementations of OpenGL were common during this time, although the influence of OpenGL eventually led to widespread hardware support. Over time, a parity emerged between features offered in hardware and those offered in OpenGL.
DirectX Microsoft DirectX is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) for handling tasks related to multimedia, especially game programming and video, on Microsoft platforms. Originally, the names of these APIs all began with "Direct", ...
became popular among
Windows Windows is a group of several Proprietary software, proprietary graphical user interface, graphical operating system families developed and marketed by Microsoft. Each family caters to a certain sector of the computing industry. For example, W ...
game developers during the late 90s. Unlike OpenGL, Microsoft insisted on providing strict one-to-one support of hardware. The approach made DirectX less popular as a standalone graphics API initially, since many GPUs provided their own specific features, which existing OpenGL applications were already able to benefit from, leaving DirectX often one generation behind. (See: Comparison of OpenGL and Direct3D.) Over time, Microsoft began to work more closely with hardware developers and started to target the releases of DirectX to coincide with those of the supporting graphics hardware.
Direct3D Direct3D is a graphics application programming interface (API) for Microsoft Windows. Part of DirectX, Direct3D is used to render 3D computer graphics, three-dimensional graphics in applications where performance is important, such as games. Dir ...
5.0 was the first version of the burgeoning API to gain widespread adoption in the gaming market, and it competed directly with many more-hardware-specific, often proprietary graphics libraries, while OpenGL maintained a strong following. Direct3D 7.0 introduced support for hardware-accelerated
transform and lighting Transform, clipping, and lighting (T&L or TCL) is a term used in computer graphics Computer graphics deals with generating images with the aid of computers. Today, computer graphics is a core technology in digital photography, film, video ga ...
(T&L) for Direct3D, while OpenGL had this capability already exposed from its inception. 3D accelerator cards moved beyond being just simple rasterizers to add another significant hardware stage to the 3D rendering pipeline. The
Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a large italicized lowercase "n" on products from the mid 19 ...
''
GeForce 256 The GeForce 256 is the original release in Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a larg ...
'' (also known as NV10) was the first consumer-level card released on the market with hardware-accelerated T&L, while professional 3D cards already had this capability. Hardware transform and lighting, both already existing features of OpenGL, came to consumer-level hardware in the '90s and set the precedent for later
pixel shader In computer graphics, a shader is a computer program that calculates the appropriate levels of light, darkness, and color during the Rendering (computer graphics), rendering of a 3D scene - a process known as ''shading''. Shaders have evolved ...
and
vertex shader In computer graphics, a shader is a computer program that calculates the appropriate levels of light, darkness, and color during the Rendering (computer graphics), rendering of a 3D scene - a process known as ''shading''. Shaders have evolved ...
units which were far more flexible and programmable.


2000 to 2010

Nvidia was first to produce a chip capable of programmable
shading Shading refers to the depiction of depth perception in 3D models (within the field of 3D computer graphics) or illustrations (in visual art) by varying the level of darkness. Shading tries to approximate local behavior of light on the object's ...
; the ''
GeForce 3 The GeForce 3 series (NV20) is the third generation of Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDI ...
'' (code named NV20). Each pixel could now be processed by a short "program" that could include additional image textures as inputs, and each geometric vertex could likewise be processed by a short program before it was projected onto the screen. Used in the
Xbox Xbox is a video gaming brand created and owned by Microsoft. The brand consists of five video game consoles, as well as application software, applications (games), streaming media, streaming services, an online service by the name of Xbox netw ...
console, it competed with the
PlayStation 2 The PlayStation 2 (PS2) is a home video game console developed and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was first released in Japan on 4 March 2000, in North America on 26 October 2000, in Europe on 24 November 2000, and in Australia on 3 ...
, which used a custom vector unit for hardware accelerated vertex processing (commonly referred to as VU0/VU1). The earliest incarnations of shader execution engines used in
Xbox Xbox is a video gaming brand created and owned by Microsoft. The brand consists of five video game consoles, as well as application software, applications (games), streaming media, streaming services, an online service by the name of Xbox netw ...
were not general purpose and could not execute arbitrary pixel code. Vertices and pixels were processed by different units which had their own resources with pixel shaders having much tighter constraints (being as they are executed at much higher frequencies than with vertices). Pixel shading engines were actually more akin to a highly customizable function block and didn't really "run" a program. Many of these disparities between vertex and pixel shading were not addressed until much later with the
Unified Shader Model In the field of 3D computer graphics 3D computer graphics, or “3D graphics,” sometimes called CGI, 3D-CGI or three-dimensional Computer-generated imagery, computer graphics are graphics that use a three-dimensional representation of geo ...
. By October 2002, with the introduction of the ATI ''
Radeon 9700 The R300 Graphics Processing Unit, GPU, introduced in August 2002 and developed by ATI Technologies, is its third generation of GPU used in ''Radeon'' graphics cards. This GPU features 3D computer graphics, 3D acceleration based upon Direct3D 9. ...
'' (also known as R300), the world's first
Direct3D Direct3D is a graphics application programming interface (API) for Microsoft Windows. Part of DirectX, Direct3D is used to render 3D computer graphics, three-dimensional graphics in applications where performance is important, such as games. Dir ...
9.0 accelerator, pixel and vertex shaders could implement looping and lengthy
floating point In computing, floating-point arithmetic (FP) is arithmetic that represents real numbers approximately, using an Integer (computer science), integer with a fixed precision, called the significand, scaled by an integer exponent of a fixed base. ...
math, and were quickly becoming as flexible as CPUs, yet orders of magnitude faster for image-array operations. Pixel shading is often used for
bump mapping Bump mapping is a texture mapping Texture mapping is a method for mapping a texture on a computer-generated imagery, computer-generated graphic. Texture here can be high frequency complexity, detail, Procedural_texture, surface texture, or c ...
, which adds texture, to make an object look shiny, dull, rough, or even round or extruded. With the introduction of the Nvidia GeForce 8 series, and then new generic stream processing unit GPUs became a more generalized computing devices. Today,
parallel Parallel is a geometric term of location which may refer to: Computing * Parallel algorithm * Parallel computing * Parallel metaheuristic * Parallel (software), a UNIX utility for running programs in parallel * Parallel Sysplex, a cluster of IBM ...
GPUs have begun making computational inroads against the CPU, and a subfield of research, dubbed GPU Computing or
GPGPU General-purpose computing on graphics processing units (GPGPU, or less often GPGP) is the use of a graphics processing unit A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a specialized electronic circuit designed to manipulate and alter memory (comput ...
for ''General Purpose Computing on GPU'', has found its way into fields as diverse as
machine learning Machine learning (ML) is a field of inquiry devoted to understanding and building methods that 'learn', that is, methods that leverage data to improve performance on some set of tasks. It is seen as a part of artificial intelligence. Machine ...
,
oil exploration Hydrocarbon exploration (or oil and gas exploration) is the search by petroleum geologists and geophysicists for deposits of hydrocarbons, particularly petroleum and natural gas, in the Earth#Crust, Earth using petroleum geology. Exploration m ...
, scientific
image processing An image is a visual representation of something. It can be two-dimensional, three-dimensional, or somehow otherwise feed into the visual system to convey information. An image can be an artifact, such as a photograph or other two-dimensiona ...
,
linear algebra Linear algebra is the branch of mathematics concerning linear equations such as: :a_1x_1+\cdots +a_nx_n=b, linear maps such as: :(x_1, \ldots, x_n) \mapsto a_1x_1+\cdots +a_nx_n, and their representations in vector spaces and through matrix (mat ...
,
statistics Statistics (from German language, German: ''wikt:Statistik#German, Statistik'', "description of a State (polity), state, a country") is the discipline that concerns the collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of ...
,
3D reconstruction In computer vision and computer graphics, 3D reconstruction is the process of capturing the shape and appearance of real objects. This process can be accomplished either by active or passive methods. If the model is allowed to change its shape i ...
and even
stock options In finance, an option is a contract which conveys to its owner, the ''holder'', the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a specific quantity of an underlying asset or financial instrument, instrument at a specified strike price on or be ...
pricing determination.
GPGPU General-purpose computing on graphics processing units (GPGPU, or less often GPGP) is the use of a graphics processing unit A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a specialized electronic circuit designed to manipulate and alter memory (comput ...
at the time was the precursor to what is now called a compute shader (e.g. CUDA, OpenCL, DirectCompute) and actually abused the hardware to a degree by treating the data passed to algorithms as texture maps and executing algorithms by drawing a triangle or quad with an appropriate pixel shader. This obviously entails some overheads since units like the Scan Converter are involved where they aren't really needed (nor are triangle manipulations even a concern—except to invoke the pixel shader). Nvidia's
CUDA CUDA (or Compute Unified Device Architecture) is a parallel computing platform and application programming interface (API) that allows software to use certain types of graphics processing units (GPUs) for general purpose processing, an approach ca ...
platform, first introduced in 2007, was the earliest widely adopted programming model for GPU computing. More recently
OpenCL OpenCL (Open Computing Language) is a software framework, framework for writing programs that execute across heterogeneous computing, heterogeneous platforms consisting of central processing units (CPUs), graphics processing units (GPUs), d ...
has become broadly 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. OpenCL solutions are supported by Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and ARM, and according to a recent report by Evan's Data, OpenCL is the GPGPU development platform most widely used by developers in both the US and Asia Pacific.


2010 to present

In 2010, Nvidia began a partnership with
Audi Audi AG () is a German automotive manufacturer of luxury vehicles headquartered in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany. As a subsidiary of its parent company, the Volkswagen Group, Audi produces vehicles in nine production facilities worldwide. The o ...
to power their cars' dashboards, using the
Tegra Tegra is a system on a chip A system on a chip or system-on-chip (SoC ; pl. ''SoCs'' ) is an integrated circuit that integrates most or all components of a computer or other Electronics, electronic system. These components almost always in ...
GPUs to provide increased functionality to cars' navigation and entertainment systems. Advances in GPU technology in cars has helped push self-driving technology. AMD's
Radeon HD 6000 Series The Northern Islands series is a family of graphics processing unit, GPUs developed by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) forming part of its Radeon-brand, based on the 40 nm process. Some models are based on TeraScale (microarchitecture)#TeraScal ...
cards were released in 2010 and in 2011, AMD released their 6000M Series discrete GPUs to be used in mobile devices. The Kepler line of graphics cards by Nvidia came out in 2012 and were used in the Nvidia's 600 and 700 series cards. A feature in this new GPU microarchitecture included GPU boost, a technology that adjusts the clock-speed of a video card to increase or decrease it according to its power draw. The Kepler microarchitecture was manufactured on the 28 nm process. The
PS4 The PlayStation 4 (PS4) is a home video game console A home video game console is a video game console that is designed to be connected to a display device, such as a television, and an external power source as to play video games. Home ...
and
Xbox One The Xbox One is a home video game console developed by Microsoft. Announced in May 2013, it is the successor to Xbox 360 and the third base console in the Xbox#Consoles, Xbox series of video game consoles. It was first released in North Amer ...
were released in 2013, they both use GPUs based on AMD's Radeon HD 7850 and 7790. Nvidia's Kepler line of GPUs was followed by the Maxwell line, manufactured on the same process. 28 nm chips by Nvidia were manufactured by TSMC, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, that was manufacturing using the 28 nm process at the time. Compared to the 40 nm technology from the past, this new manufacturing process allowed a 20 percent boost in performance while drawing less power.
Virtual reality Virtual reality (VR) is a Simulation, simulated experience that employs pose tracking and 3D near-eye displays to give the user an immersive feel of a virtual world. Applications of virtual reality include entertainment (particularly video g ...
headsets have very high system requirements. VR headset manufacturers recommended the GTX 970 and the R9 290X or better at the time of their release. Pascal is the next generation of consumer graphics cards by Nvidia released in 2016. The
GeForce 10 series The GeForce 10 series is a series of graphics processing units developed by Nvidia, initially based on the Pascal (microarchitecture), Pascal microarchitecture announced in March 2014. This design series succeeded the GeForce 900 series, and is su ...
of cards are under this generation of graphics cards. They are made using the 16 nm manufacturing process which improves upon previous microarchitectures. Nvidia has released one non-consumer card under the new Volta architecture, the Titan V. Changes from the Titan XP, Pascal's high-end card, include an increase in the number of CUDA cores, the addition of tensor cores, and HBM2. Tensor cores are cores specially designed for deep learning, while high-bandwidth memory is on-die, stacked, lower-clocked memory that offers an extremely wide memory bus that is useful for the Titan V's intended purpose. To emphasize that the Titan V is not a gaming card, Nvidia removed the "GeForce GTX" suffix it adds to consumer gaming cards. On August 20, 2018, Nvidia launched the RTX 20 series GPUs that add ray-tracing cores to GPUs, improving their performance on lighting effects. Polaris 11 and Polaris 10 GPUs from AMD are fabricated by a 14-nanometer process. Their release results in a substantial increase in the performance per watt of AMD video cards. AMD has also released the Vega GPUs series for the high end market as a competitor to Nvidia's high end Pascal cards, also featuring HBM2 like the Titan V. In 2019, AMD released the successor to their
Graphics Core Next Graphics Core Next (GCN) is the Code name, codename for a series of microarchitectures and an instruction set architecture that were developed by Advanced Micro Devices, AMD for its graphics processing unit, GPUs as the successor to its TeraScale ...
(GCN) microarchitecture/instruction set. Dubbed as RDNA, the first product lineup featuring the first generation of RDNA was the
Radeon RX 5000 series The Radeon RX 5000 series is a series of graphics processors developed by Advanced Micro Devices, AMD, based on their RDNA (microarchitecture), RDNA architecture. The series is targeting the mainstream mid to high-end segment and is the successo ...
of video cards, which later launched on July 7, 2019.AMD press release: AMD.com. Retrieved October 5th, 2019 Later, the company announced that the successor to the RDNA microarchitecture would be a refresh. Dubbed as RDNA 2, the new microarchitecture was reportedly scheduled for release in Q4 2020. AMD unveiled the
Radeon RX 6000 series The Radeon RX 6000 series is a series of graphics processing units developed by Advanced Micro Devices, AMD, based on their RDNA 2, RDNA 2 architecture. It was announced on October 28, 2020 and is the successor to the Radeon RX 5000 series. It ...
, its next-gen RDNA 2 graphics cards with support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing at an online event on October 28, 2020. The lineup initially consists of the RX 6800, RX 6800 XT and RX 6900 XT. The RX 6800 and 6800 XT launched on November 18, 2020, with the RX 6900 XT being released on December 8, 2020. The RX 6700 XT, which is based on Navi 22, was launched on March 18, 2021. The
PlayStation 5 The PlayStation 5 (PS5) is a home video game console developed by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Announced as the successor to the PlayStation 4 in April 2019, it was launched on November 12, 2020, in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, North Ame ...
and
Xbox Series X and Series S The Xbox Series X/S are home video game consoles developed by Microsoft. They were both released on November 10, 2020, as the fourth generation Xbox, succeeding the Xbox One. Along with Sony Interactive Entertainment, Sony's PlayStation 5, a ...
were released in 2020, they both use GPUs based on the
RDNA 2 RDNA (Radeon Radeon () is a brand of computer products, including graphics processing units, random-access memory, RAM disk software, and solid-state drives, produced by Radeon Technologies Group, a division of AMD. The brand was launched i ...
microarchitecture with proprietary tweaks and different GPU configurations in each system's implementation.


GPU companies

Many companies have produced GPUs under a number of brand names. In 2009,
Intel Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Santa Clara, California. It is the world's largest semiconductor chip manufacturer by revenue, and is one of the devel ...
,
Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a large italicized lowercase "n" on products from the mid 19 ...
and
AMD Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) is an American multinational semiconductor company based in Santa Clara, California Santa Clara (; Spanish for " Saint Clare") is a city in Santa Clara County, California. The city's population was 12 ...
/ ATI were the market share leaders, with 49.4%, 27.8% and 20.6% market share respectively. However, those numbers include Intel's integrated graphics solutions as GPUs. Not counting those,
Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a large italicized lowercase "n" on products from the mid 19 ...
and
AMD Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) is an American multinational semiconductor company based in Santa Clara, California Santa Clara (; Spanish for " Saint Clare") is a city in Santa Clara County, California. The city's population was 12 ...
control nearly 100% of the market as of 2018. Their respective market shares are 66% and 33%. In addition,
Matrox Matrox Graphics, Inc. is a producer of graphics card, video card components and equipment for personal computers and workstations. Based in Dorval, Quebec, Canada, it was founded in 1976 by Lorne Trottier and Branko Matić. The name is derived f ...
produces GPUs. Modern smartphones also use mostly
Adreno Adreno is a series of graphics processing unit (GPU) semiconductor intellectual property cores developed by Qualcomm and used in many of their System on a chip, SoCs. History Adreno (an anagram of AMD's graphic card brand ''Radeon''), was origin ...
GPUs from
Qualcomm Qualcomm () is an American multinational corporation headquartered in San Diego, California, and Delaware General Corporation Law, incorporated in Delaware. It creates semiconductors, software, and services related to wireless technology. It ow ...
,
PowerVR PowerVR is a division of Imagination Technologies (formerly VideoLogic) that develops hardware and software for 2D and 3D rendering, and for video encoding, video decoding, decoding, associated image processing and DirectX, OpenGL ES, OpenVG, and ...
GPUs from
Imagination Technologies Imagination Technologies Limited is a British semiconductor and Computer software, software design company owned by Canyon Bridge Capital Partners, a private equity fund based in Beijing that is ultimately owned by the Chinese government. With ...
and Mali GPUs from ARM.


Computational functions

Modern GPUs use most of their
transistor file:MOSFET Structure.png, upright=1.4, Metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET), showing Metal gate, gate (G), body (B), source (S) and drain (D) terminals. The gate is separated from the body by an insulating layer (pink). A ...
s to do calculations related to
3D computer graphics 3D computer graphics, or “3D graphics,” sometimes called CGI, 3D-CGI or three-dimensional Computer-generated imagery, computer graphics are graphics that use a three-dimensional representation of geometric data (often Cartesian coordinate ...
. In addition to the 3D hardware, today's GPUs include basic 2D acceleration and
framebuffer A framebuffer (frame buffer, or sometimes framestore) is a portion of random-access memory (RAM) containing a bitmap that drives a video display. It is a Data buffer, memory buffer containing data representing all the pixels in a complete video f ...
capabilities (usually with a VGA compatibility mode). Newer cards such as AMD/ATI HD5000-HD7000 even lack dedicated 2D acceleration; it has to be emulated by 3D hardware. GPUs were initially used to accelerate the memory-intensive work of
texture mapping Texture mapping is a method for mapping a texture on a computer-generated imagery, computer-generated graphic. Texture here can be high frequency complexity, detail, Procedural_texture, surface texture, or color. History The original techniqu ...
and rendering polygons, later adding units to accelerate
geometric Geometry (; ) is, with arithmetic, one of the oldest branches of mathematics. It is concerned with properties of space such as the distance, shape, size, and relative position of figures. A mathematician who works in the field of geometry is ca ...
calculations such as the
rotation Rotation, or spin, is the circular movement of an object around a ''axis of rotation, central axis''. A two-dimensional rotating object has only one possible central axis and can rotate in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. A t ...
and
translation Translation is the communication of the Meaning (linguistic), meaning of a #Source and target languages, source-language text by means of an Dynamic and formal equivalence, equivalent #Source and target languages, target-language text. The ...
of vertices into different
coordinate system In geometry, a coordinate system is a system that uses one or more numbers, or coordinates, to uniquely determine the Position (geometry), position of the Point (geometry), points or other geometric elements on a manifold such as Euclidean space ...
s. Recent developments in GPUs include support for programmable shaders which can manipulate vertices and textures with many of the same operations supported by CPUs,
oversampling In signal processing Signal processing is an electrical engineering subfield that focuses on analyzing, modifying and synthesizing '' signals'', such as sound In physics, sound is a vibration that propagates as an acoustic wave, t ...
and
interpolation In the mathematics, mathematical field of numerical analysis, interpolation is a type of estimation, a method of constructing (finding) new data points based on the range of a discrete set of known data points. In engineering and science, one ...
techniques to reduce
aliasing In signal processing and related disciplines, aliasing is an effect that causes different signals to become indistinguishable (or ''aliases'' of one another) when sampling (signal processing), sampled. It also often refers to the distortion or ...
, and very high-precision
color space A color space is a specific organization of colors. In combination with color profiling supported by various physical devices, it supports reproducible representations of colorwhether such representation entails an analog signal, analog or a Dig ...
s. Given that most of these computations involve
matrix Matrix most commonly refers to: * The Matrix (franchise), ''The Matrix'' (franchise), an American media franchise ** ''The Matrix'', a 1999 science-fiction action film ** "The Matrix", a fictional setting, a virtual reality environment, within Th ...
and
vector Vector most often refers to: *Euclidean vector In mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities ...
operations, engineers and scientists have increasingly studied the use of GPUs for non-graphical calculations; they are especially suited to other embarrassingly parallel problems. Several factors of the GPU's construction enter into the performance of the card for real-time rendering. Common factors can include the size of the connector pathways in the
semiconductor device fabrication Semiconductor device fabrication is the process used to manufacture semiconductor devices, typically integrated circuit An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit (also referred to as an IC, a chip, or a microchip) is a set ...
, the
clock signal In electronics and especially Synchronous logic, synchronous digital circuits, a clock signal (historically also known as ''logic beat'') oscillates between a high and a low state and is used like a metronome to coordinate actions of digital Electr ...
frequency, and the number and size of various on-chip memory caches. Additionally, the number of Streaming Multiprocessors (SM) for NVidia GPUs, or Compute Units (CU) for AMD GPUs, which describe the number of core on-silicon processor units within the GPU chip that perform the core calculations, typically working in parallel with other SM/CUs on the GPU. Performance of GPUs are typically measured in floating point operations per second or
FLOPS In computing, floating point operations per second (FLOPS, flops or flop/s) is a measure of computer performance, useful in fields of scientific computations that require floating-point calculations. For such cases, it is a more accurate meas ...
, with GPUs in the 2010s and 2020s typically delivering performance measured in teraflops (TFLOPS). This is an estimated performance measure as other factors can impact the actual display rate. With the emergence of deep learning, the importance of GPUs has increased. In research done by Indigo, it was found that while training deep learning neural networks, GPUs can be 250 times faster than CPUs. There has been some level of competition in this area with ASICs, most prominently the
Tensor Processing Unit Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) is an AI accelerator application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) developed by Google Google LLC () is an American Multinational corporation, multinational technology company focusing on Search Engine, se ...
(TPU) made by Google. However, ASICs require changes to existing code and GPUs are still very popular.


GPU accelerated video decoding and encoding

Most GPUs made since 1995 support the YUV
color space A color space is a specific organization of colors. In combination with color profiling supported by various physical devices, it supports reproducible representations of colorwhether such representation entails an analog signal, analog or a Dig ...
and
hardware overlay In computing, hardware overlay, a type of video overlay, provides a method of rendering an image to a display screen with a dedicated memory buffer inside computer video hardware. The technique aims to improve the display of a fast-moving video im ...
s, important for
digital video Digital video is an electronic representation of moving visual images (video) in the form of encoded digital data. This is in contrast to analog video, which represents moving visual images in the form of analog signals. Digital video comprises ...
playback, and many GPUs made since 2000 also support
MPEG The Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) is an alliance of working groups established jointly by International Organization for Standardization, ISO and International Electrotechnical Commission, IEC that sets standards for media coding, includ ...
primitives such as
motion compensation Motion compensation in computing, is an algorithmic technique used to predict a frame in a video, given the previous and/or future frames by accounting for motion of the camera and/or objects in the video. It is employed in the encoding of video d ...
and iDCT. This process of hardware accelerated video decoding, where portions of the
video decoding A video decoder is an electronic circuit, often contained within a single integrated circuit chip, that converts base-band analog video signals to digital video. Video decoders commonly allow programmable control over video characteristics such as ...
process and
video post-processing The term post-processing (or postproc for short) is used in the video/film business for quality-improvement image processing An image is a visual representation of something. It can be two-dimensional, three-dimensional, or somehow otherwise ...
are offloaded to the GPU hardware, is commonly referred to as "GPU accelerated video decoding", "GPU assisted video decoding", "GPU hardware accelerated video decoding" or "GPU hardware assisted video decoding". More recent graphics cards even decode
high-definition video High-definition video (HD video) is video of higher display resolution, resolution and quality than Standard-definition television, standard-definition. While there is no standardized meaning for ''high-definition'', generally any video image wit ...
on the card, offloading the central processing unit. The most common APIs for GPU accelerated video decoding are
DxVA DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA) is a Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporation producing Software, computer software, consumer electronics, personal co ...
for
Microsoft Windows Windows is a group of several proprietary graphical operating system families developed and marketed by Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporatio ...
operating system and VDPAU, VAAPI, XvMC, and XvBA for Linux-based and UNIX-like operating systems. All except XvMC are capable of decoding videos encoded with
MPEG-1 MPEG-1 is a Technical standard, standard for lossy compression of video and Audio frequency, audio. It is designed to compress VHS-quality raw digital video and CD audio down to about 1.5 Mbit/s (26:1 and 6:1 compression ratios respectively) wit ...
,
MPEG-2 MPEG-2 (a.k.a. H.222/H.262 as was defined by the ITU) is a standard for "the generic video coding format, coding of moving pictures and associated audio information". It describes a combination of Lossy compression, lossy video compression and ...
, MPEG-4 ASP (MPEG-4 Part 2),
MPEG-4 AVC Advanced Video Coding (AVC), also referred to as H.264 or MPEG-4 Part 10, is a video compression standard based on block-oriented, motion compensation, motion-compensated coding. It is by far the most commonly used format for the recording, com ...
(H.264 / DivX 6),
VC-1 SMPTE 421, informally known as VC-1, is a video coding format. Most of it was initially developed as Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporation produ ...
, WMV3/ WMV9,
Xvid Xvid (formerly "XviD") is a video codec library (computing), library following the MPEG-4 video coding standard, specifically MPEG-4 Part 2, MPEG-4 Part 2 Advanced Simple Profile (ASP). It uses ASP features such as b-frames, global and quarter pi ...
/ OpenDivX (DivX 4), and DivX 5
codec A codec is a device or computer program that encodes or Decoding methods, decodes a data stream or signal. ''Codec'' is a portmanteau of coder/decoder. In electronic communications, an endec is a device that acts as both an encoder and a decoder ...
s, while XvMC is only capable of decoding MPEG-1 and MPEG-2. There are several dedicated hardware video decoding and encoding solutions.


Video decoding processes that can be accelerated

The video decoding processes that can be accelerated by today's modern GPU hardware are: * Motion compensation (mocomp) * Inverse discrete cosine transform (iDCT) ** Inverse telecine 3:2 and 2:2 pull-down correction * Inverse
modified discrete cosine transform The modified discrete cosine transform (MDCT) is a transform based on the type-IV discrete cosine transform (DCT-IV), with the additional property of being lapped transform, lapped: it is designed to be performed on consecutive blocks of a larger ...
(iMDCT) * In-loop
deblocking filter A deblocking filter is a video filter applied to decoded compressed video to improve visual quality and prediction performance by smoothing the sharp edges which can form between macroblock The macroblock is a processing unit in image compressi ...
* Intra-frame prediction * Inverse quantization (IQ) * Variable-length decoding (VLD), more commonly known as slice-level acceleration * Spatial-temporal
deinterlacing Deinterlacing is the process of converting interlaced video into a non-interlaced or Progressive scan, progressive form. Interlaced video signals are commonly found in analog television, digital television (HDTV) when in the 1080i format, some D ...
and automatic interlace/
progressive Progressive may refer to: Politics * Progressivism Progressivism holds that it is possible to improve human societies through political action. As a political movement, progressivism seeks to advance the human condition through social r ...
source detection * Bitstream processing ( Context-adaptive variable-length coding/
Context-adaptive binary arithmetic coding Context-adaptive binary arithmetic coding (CABAC) is a form of entropy encoding used in the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC and High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standards. It is a lossless compression technique, although the video coding standards in which it i ...
) and perfect pixel positioning. The above operations also have applications in video editing, encoding and transcoding


GPU forms


Terminology

In personal computers, there are two main forms of GPUs. Each has many synonyms: * '' Dedicated graphics card'' - also called ''discrete''. * ''
Integrated graphics A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a specialized electronic circuit An electronic circuit is composed of individual electronic components, such as resistors, transistors, capacitors, inductors and diodes, connected by conductive wires or Co ...
'' - also called: ''shared graphics solutions'', ''integrated graphics processors'' (IGP), or ''unified memory architecture'' (UMA).


Usage specific GPU

Most GPUs are designed for a specific usage, real-time 3D graphics or other mass calculations: # Gaming #* GeForce GTX, RTX #* Nvidia Titan #* Radeon HD, R5, R7, R9, RX, Vega and Navi series #*
Radeon VII The Radeon RX Vega series is a series of graphics processors developed by AMD. These GPUs use the Graphics Core Next#fifth, Graphics Core Next (GCN) 5th generation architecture, codenamed Vega, and are manufactured on 14 nm FinFET technology, d ...
# Cloud Gaming #* Nvidia GRID #* Radeon Sky # Workstation #*
Nvidia Quadro Quadro was Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a large italicized lowercase "n" on p ...
#*
Nvidia RTX Nvidia GeForce RTX (Ray Tracing Texel eXtreme) is a professional visual computing platform created by Nvidia, primarily used for designing complex large-scale models in architecture and product design, scientific visualization, energy exploratio ...
#*
AMD FirePro AMD FirePro was AMD's brand of graphics card A graphics card (also called a video card, display card, graphics adapter, VGA card/VGA, video adapter, display adapter, or mistakenly GPU) is an expansion card which generates a feed of output ...
#* AMD Radeon Pro #*
Intel Arc Intel Arc is a brand of graphics processing units designed by Intel Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Santa Clara, California. It is the world's la ...
Pro # Cloud Workstation #*
Nvidia Tesla Nvidia Tesla was the name of Nvidia's line of products targeted at stream processing or GPGPU, general-purpose graphics processing units (GPGPU), named after pioneering electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. Its products began using GPUs from the GeF ...
#*
AMD FireStream AMD FireStream was Advanced Micro Devices, AMD's brand name for their Radeon-based product line targeting stream processing and/or General-purpose computing on graphics processing units, GPGPU in supercomputers. Originally developed by ATI Technol ...
# Artificial Intelligence training and Cloud #*
Nvidia Tesla Nvidia Tesla was the name of Nvidia's line of products targeted at stream processing or GPGPU, general-purpose graphics processing units (GPGPU), named after pioneering electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. Its products began using GPUs from the GeF ...
#* AMD Radeon Instinct # Automated/Driverless car #* Nvidia Drive PX


Dedicated graphics cards

The GPUs of the most powerful class typically interface with the
motherboard A motherboard (also called mainboard, main circuit board, mb, mboard, backplane board, base board, system board, logic board (only in Apple computers) or mobo) is the main printed circuit board (PCB) in general-purpose computers and other expand ...
by means of an
expansion slot Expansion may refer to: Arts, entertainment and media * ''L'Expansion ''L'Expansion'' was a French former monthly business magazine based in Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 in ...
such as
PCI Express PCI Express (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express), officially abbreviated as PCIe or PCI-e, is a high-speed serial communication, serial computer expansion bus standard, designed to replace the older Conventional PCI, PCI, PCI-X and A ...
(PCIe) or
Accelerated Graphics Port Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) is a parallel communication, parallel expansion card standard, designed for attaching a video card to a computer system to assist in the acceleration of 3D computer graphics. It was originally designed as a succes ...
(AGP) and can usually be replaced or upgraded with relative ease, assuming the motherboard is capable of supporting the upgrade. A few
graphics cards A graphics card (also called a video card, display card, graphics adapter, VGA card/VGA, video adapter, display adapter, or mistakenly GPU) is an expansion card which generates a feed of output images to a display device, such as a computer moni ...
still use
Peripheral Component Interconnect Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) is a local bus, local computer Computer bus, bus for attaching Computer hardware, hardware devices in a computer and is part of the PCI Local Bus standard. The PCI bus supports the functions found on a Sys ...
(PCI) slots, but their bandwidth is so limited that they are generally used only when a PCIe or AGP slot is not available. A dedicated GPU is not necessarily removable, nor does it necessarily interface with the motherboard in a standard fashion. The term "dedicated" refers to the fact that dedicated graphics cards have
RAM Ram, ram, or RAM may refer to: Animals * A male sheep Sheep or domestic sheep (''Ovis aries'') are domesticated, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Although the term ''sheep'' can apply to other species in the genus ''Ovis'', in ...
that is dedicated to the card's use, not to the fact that ''most'' dedicated GPUs are removable. Further, this RAM is usually specially selected for the expected serial workload of the graphics card (see GDDR). Sometimes, systems with dedicated, ''discrete'' GPUs were called "DIS" systems, as opposed to "UMA" systems (see next section). Dedicated GPUs for portable computers are most commonly interfaced through a non-standard and often proprietary slot due to size and weight constraints. Such ports may still be considered PCIe or AGP in terms of their logical host interface, even if they are not physically interchangeable with their counterparts. Technologies such as SLI and
NVLink NVLink is a wire-based serial multi-lane near-range communications Communication (from la, communicare, meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is usually defined as the transmission of information. The term may also refer to the m ...
by Nvidia and CrossFire by AMD allow multiple GPUs to draw images simultaneously for a single screen, increasing the processing power available for graphics. These technologies, however, are increasingly uncommon, as most games do not fully utilize multiple GPUs, as most users cannot afford them. Multiple GPUs are still used on supercomputers (like in
Summit A summit is a point on a surface that is higher in elevation than all points immediately adjacent to it. The topography, topographic terms acme, apex, peak (mountain peak), and zenith are synonymous. The term (mountain top) is generally used ...
), on workstations to accelerate video (processing multiple videos at once) and 3D rendering, for VFX and for simulations, and in AI to expedite training, as is the case with Nvidia's lineup of DGX workstations and servers and Tesla GPUs and Intel's upcoming Ponte Vecchio GPUs.


Integrated graphics processing unit

''Integrated graphics processing unit'' (IGPU), ''Integrated graphics'', ''shared graphics solutions'', ''integrated graphics processors'' (IGP) or ''unified memory architecture'' (UMA) utilize a portion of a computer's system RAM rather than dedicated graphics memory. IGPs can be integrated onto the motherboard as part of the (northbridge) chipset, or on the same
die (integrated circuit) A die, in the context of integrated circuits, is a small block of semiconducting material on which a given functional circuit is Semiconductor fabrication, fabricated. Typically, integrated circuits are produced in large batches on a single wafer ...
with the CPU (like AMD APU or Intel HD Graphics). On certain motherboards, AMD's IGPs can use dedicated sideport memory. This is a separate fixed block of high performance memory that is dedicated for use by the GPU. In early 2007, computers with integrated graphics account for about 90% of all PC shipments. They are less costly to implement than dedicated graphics processing, but tend to be less capable. Historically, integrated processing was considered unfit to play 3D games or run graphically intensive programs but could run less intensive programs such as Adobe Flash. Examples of such IGPs would be offerings from SiS and VIA circa 2004. However, modern integrated graphics processors such as
AMD Accelerated Processing Unit AMD Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), formerly known as Fusion, is a series of 64-bit microprocessors from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), combining a general-purpose AMD64 central processing unit (CPU) and integrated graphics processing unit ...
and
Intel Graphics Technology Intel Graphics Technology (GT) is the collective name for a series of Integrated GPU, integrated graphics processors (IGPs) produced by Intel that are manufactured on the same Semiconductor package, package or Die (integrated circuit), die as the ...
(HD, UHD, Iris, Iris Pro, Iris Plus, and Xe-LP) are more than capable of handling 2D graphics or low stress 3D graphics. Since the GPU computations are extremely memory-intensive, integrated processing may find itself competing with the CPU for the relatively slow system RAM, as it has minimal or no dedicated video memory. IGPs can have up to 29.856 GB/s of memory bandwidth from system RAM, whereas a graphics card may have up to 264 GB/s of bandwidth between its
RAM Ram, ram, or RAM may refer to: Animals * A male sheep Sheep or domestic sheep (''Ovis aries'') are domesticated, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Although the term ''sheep'' can apply to other species in the genus ''Ovis'', in ...
and GPU core. This
memory bus In computer architecture, a bus (shortened form of the Latin ''wikt:omnibus, omnibus'', and historically also called data highway or databus) is a communication system that transfers Data (computing), data between components inside a computer ...
bandwidth can limit the performance of the GPU, though multi-channel memory can mitigate this deficiency. Older integrated graphics chipsets lacked hardware
transform and lighting Transform, clipping, and lighting (T&L or TCL) is a term used in computer graphics Computer graphics deals with generating images with the aid of computers. Today, computer graphics is a core technology in digital photography, film, video ga ...
, but newer ones include it.


Hybrid graphics processing

This newer class of GPUs competes with integrated graphics in the low-end desktop and notebook markets. The most common implementations of this are ATI's HyperMemory and Nvidia's TurboCache. Hybrid graphics cards are somewhat more expensive than integrated graphics, but much less expensive than dedicated graphics cards. These share memory with the system and have a small dedicated memory cache, to make up for the high latency of the system RAM. Technologies within PCI Express can make this possible. While these solutions are sometimes advertised as having as much as 768 MB of RAM, this refers to how much can be shared with the system memory.


Stream processing and general purpose GPUs (GPGPU)

It is becoming increasingly common to use a general purpose graphics processing unit (GPGPU) as a modified form of stream processor (or a
vector processor In computing, a vector processor or array processor is a central processing unit (CPU) that implements an instruction set where its Instruction (computer science), instructions are designed to operate efficiently and effectively on large Array d ...
), running
compute kernel In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computer, computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes, and development of both computer hardware , hardw ...
s. This concept turns the massive computational power of a modern graphics accelerator's shader pipeline into general-purpose computing power, as opposed to being hardwired solely to do graphical operations. In certain applications requiring massive vector operations, this can yield several orders of magnitude higher performance than a conventional CPU. The two largest discrete (see " Dedicated graphics cards" above) GPU designers,
AMD Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) is an American multinational semiconductor company based in Santa Clara, California Santa Clara (; Spanish for " Saint Clare") is a city in Santa Clara County, California. The city's population was 12 ...
and
Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a large italicized lowercase "n" on products from the mid 19 ...
, are beginning to pursue this approach with an array of applications. Both Nvidia and AMD have teamed with
Stanford University Stanford University, officially Leland Stanford Junior University, is a Private university, private research university in Stanford, California. The campus occupies , among the largest in the United States, and enrolls over 17,000 students. S ...
to create a GPU-based client for the
Folding@home Folding@home (FAH or F@h) is a volunteer computing project aimed to help scientists develop new therapeutics for a variety of diseases by the means of simulating protein dynamics. This includes the process of protein folding and the movements ...
distributed computing project, for protein folding calculations. In certain circumstances, the GPU calculates forty times faster than the CPUs traditionally used by such applications. GPGPU can be used for many types of embarrassingly parallel tasks including ray tracing. They are generally suited to high-throughput type computations that exhibit data-parallelism to exploit the wide vector width
SIMD Single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) is a type of parallel computer, parallel processing in Flynn's taxonomy. SIMD can be internal (part of the hardware design) and it can be directly accessible through an instruction set architecture (IS ...
architecture of the GPU. Furthermore, GPU-based high performance computers are starting to play a significant role in large-scale modelling. Three of the 10 most powerful supercomputers in the world take advantage of GPU acceleration. GPUs support API extensions to the C programming language such as
OpenCL OpenCL (Open Computing Language) is a software framework, framework for writing programs that execute across heterogeneous computing, heterogeneous platforms consisting of central processing units (CPUs), graphics processing units (GPUs), d ...
and
OpenMP OpenMP (Open Multi-Processing) is an application programming interface (API) that supports multi-platform shared memory architecture , shared-memory multiprocessing programming in C (programming language), C, C++, and Fortran, on many platforms ...
. Furthermore, each GPU vendor introduced its own API which only works with their cards, AMD APP SDK and
CUDA CUDA (or Compute Unified Device Architecture) is a parallel computing platform and application programming interface (API) that allows software to use certain types of graphics processing units (GPUs) for general purpose processing, an approach ca ...
from AMD and Nvidia, respectively. These technologies allow specified functions called
compute kernel In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computer, computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes, and development of both computer hardware , hardw ...
s from a normal C program to run on the GPU's stream processors. This makes it possible for C programs to take advantage of a GPU's ability to operate on large buffers in parallel, while still using the CPU when appropriate. CUDA is also the first API to allow CPU-based applications to directly access the resources of a GPU for more general purpose computing without the limitations of using a graphics API. Since 2005 there has been interest in using the performance offered by GPUs for
evolutionary computation In computer science, evolutionary computation is a family of algorithms for global optimization inspired by biological evolution, and the subfield of artificial intelligence and soft computing studying these algorithms. In technical terms, they ...
in general, and for accelerating the fitness evaluation in
genetic programming In artificial intelligence, genetic programming (GP) is a technique of evolving programs, starting from a population of unfit (usually random) programs, fit for a particular task by applying operations analogous to natural genetic processes to t ...
in particular. Most approaches compile
linear Linearity is the property of a mathematical relationship ('' function'') that can be graphically represented as a straight line Line most often refers to: * Line (geometry) In geometry, a line is an infinitely long object with no width, ...
or tree programs on the host PC and transfer the executable to the GPU to be run. Typically the performance advantage is only obtained by running the single active program simultaneously on many example problems in parallel, using the GPU's
SIMD Single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) is a type of parallel computer, parallel processing in Flynn's taxonomy. SIMD can be internal (part of the hardware design) and it can be directly accessible through an instruction set architecture (IS ...
architecture. However, substantial acceleration can also be obtained by not compiling the programs, and instead transferring them to the GPU, to be interpreted there. Acceleration can then be obtained by either interpreting multiple programs simultaneously, simultaneously running multiple example problems, or combinations of both. A modern GPU can readily simultaneously interpret hundreds of thousands of very small programs. Some modern workstation GPUs, such as the Nvidia Quadro workstation cards using the Volta and Turing architectures, feature dedicating processing cores for tensor-based deep learning applications. In Nvidia's current series of GPUs these cores are called Tensor Cores. These GPUs usually have significant FLOPS performance increases, utilizing 4x4 matrix multiplication and division, resulting in hardware performance up to 128 TFLOPS in some applications. These tensor cores are also supposed to appear in consumer cards running the Turing architecture, and possibly in the Navi series of consumer cards from AMD.


External GPU (eGPU)

An external GPU is a graphics processor located outside of the housing of the computer, similar to a large external hard drive. External graphics processors are sometimes used with laptop computers. Laptops might have a substantial amount of RAM and a sufficiently powerful central processing unit (CPU), but often lack a powerful graphics processor, and instead have a less powerful but more energy-efficient on-board graphics chip. On-board graphics chips are often not powerful enough for playing video games, or for other graphically intensive tasks, such as editing video or 3D animation/rendering. Therefore, it is desirable to be able to attach a GPU to some external bus of a notebook.
PCI Express PCI Express (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express), officially abbreviated as PCIe or PCI-e, is a high-speed serial communication, serial computer expansion bus standard, designed to replace the older Conventional PCI, PCI, PCI-X and A ...
is the only bus used for this purpose. The port may be, for example, an ExpressCard or mPCIe port (PCIe ×1, up to 5 or 2.5 Gbit/s respectively) or a
Thunderbolt A thunderbolt or lightning bolt is a symbolic representation of lightning Lightning is a naturally occurring electrostatic discharge during which two electric charge, electrically charged regions, both in the atmosphere or with one o ...
1, 2, or 3 port (PCIe ×4, up to 10, 20, or 40 Gbit/s respectively). Those ports are only available on certain notebook systems. eGPU enclosures include their own power supply (PSU), because powerful GPUs can easily consume hundreds of watts. Official vendor support for external GPUs has gained traction recently.  One notable milestone was Apple's decision to officially support external GPUs with MacOS High Sierra 10.13.4.  There are also several major hardware vendors (HP, Alienware, Razer) releasing Thunderbolt 3 eGPU enclosures. This support has continued to fuel eGPU implementations by enthusiasts.


Sales

In 2013, 438.3 million GPUs were shipped globally and the forecast for 2014 was 414.2 million.


See also

*
Texture mapping unit In computer graphics Computer graphics deals with generating images with the aid of computers. Today, computer graphics is a core technology in digital photography, film, video games, cell phone and computer displays, and many specialized app ...
(TMU) *
Render output unit In computer graphics, the render output unit (ROP) or raster operations pipeline is a hardware component in modern graphics processing units (GPUs) and one of the final steps in the Rendering (computer graphics), rendering process of modern graph ...
(ROP) *
Brute force attack In cryptography Cryptography, or cryptology (from grc, , translit=kryptós "hidden, secret"; and ''graphein'', "to write", or ''-logy, -logia'', "study", respectively), is the practice and study of techniques for secure communica ...
*
Computer hardware Computer hardware includes the physical parts of a computer, such as the computer case, case, central processing unit (CPU), Random-access memory, random access memory (RAM), Computer monitor, monitor, Computer mouse, mouse, Computer keyboard, ...
*
Computer monitor A computer monitor is an output device that displays information in pictorial or textual form. A discrete monitor comprises a electronic visual display, visual display, support electronics, power supply, Housing (engineering), housing, electric ...
* GPU cache * GPU virtualization *
Manycore processor Manycore processors are special kinds of multi-core processors designed for a high degree of parallel processing, containing numerous simpler, independent processor cores (from a few tens of cores to thousands or more). Manycore processors are u ...
* Physics processing unit (PPU) *
Tensor processing unit Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) is an AI accelerator application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) developed by Google Google LLC () is an American Multinational corporation, multinational technology company focusing on Search Engine, se ...
(TPU) * Ray-tracing hardware *
Software rendering Software rendering is the process of generating an image from a model by means of computer software. In the context of rendering (computer graphics), computer graphics rendering, software rendering refers to a rendering process that is not depen ...
*
Vision processing unit A vision processing unit (VPU) is (as of 2018) an emerging class of microprocessor; it is a specific type of AI accelerator, designed to hardware acceleration, accelerate machine vision tasks. Overview Vision processing units are distinct from ...
(VPU) *
Vector processor In computing, a vector processor or array processor is a central processing unit (CPU) that implements an instruction set where its Instruction (computer science), instructions are designed to operate efficiently and effectively on large Array d ...
*
Video card A graphics card (also called a video card, display card, graphics adapter, VGA card/VGA, video adapter, display adapter, or mistakenly GPU) is an expansion card which generates a feed of output images to a display device, such as a computer moni ...
*
Video display controller A video display controller or VDC (also called a display engine or display interface) is an integrated circuit which is the main component in a video-signal generator, a device responsible for the production of a Television, TV Composite video, ...
*
Video game console A video game console is an electronic device that Input/output, outputs a video signal or image to display a video game that can be played with a game controller. These may be home video game console, home consoles, which are generally placed i ...
*
AI accelerator An AI accelerator is a class of specialized hardware acceleration, hardware accelerator or computer system designed to accelerate artificial intelligence and machine learning applications, including artificial neural networks and machine vision. ...
* GPU Vector Processor internal features


Hardware

*
List of AMD graphics processing units The following is a list that contains general information about GPUs A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a specialized electronic circuit designed to manipulate and alter memory (computing), memory to accelerate the creation of Digital image, ...
*
List of Nvidia graphics processing units This list contains general information about graphics processing units (GPUs) and video cards from Nvidia, based on official specifications. In addition some Comparison of Nvidia nForce chipsets, Nvidia motherboards come with integrated onboard GPU ...
*
List of Intel graphics processing units This article contains information about Intel Intel Corporation is an American multinational corporation and technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California, Santa Clara, California. It is the world's largest semiconductor chip m ...
*
Intel GMA The Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) is a series of integrated graphics processor A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a specialized electronic circuit designed to manipulate and alter memory (computing), memory to accelerate the creatio ...
* Larrabee *
Nvidia PureVideo PureVideo is Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a large italicized lowercase "n" on pr ...
- the bit-stream technology from
Nvidia Nvidia CorporationOfficially written as NVIDIA and stylized in its logo as nVIDIA with the lowercase "n" the same height as the uppercase "VIDIA"; formerly stylized as ''n''VIDIA with a large italicized lowercase "n" on products from the mid 19 ...
used in their graphics chips to accelerate video decoding on hardware GPU with DXVA. * SoC * UVD (Unified Video Decoder) – the video decoding bit-stream technology from ATI to support hardware (GPU) decode with DXVA


APIs

* OpenGL API * DirectX Video Acceleration (DxVA) API for
Microsoft Windows Windows is a group of several proprietary graphical operating system families developed and marketed by Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporatio ...
operating-system. * Mantle (API) *
Vulkan (API) Vulkan is a low-Overhead (computing), overhead, cross-platform API, open standard for 3D graphics and compute kernel, computing. Vulkan targets high-performance real-time 3D graphics applications, such as video games and interactive media. Vulka ...
* Video Acceleration API (VA API) * VDPAU (Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix) * X-Video Bitstream Acceleration (XvBA), the X11 equivalent of DXVA for MPEG-2, H.264, and VC-1 * X-Video Motion Compensation – the X11 equivalent for MPEG-2 video codec only


Applications

*
GPU cluster A GPU cluster is a computer cluster in which each node is equipped with a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). By harnessing the computational power of modern GPUs via General-Purpose Computing on Graphics Processing Units (GPGPU), very fast calculatio ...
*
Mathematica Wolfram Mathematica is a software system with built-in libraries for several areas of technical computing that allow machine learning, statistics, Computer algebra, symbolic computation, data manipulation, network analysis, time series analysi ...
– includes built-in support for CUDA and OpenCL GPU execution * Molecular modeling on GPU * Deeplearning4j – open-source, distributed deep learning for Java


References


External links


NVIDIA - What is GPU computing?
* Th
''GPU Gems'' book series





How GPUs work

GPU Caps Viewer - Video card information utility

OpenGPU-GPU Architecture(In Chinese)

ARM Mali GPUs Overview
{{DEFAULTSORT:Graphics Processing Unit GPGPU Graphics hardware Virtual reality OpenCL compute devices Artificial intelligence Application-specific integrated circuits Hardware acceleration Digital electronics Electronic design Electronic design automation