An APU is a processing unit that combines a central processing unit with one or more other processing components. APU is an acronym for accelerated processing unit.
The most common type of APU in consumer hardware combines the central processor with a graphics processing unit. AMD's A-series chips, NVIDIA's Project Denver, Cell processors and Intel's HD Graphics processors are popular APUs that combine general and graphics processing into one chipset. The Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 are all game consoles based on this form of APU. Specialized systems such as field-programmable gate arrays are less commonly included in APUs.
The primary advantages to APUs over separate processing components are faster data transfer rates, the ability to offload general processing to the graphics processor when necessary and lower power consumption. This makes them attractive in game consoles, embedded systems and computers intended to have a long battery life. They are also used in data centers, smartphones, vehicle computer systems, robots and drones.
Data transfer rate and power consumption are passive benefits, but only programs written to offload intensive processor tasks to the graphics processor can take advantage of an APU's additional potential. NVIDIA offers libraries, extensions and training in how to utilize its APUs.