GPU, CPU, & RAM: The PC Triple-Threat
When it comes to modern PC gaming, there is no combination like the GPU, CPU, and RAM that make up the abilities of a system.
Comparisons of those to “adult legos” or “building blocks” is not so far from the truth, but to better explain, let's go over the critical components in a PC and why they are so modular for upgradability.
In recent years, part modularity centered around motherboards enables manufacturers to create a skew of components supported through multiple hardware generations.
The recent strides in features like PCIe 4.0 and 5.0, Gen 4 NVMe technology, and added features and abilities contribute to a motherboard's significance for modularity.
The GPU, CPU, and RAM are all products of this significant downsizing and modularity for different specs. While most PC components are standardized in size, their design down the nanometer is constantly optimized and released for new hardware boosting performance each year.
This article covers the main components defining performance in a custom gaming PC; the GPU, CPU, and RAM.
Table of Contents
Understanding Component Roles
The GPU, CPU, and RAM all serve a role in their contribution to the abilities of a system in their designations. There are more performant and less robust variants at multiple price points.
These configurations compare to weights on a scale and try to find the right balance between every compatible component.
The GPU or Graphics Processing Unit is the computer hardware that displays video through a monitor. This is done by storing video memory from applications and letting the CPU schedule what the GPU needs to show and when.
Image quality and fidelity range are the main aspects of the GPU. Most variations of GPUs are specked to operate within a certain threshold of performance depending on the demands.
The GPU contains thousands of cores dedicated to encoding or decoding tasks faster or slower, depending on factors like clock speed, power level, and optimization. Modifying or fine-tuning these variables can improve or harm the GPU due to byproducts like thermal throttling or general instability.
Most modern GPUs have varied display outs like DisplayPort or HDMI, with an occasional exception for things like Thunderbolt 3 ports on the RTX 20 series.
While short-lived, higher end graphics cards typically come with 4-5 connections between HDMI and DisplayPort, offering the highest conventional bandwidth for displays.
The Central Processing Unit, is the brain of the operations that allow programs to assign work to hardware. In addition to talking to other hardware, it's also great for basic and advanced calculations for productivity or video games.
The CPU is the most critical component concerning the function of a PC. Offering versatility and a range of compatibility on different chipsets, CPUs enable integrated graphics or quick cache usability for everything from web pages to CAD software.
For gaming, the CPU is excellent at multitasking the multiple subsystems beneath the renders from the game textures. While great at processing data, most games only utilize one CPU core for the entirety of the program. Multicore, or the ability for programs to use more of the CPU, does not drastically affect the performance between the CPU and GPU.
This architecture does not affect most games but can be noticeable when related to clock speeds and boost clock ability typed to temperature.
RAM or Random Access Memory is used exclusively for the CPU and its many subprocesses for information that the PC can display at any time. The CPU performance can vary greatly depending on your speed and channel type.
RAM is a backbone of system stability because most retail motherboards have XMP (Xtreme Memory Profile) or EXPO (Extended Profiles for Overclocking) that enable the highest speeds supported by the RAM and motherboard.
RAM relates to the CPU as VRAM has to the GPU itself. A larger and more responsive RAM will allow the CPU to streamline its processes more efficiently by communicating shorter times over specific bandwidths.
RAM operates differently depending on configuration and speed. Dual-channel (2 sticks) is often marginally smaller than quad-channel (4 sticks), allowing increased bandwidth by a factor of two or four. Pairing this with a lower CAS latency RAM and a higher bandwidth time, performance will be evident.
What Results Does That Mean for Gaming?
While more performant parts cost more, having a balanced system means the best performance in-game with no bottlenecking, stuttering, or lower-than-average FPS.
PC components have a range of effectiveness. Particular hardware paired with each other often holds each other back from the system's maximum potential.
A bottleneck occurs under load when either the CPU, GPU, or PSU reaches its designated limits and starts to introduce instability, slower render times, or overcurrent protection. The CPU and GPU significantly contribute to this as there are a variety of possible pairings.
Depending on the limiting factor, there are multiple ways to sort through bottlenecking, such as:
- Changing the PSU.
- Undervolting your system as opposed to overclocking.
- Opt. for a different GPU or CPU configuration.
The best stability comes from evenly distributed component types. While most components can run programs together, evenly matched hardware will ensure the best performance for most scenarios.
An advantage of having a powerful CPU over a GPU or vice versa is program-specific tasks that require one or the other, like Photoshop, using more CPU and RAM resources than the GPU.
Better performance often breeds more FPS for longer game sessions. Here are some tips from display preferences to monitor setup:
- Check your connection type and its maximum refresh rates.
- Check your monitor and its gaming-oriented display features.
- Check your resolution and refresh rate via game settings and windows.
Conclusion for GPU, CPU, and RAM
Whether you are building a gaming PC for the latest games or a workstation for intense workloads, understanding the balance between GPU, CPU, and RAM is essential. It is easy to assemble components to run windows and basic programs; however, unoptimized choices can lead to system instability and performance loss.
At Apex Gaming PCs, we configure our prebuilds to work with an acceptable range of components on our main line of PCs. This can also be seen in our partner lineup of PCs breaking configurations into three tiers of varying quality.
Whatever your GPU, CPU, or RAM needs, We hope to fulfill them at Apex!
Written By William Wilson
Picture Credits: Pavan Bhakta
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