Stream Processors vs CUDA Cores


AMD’s Stream Processors and NVIDIA’s CUDA Cores have the same purpose, but the way they operate is not the same mostly because of the difference in the GPU architecture.

These specifications aren’t great for cross-brand GPU comparison, but they can provide a performance expectation of a certain future GPU.

Whenever you take two different graphics cards, from two different brands such as AMD and NVIDIA (there really aren’t any other companies), it can be difficult to compare them and form any kind of opinion in terms of performance.

There is tons of information such as GPU core clocks, memory clocks, VRAM, transistors, etc. but none of this useful. Another piece of information you may regularly see is Stream processors or CUDA Cores.

What exactly do these two mean? Can you compare one vs the other? Do more Stream processors against fewer CUDA Cores mean better performance? To put it simply, no, it does not.

These two have the same or at least, a very similar role in a graphics card, but they are essentially very different from one another. You cannot directly compare an AMD and NVIDIA GPU based on that information alone. It is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

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What Are GPU Cores?


To further understand the meaning of these two terms, these specifications, you will need to understand exactly what GPU cores are.

If you are familiar with PC tech at all, you have probably heard of computer processors or CPUs with multiple cores. Both Intel and AMD have multi-core processors available. Intel i5, i7 or AMD R5, R7, etc. In most cases, CPUs have anywhere between two to eight cores.

 There are also so-called “threads”, but that is a different matter.

These cores are what allow computer processors to multitask efficiently. The more cores it has, the more things it can process at the same time. A high-end 16-thread CPU today can run several games and programs at the same time without breaking a sweat.

GPU cores work similarly to the ones found on a CPU, but they are not as powerful or smart. A graphics card requires a lot of raw power to process millions of tasks. So, instead of focusing the power of just a few cores into running an operating system or software, multiple cores are working on millions of tasks.

For example, a 1920×1080 resolution display has over two million pixels. To form an image on a 1080p display, all those cores on the GPU individually start processing those millions of pixels. Repeating this same process several times in one second to ensure a smooth experience on the monitor.

Keep in mind, this is a simplified explanation of what Stream processors or CUDA Cores are. The technology behind GPUs is much more complicated.

They Aren’t Equal

AMD’s Stream processors and NVIDIA’s CUDA Cores are not equal, nor comparable. This is mostly because these two brands have their special GPU architectures.

The manufacturing process is completely different because both sides have a secret formula.

These two terms are just branded naming to increase recognition between consumers. CUDA cores is what NVIDIA decided to name the GPU’s processors. The same applies to AMD.

What’s The Point Of Branded GPU Cores?

What Are NVIDIA CUDA Cores

If these two types of GPU cores cannot be compared. Why did they get branded names at all? Why should casual consumers worry about CUDA cores or Stream processors?

Well, it can help people with comparisons of same-brand graphics cards.

For example, the RTX 3080 and the RTX 3070 are both from NVIDIA and are made on the same Ampere architecture. The former has 8704 CUDA Cores while the latter has 5888. With these rough numbers, you can guesstimate that the RTX 3080 is faster and you would be right.

However, the information you can get out of this type of specification is not very accurate. If you are not familiar with past or present GPU lineups and releases, these numbers will not do you any good. It is not recommended to focus too much on the official specifications.

How To Compare GPUs

Understanding how graphics cards operate, how they are built, etc. is not easy. It is a complicated matter. This is why most casual consumers and gamers shouldn’t bother too much about this.

If you are looking for a reliable (and simple) way to compare the performance of graphics cards, there is a solution. Forget about specs, numbers, or other similar information.

Instead, resort to official or third-party benchmarks. Benchmarks can give you an insight into exactly how much FPS you can get in certain games. With this information, you can easily compare GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA.

Finding such benchmarks is very easy nowadays since there are tons of articles, videos, and websites that provide such information.

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Branko Gapo
Branko Gapo

Keeping up with the incredibly fast evolution of computer technology is impossible. That is why Branko will be using his knowledge on this matter to share news and information on all the latest essential technological innovations and advancements.