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If you have ever looked at the specifications of Nvidia and AMD Graphics cards then you must have seen the terms CUDA Cores and Stream Processors listed there. Both these terms are the same in some respect but they are also quite different if you go into the core technical aspect.
CUDA Cores and Stream Processors are one of the most important parts of the GPU and they decide how much power your GPU has. Here in this post, I am going to explain CUDA Cores and Stream Processors in very simple words and also list down the various graphics cards that support them.
What are CUDA Cores & Stream Processors?
CUDA Cores & Stream Processors are also called processor cores or pixel pipelines of a GPU. You have already heard about multi-core processors such as dual-core processors, quad-core processors, Hexa-core processors, and octa-core processors in computers and mobile phones. These multi-core processors consist of very few cores that perform various individual tasks and increase parallel processing and multi-tasking. This ultimately leads to better performance and efficiency.
Similarly, a GPU or Graphics Processing Unit is made up of hundreds and thousands of cores that perform various complex operations and computations related to pixels (pixel processing). These Cores are known as CUDA Cores or Stream Processors. NVIDIA calls them CUDA Cores and in AMD they are known as Stream Processors. Generally, these Pixel Pipelines or Pixel processors denote the GPU power. The more is the number of these cores the more powerful will be the card, given that both the cards have the same GPU Architecture. Both CUDA Cores & Stream Processors have the almost same use in graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD but technically they are different. This is because of the difference in the GPU Architecture of both Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.
CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) is mainly a parallel computing platform and application programming interface (API) model by Nvidia. It accesses the GPU hardware instruction set and other parallel computing elements. The physical individual cores inside the GPU that execute CUDA API are known as CUDA Cores. Graphics cards having Tesla, Fermi, Kepler, Maxwell, Pascal, and Volta GPU architectures supports CUDA.
What are Tensor Cores?
Volta GPU architecture-based graphics card Nvidia Titan V comes with Tensor Cores (640 tensor cores) in addition to CUDA Cores. These Tensor Cores help in AI, Deep Learning / Machine Learning and can deliver around 110 TeraFLOPS (TFLOPS) of performance. This is over a 5X performance increase over the older Pascal GPU architecture from Nvidia. Tensor Cores are responsible for evaluating large complex mathematical problems and computations. Nvidia Titan V graphics cards also come with 12GB HBM2 memory which is currently one of the fastest memory around.
Note: Pascal GPU architecture does not support Tensor Cores.
CUDA Cores vs. Stream Processors
It must be noted that CUDA Cores are not equivalent to Stream Processors in terms of power and number. That means two graphics cards having the same number of CUDA Cores, Stream Processors, Memory, and Clock Frequencies cannot have the same performance. This is again due to the difference in the working of the GPU architecture of the graphics cards. If we have two 10 series Graphics cards G1 and G2 with the same memory and clock from Nvidia having 380 and 480 CUDA Cores then G2 will be more powerful because of the extra 100 CUDA Cores.
G2 > G1*
*in terms of performance given that both cards are in the same family or have the same GPU architecture.
So, if the CUDA Cores of one graphics card are more than the other graphics card given that both graphics cards are in the same family then the graphics card with a higher number of CUDA Cores will be more powerful.
How many Stream Processors equals CUDA Cores?
If we have an Nvidia Graphics card with 500 CUDA Cores and an AMD Graphics Card with 600 Stream Processors then we cannot conclude that AMD Graphics Card is more powerful. Here to find out which graphics card is more powerful we have put them to real-world gaming benchmarks. The card that scores more frame rates or fps in games will be the winner.
X no. of CUDA Cores ≠ X no. of Stream Processors
Some Important Points to Remember
- CUDA Cores are Nvidia’s GPU Multi-core units
- Stream Processors are AMD’s GPU Multi-core units
- We cannot equate CUDA Cores and Stream Processors
- GPU Architecture matters a lot along with the number of GPU Cores
At last, I would like to say that I have tried my best to clearly explain the similarities and differences between CUDA Cores and Stream Processors. Both CUDA Cores and Stream processors are nothing but processor cores in a GPU. Their working, functions, shape, and size may differ according to the GPU architecture. If you have any queries regarding them then you can ask me by leaving a comment below.