“CUDA cores” is often seen when comparing the specs of GPUs, but some people may have questions such as “what is it in the first place,” “What kind of impact can be obtained with a large number of CUDA cores” or “the more the better?” In this article, I have uncovered what CUDA cores are and how performance is affected by the number of CUDA cores.
What is CUDA Core?
The graphics processor of any video card consists of small blocks, which in turn are made up of computing units. NVIDIA called them CUDA cores.
“CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) is a parallel computing platform and programming model that enables dramatic increases in computing performance by harnessing the power of the graphics processing unit (GPU).” – This is how NVIDIA defined what CUDA was for developers.
So, NVIDIA’s CUDA Cores work together to run computations in parallel, significantly speeding up processing time, and reducing the time required to perform graphic calculations in daily tasks like rendering 3D objects, drawing models, understanding and solving the lighting and shading of a scene, etc.
In other words, the CUDA cores work together to perform tasks and calculations in parallel, as opposed to CPU cores that work sequentially (one after one). A significant difference you will notice is that processor chips have fewer cores & threads while GPU multiple numerous cores.
This is because of their specifically designed architecture for highly parallel and computational processing at the same time: This eliminates situations where one core has to wait while other cores perform tasks and the performance loss due to such a wait. That’s why GPUs can have thousands of cores with much graphics memory to process and store while CPUs have dual, quad, octa, or 64 cores at max available.
However, there is no point in comparing the cores of GPU and CPU, which are different in their architecture and functions. It’s like comparing a highly skilled engineer (CPU) who can do everything, but there are few in the system, with a low-skilled worker (CUDA), but there are many of them, and they can work together to get the job done all at once.
What are CUDA cores for?
Mainly, a gamer can expect an increase in performance when playing, although that is not the main purpose. Given their ability to develop multiple tasks in parallel use, one can use it for countless things. The one that sounds the most to you is mining Bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies.
Similarly, learning algorithms that use artificial intelligence to identify patterns in data require a lot of mathematical computations like matrix and vector multiplication operations. This enables the creation of larger and more complex machine learning models that can analyze large amounts of data in significantly less time than with a CPU.
Specifically, it is designed all about doing millions of math operations per second to calculate the result. They have also been used for a long time to find cures for diseases, conduct advanced scientific calculations, image processing, and data analysis, and, most notably, encode video for streaming.
It should be noted that modern 3D scenes today are made up of millions of visual elements to form complex scenes and form them at a fast enough speed. CUDA cores serve as the foundation for being able to process all these elements in parallel and at great speed.
CUDA Cores Importance in Games, the More, the Better?
If you are here because you love gaming and want/have an NVIDIA graphics card to know the importance of CUDA Cores in gaming on Windows 10 or 11?
If we look at the number from the GTX 1000, RTX 2000 to RTX 3000 series, the CUDA cores go up as we go up the range. This happens because the more CUDA cores, the more graphics power.
The operational process of CUDA cores involves task assignment to a core. While one core works on a task, another nearby core works on a similar task simultaneously. This ensures no delays or queues, and one core doesn’t have to wait for another to finish before completing a task.
The CUDA cores become active processing as we move through the gaming environment, among which are:
- Rendering of objects and scenes
- Lighting and shadows
- 3D effects
It is true that the hard disk and the CPU also play a role, but the graphics card is fundamental for all these graphical tasks that make us enjoy playing. In this way, the more CUDA cores a GPU has, the more graphic and operating power a user will have and, therefore, the more capabilities the GPU has to give us more realistic scenes in real time.
Still, a CUDA core count is one of the measures for judging the performance of the GPU. It’s essential to not solely look at CUDA cores when choosing an NVIDIA graphics card. In fact, relying solely on the CUDA core count can lead to a mistake and overlooking other important aspects.
Comparison for Example
The GTX 1080 has a total of 2,560 cores, However, when comparing the overall performance with an RTX 2060 has few CUDA, i.e., 1,920 cores, the GTX 1080 can hardly overperform RTX 2060.
This happens because, since then, Nvidia has implemented modern architectures and technologies to raise the overall performance with fewer CUDA cores, such as Turing, which is the RTX 20 series’ architecture.
Thus, it is not always true that the GPU with more CUDA Cores performs better when compared. Therefore, one must take into account other specs such as:
- Graphics Memory Size
- Bandwidth and memory bus
- Clock Speed
- Memory Standard like GDDR5, GDDR5X, GDDR6, or GDDR6X
- RT Cores, especially related to Ray Tracing
- And how old a Graphic card is
- Support of Latest Versions for Displayport or HDMI
FAQs on CUDA Cores
What impact do CUDA cores make in gaming?
NVIDIA cores affect the performance in general in the game, but primarily on shadows, lighting, anti-aliasing, and physics models. Their work makes the game more realistic and detailed visual effects.
What are the applications of CUDA cores?
The range of applications of CUDA in work tasks is vast. As the name says, it is a unified computing unit that can be used in any task. Rather gaming CUDA calculations are often used in computational mathematics for working with artificial intelligence, Big Data analysis, data analytics, weather forecasts, machine learning, data mining, physical simulation, 3d rendering.
Which GPU has the most CUDA cores?
The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090, part of the Ada Lovelace architecture, has the most whopping 16,384 CUDA cores.
Why are there no CUDA Cores in AMD processors?
AMD can’t use the CUDA trademark as Nvidia owns it. It uses Stream Processors instead. While these differ architecturally from CUDA cores, they serve a similar purpose: to handle the parallel processing tasks in graphics rendering and computations. Plus, running a CUDA program on a non-Nvidia GPU isn’t possible due to differences in chip architecture.
How many CUDA cores are best?
There is no single answer – it depends on the requirements you have for your gaming or graphics tasks. Generally speaking, more CUDA cores equal better performance, but other specs such as clock speed, architecture, Graphics RAM timings, speed, size, and type are also important, so overall performance will come down to which graphics card you choose.
Why RTX 3090 can't overperform RTX 4070 Ti even it has 2,816 CUDA core more?
Despite RTX 3090’s higher CUDA cores, it’s not the only factor that determines GPU performance. RTX 4070 Ti outperforms due to its higher core and boost clock speeds and efficient 4 nm technology. However, RTX 3090’s higher memory is advantageous in memory-intensive process. For gaming, typically more GPU processing reliant, RTX 4070 Ti GPU is superior.