Every NVIDIA GPU has certain processors called CUDA Cores. Whenever you look at the specs sheet of an NVIDIA GPU you will find a name called CUDA Cores.
But what are these CUDA cores? In this article, I’ll explain each and everything about NVIDIA CUDA cores, their effect on GPU performance, and is it really an important factor for gaming.
What Are NVIDIA CUDA Cores?
NVIDIA CUDA is a parallel computing platform with a specialized programming model that has been designed to perform complex operations, mathematical computations, and other tasks that require very high performance.
The full form of CUDA is Compute Unified Device Architecture. The CUDA cores have parallel processors that are similar in function to the Processors found in CPU.
As mentioned in the introduction, Every NVIDIA GPU contains CUDA cores and these Cores are hundreds to thousands in number.
In a CPU the cores are very less in number. A typical CPU for the consumer market has a maximum of 16 cores while an NVIDIA GPU has hundreds to thousands of cores.
The latest models of NVIDIA Graphics Cards have a higher number of CUDA cores. The Power of an NVIDIA GPU is directly proportional to its cores. This means NVIDIA GPUs with more power will have more CUDA cores.
A higher number of CUDA cores means the GPU has higher computing power and shows better performance.
NVIDIA CUDA cores are one of the most important parts of a GPU and without this, the GPU cannot perform any operation. An NVIDIA GPU without CUDA cores is pointless. CUDA cores directly affect the performance of the GPU and they are responsible for carrying out the tasks a GPU is used for.
Every game, application, and software requires the CUDA cores in the NVIDIA GPUs to perform those complex calculations and operations.
Applications and languages like Autodesk Maya, Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, AUTOCAD, MATLAB, C, C++, Python, FORTRAN, etc. use the CUDA cores for better performance.
In the case of gaming, the CUDA cores perform the complex calculations to solve game graphics. These complex processes are then rendered and presented as Visual Scenes to the Display Screen which is viewed by the person playing the game.
CUDA cores process some complex in-game tasks like rendering the scenery of the game, drawing the 2D and 3D character models, processing the movement of the character, processing in-game features like Motion Blur and environment shading.
Do CUDA Cores Affect GPU Performance?
Yes, CUDA Cores affect the performance of the GPU. The CUDA cores are similar in function to CPU Cores.
A CPU with a higher number of Cores can perform more tasks and performs better than a CPU with a fewer number of cores. A Quad-Core CPU performs better than a Dual-Core CPU. A Hexa-Core CPU performs better than a Quad-Core CPU and an Octa-Core CPU performs better than a Hexa-Core CPU.
Similarly, an NVIDIA GPU with more CUDA cores has more parallel processors and can perform more complex tasks and shows better performance than a GPU with fewer CUDA cores.
Although the CUDA cores in a GPU are similar in performance to the cores in the CPU, there is a huge difference in the power each core possesses.
A CPU Core is a lot more powerful than a CUDA core of GPU. This explains why GPUs have thousands of cores and the CPU has only a handful of cores.
Benchmark tests like PassMark prove that a GPU with a higher number of CUDA cores has better performance.
While comparing the performance of GPUs based on CUDA cores it is very important that you select GPUs with similar Architecture.
What is GPU Architecture?
GPU Architecture is the design of the GPU which shows how the different components of the GPU are built and combined. It also shows how the different components are connected, the design of the cores and the processor clusters.
Let’s look at how the CUDA Cores vary between two GPUs of similar architecture. In this example, we’ll be looking at NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 Super and GeForce RTX 2060.
The number of CUDA cores in the GeForce RTX 2060 Super is 2176 while the number of CUDA cores in GeForce RTX 2060 is 1920.
The RTX 2060 Super has 256 more cores than the normal RTX 2060. This shows how powerful the RTX 2060 Super is in comparison to the RTX 2060.
This again proves the point that a GPU with more CUDA cores has better performance than a GPU with fewer CUDA cores provided that both have the same GPU Architecture.
CUDA Cores vs Stream Processors
Stream Processors are the Cores in AMD GPUs while CUDA is the Cores in NVIDIA GPUs. Both of these perform similar functions and the only difference is in the name given by the companies.
You cannot compare the the NVIDIA CUDA cores with AMD Stream Processors because of the following reasons:
(A) The manufacturing companies are different which means there will be a difference in the design, number of cores, and the technology.
(B) The GPU Architecture is different for the specific GPU models.
If you want to compare two GPU models of NVIDIA and AMD then you should check out different benchmarks in forums like Reddit. You can also watch comparison videos of any two models on YouTube.
These forums and videos test various features of the GPUs using different benchmarks and provide pretty accurate results.
It is highly advisable that you check a few reviews for the specific GPU model you’re buying. If you’re getting a new laptop then do check how the GPU performs on that laptop.
The Number of CUDA Cores vs Speed of Graphics Card (CUDA Cores vs Core Clock Speed) – Which Matters The Most?
A Graphics Card with higher Core Clock Speed and more VRAM is more important than the number of CUDA cores. The two most important factors for determining the performance of a GPU is the Core Clock Speed and VRAM.
VRAM is the amount of video memory available for the graphics card whereas Core Clock Speed is the speed at which the Graphics processor operates.
A graphics card with higher Core Clock Speed and More VRAM will perform better than a one with lower core clock speed and less VRAM. This is exactly similar to the performance based on the number of CUDA cores.
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 has 2176 CUDA cores, a Core Clock Speed of 1470 MHz, and 8 GB VRAM. The GeForce GTX 1050 Ti has 768 CUDA cores, a Core Clock Speed of 1392 MHz, and 4 GB VRAM.
As you can see from the example above the RTX 2060 gives far better performance than GTX 1050 Ti because it has more VRAM, higher Core Clock speed, and more CUDA cores.
If two graphics cards have the same VRAM then the one with more CUDA Cores and higher Core Clock Speed will perform better than the one with fewer CUDA cores and less Core Clock Speed.
Graphics cards with high VRAM, Core clock speed, and more CUDA cores tend to be a lot expensive. If you have the budget then you should always buy a graphics card with high specifications. Don’t compromise on VRAM and Core clock speed. They are the most important factors for superior performance.
Before buying a graphics card make sure you check out the full list of specifications from the NVIDIA or AMD website. Also, check out benchmarks and reviews on Forums and YouTube.
CUDA cores are directly related to the performance of the GPU. A graphics card with a higher number of CUDA cores will perform far better than a graphics card with fewer CUDA cores.
Although CUDA cores are important, the two most important factors that decide the performance of the Graphics Card is the VRAM and Core Clock Speed.
A powerful graphics card will have higher VRAM and faster Core Clock Speed. If the VRAM value of two GPUs is the same then the more powerful one will have higher core clock speed and more CUDA cores.
Graphics Cards with more VRAM and high Core Clock Speeds always has higher number of CUDA cores.
Lastly, I hope that I have cleared all the confusion regarding CUDA cores and made it easier for you to understand their function and their influence on the performance of the GPUs.