There are various applications that require a 3D world to be simulated as realistically as possible on a computer screen. These include 3D animations in games, movies and other real world simulations. It takes a lot of computing power to represent a 3D world due to the great amount of information that must be used to generate a realistic 3D world and the complex mathematical operations that must be used to project this 3D world onto a computer screen. In this situation, the processing time and bandwidth are at a premium due to large amounts of both computation and data.
The functional purpose of a GPU then, is to provide a separate dedicated graphics resources, including a graphics processor and memory, to relieve some of the burden off of the main system resources, namely the Central Processing Unit, Main Memory, and the System Bus, which would otherwise get saturated with graphical operations and I/O requests. The abstract goal of a GPU, however, is to enable a representation of a 3D world as realistically as possible. So these GPUs are designed to provide additional computational power that is customized specifically to perform these 3D tasks.
A Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is a microprocessor that has been designed specifically for the processing of 3D graphics. The processor is built with integrated transform, lighting, triangle setup/clipping, and rendering engines, capable of handling millions of math-intensive processes per second. GPUs form the heart of modern graphics cards, relieving the CPU (central processing units) of much of the graphics processing load. GPUs allow products such as desktop PCs, portable computers, and game consoles to process real-time 3D graphics that only a few years ago were only available on high-end workstations.
Used primarily for 3-D applications, a graphics processing unit is a single- chip processor that creates lighting effects and transforms objects every time a 3D scene is redrawn. These are mathematically-intensive tasks, which otherwise, would put quite a strain on the CPU. Lifting this burden from the CPU frees up cycles that can be used for other jobs.