CPU vs Microprocessor

The CPU or central processing unit is basically a chip that plays the role of the brain of a computer. A microprocessor, on the other hand, is the circuitry which surrounds the CPU. Here, it must be noted that the microprocessor’s role in the functioning of a computer is much more than that of the CPU. It includes a series of other processing units such as graphics processing unit or GPU. Network cards and sound cards are also incorporated into the microprocessor. So, in short, it can be said that CPU is a major part of the microprocessor, but the microprocessor plays a much bigger role compared to the CPU. Read on to know more about the differences between microprocessor and CPU.

About the CPU

The CPU consists of registers, an arithmetic and logic unit, and a control unit. In addition, it also includes a small memory known as the cache. Each unit has its own functions. For example, the logic unit does the job of processing instructions. The said instructions are processed based on the requirements of various computer programs the user is using.

As its name suggests CPU’s arithmetic unit does all kinds of math. When a computer program requires mathematical calculations to be done, the instruction is sent to the arithmetic unit (as discussed above, the instruction is sent by the logic unit). Once the calculations are done, the results obtained either get sent back to the logic unit for completion of further operations or are placed in the CPU cache. CPU’s control unit as expected controls the order and manner in which various instructions would be processed.


About the Microprocessor

Microprocessors consist of hundreds of thousands of transistors. The term “transistors” is used for petite electronic devices boasting electric charge. You will find an on/off switch (they are also often referred to as open & close gate) on these units that perform the job of steering electric current through a specific path in order to produce desired results.

Since the first computer was produced, microprocessors have been used for holding the CPU. Both units have their circuitry entwined with precision, which enables the computer to deliver smooth operation.

Microprocessors receive electrical signals originating from various sources; these include network cards, memory, internal and external hard drives, video and graphics devices, input devices such as keyboard and mouse, etc. Here, it must be mentioned that currents from all the above-mentioned sources don’t reach the CPU. There are certain signals that are sent to different specialized chips. These are chips used as the CPU’s replacement and have dedicated microprocessors of their own. They are capable of processing their desired results independently. However, whatever might be the functions of other chips, the CPU plays the role of a coordinator in which all the processed signals get computed (these include even the signals coming from other chips).


Over the years we have seen new chips getting installed into the microprocessor. However, that hasn’t changed the role of CPU as a computer’s central processing unit. As a result, manufacturers have left no stone unturned to modify and extend the power of CPUs. The most prominent innovations that have been introduced in the past years include the addition of more CPUs into the microprocessor. Right now, we have microprocessors containing as many as seven CPUs. Each of these CPUs functions independently. They receive instructions from various programs; these instructions are processed independently but in absolute unison.

Another change that has taken place since the inception of computers is the removal of certain tasks from the CPU. These tasks are given to different chips. For instance, the GPU or the graphics processing unit carries out the 2D/3D graphics operations; GPUs are used in mobile phones, game consoles, embedded systems, workstations, and of course personal computers.

The NPU or network processing unit processes all the network operations. These chips are usually software programmable units boasting various generic characteristics that make them significantly similar to the traditional CPUs. Then there’s the audio processing unit or APU. This unit has been designed for processing audio data so that the computer can generate a more robust and clearer sound. The APU is located on the sound card of the microprocessor. Please note that both the APU and NPU are integrated circuits.