Graphics Accelerator

Why Trust Techopedia

What Does Graphics Accelerator Mean?

A graphics accelerator is a piece of dedicated hardware designed and used to rapidly process visual data. It is a full computer in its own right, as it has its own processor, RAM, buses and even I/O mechanisms which it uses to connect to the computer system; in modern computers this is the PCI-E port.


Graphics accelerator is an older term for what is now commonly called a graphics processing unit (GPU).

Techopedia Explains Graphics Accelerator

The graphics accelerator is used to boost the performance of a computer system by offloading various data-processing tasks from the CPU. These tasks are often visual in nature and/or anything that has to do with graphics, freeing up the processor to do other tasks.

The graphics accelerator is a specialized type of processor, similar to an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC), as it is only meant to process graphical data and not much else. Therefore, when there is less graphical processing required in an application, the graphics accelerator does not do much except output the GUI on the screen.

They are called graphics accelerators because they have a noticeable impact on the performance of the computer, especially in graphics-intensive tasks such as:

  • Rendering of 3D models and images
  • Video editing
  • Gaming

Graphics accelerators are widely used in industries such as:

  • Computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Motion pictures for special effects
  • Video games

Graphics accelerators are now present not just in PCs and laptops, but many mobile devices like tablets and smartphones as well.


Related Terms

Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.