Definition of Coprocessor

A coprocessor is a supplementary processing unit designed to work alongside the main processor (CPU) in a computer system. It specializes in handling specific tasks, such as mathematical calculations or graphics rendering, in order to improve overall system performance. By offloading these tasks from the CPU, the coprocessor allows for faster and more efficient processing of specialized tasks.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Coprocessor” is: koh-proh-ses-er

Key Takeaways

  1. Coprocessors are specialized hardware components in a computer system that offload specific tasks from the main processor, allowing for better performance and increased efficiency.
  2. They are commonly used in applications such as graphics processing, digital signal processing, and mathematical calculations, where their specialized design can provide significantly improved performance compared to a general-purpose CPU.
  3. By utilizing a coprocessor, systems can achieve higher levels of performance and energy efficiency, as the main processor can focus on other tasks while the coprocessor handles its specialized operations.

Importance of Coprocessor

The term “coprocessor” is important in the field of technology, as it refers to a supplementary processing unit designed to work in conjunction with a central processing unit (CPU) to perform specific tasks more efficiently.

By offloading specialized tasks, such as floating-point calculations, graphics rendering, or cryptographic processing, the coprocessor can significantly boost performance and reduce the processing burden on the primary CPU.

This crucial enhancement enables a system to handle complex tasks at a faster rate without overwhelming the main processor, ultimately leading to better performance and overall enhanced user experience.


A coprocessor is a specialized hardware component designed to perform specific tasks more efficiently than the main processor, or Central Processing Unit (CPU), can achieve on its own. These tasks usually involve complex mathematical calculations, signal processing, or rendering of graphics.

The primary purpose of a coprocessor is to offload the computational work from the CPU, allowing it to focus on basic operations and system management, which ultimately results in improved overall system performance and greater efficiency. In doing so, the coprocessor works in conjunction with the CPU, functioning as a valuable collaborative asset when executing arduous computations.

For instance, one notable example of a coprocessor is the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), which specializes in accelerating the rendering of 2D and 3D images and videos, a task that would otherwise consume a significant amount of the CPU’s resources if carried out solely by the main processor. Another example is digital signal processors (DSPs) commonly found in devices such as mobile phones, where they efficiently handle data from signals like audio, video, or radio waves.

Furthermore, coprocessors can also be customized to a particular domain, such as cryptographic accelerators for enhanced security. Overall, coprocessors play a crucial role in enhancing the performance of various devices and systems by streamlining resource-heavy tasks and enabling the CPU to maintain optimal functioning.

Examples of Coprocessor

Intel Math Coprocessor (also known as the Floating-Point Unit (FPU)): In the 1980s and early 1990s, Intel introduced a series of math coprocessors designed to work alongside their central processing units (CPUs) to accelerate mathematical calculations. These coprocessors, like the 8087, 80287, and 80387, were used to perform complex floating-point arithmetic operations, which were often required in scientific, engineering, and graphics applications. They significantly improved the performance of calculations and reduced the workload of the main CPU.

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU): A modern real-world example of a coprocessor is the GPU, which is designed for handling intensive graphics rendering tasks. GPUs are commonly used in computer systems, gaming consoles, and even smartphones to provide smooth and high-quality graphics performance. They work alongside the main CPU to efficiently process large amounts of graphical data in parallel, relieving some of the processing work for the CPU.

Apple T2 Security Chip: The T2 chip is a custom coprocessor designed by Apple and utilized in several Mac computer models including the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Mini. This coprocessor is responsible for managing secure boot, real-time data encryption, Touch ID authentication, and various other system management tasks. By handling these functions, the T2 chip enhances both the security and performance of these Mac devices, while allowing the main CPU to focus on computing tasks.

FAQs on Coprocessor

What is a coprocessor?

A coprocessor is a supplementary processing unit designed to work alongside the main central processing unit (CPU) in a computer system. It typically offloads specific tasks from the CPU, improving overall system performance and enabling the CPU to handle other tasks more efficiently.

What are the advantages of using a coprocessor?

Some advantages of using a coprocessor include increased system performance, reduced CPU workload, and the ability to perform specialized tasks more efficiently. Coprocessors are especially useful for tasks that require complex calculations or involve large amounts of data, such as graphics processing, mathematical operations, or data encryption.

What are some examples of coprocessors?

Examples of coprocessors include Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), Math Coprocessors (also known as Floating Point Units or FPUs), and Digital Signal Processors (DSPs). These specific coprocessors are designed to handle tasks like rendering graphics, performing mathematical calculations, and processing digital signals, respectively.

How do coprocessors communicate with the CPU?

Coprocessors communicate with the CPU through a dedicated channel or bus. The CPU issues commands to the coprocessor, which then processes these commands and returns the results to the CPU. This communication model allows the CPU to offload specific tasks to the coprocessor and continue processing other tasks while waiting for the coprocessor to finish its work.

Can multiple coprocessors be used in a single computer system?

Yes, it is possible to use multiple coprocessors in a single computer system. In such a setup, each coprocessor is responsible for handling specific types of tasks, collaborating to increase the overall performance and capabilities of the system. For example, a system might use separate coprocessors for graphics processing, mathematical operations, and digital signal processing.

Related Technology Terms

  • Parallel processing
  • Digital signal processor (DSP)
  • Graphics processing unit (GPU)
  • Floating-point unit (FPU)
  • Hardware acceleration

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