GPU is 40-80x faster than CPU in tensorflow for deep learning

1 min read

The speed difference of CPU and GPU can be significant in deep learning. But how much? Let’s do a test.

The computer:

The computer I use is a Amazon AWS instance g2.2xlarge ( The cost is $0.65/hour, or $15.6/day, or $468/mo. It has one GPU (High-performance NVIDIA GPUs, each with 1,536 CUDA cores and 4GB of video memory), and 8 vCPU (High Frequency Intel Xeon E5-2670 (Sandy Bridge) Processors). Memory is 15G.

The script:

I borrowed Erik Hallstrom’s code from

The code runs matrix multiplication and calculate the time when using CPU vs GPU.

from __future__ import print_function
import matplotlib
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import tensorflow as tf
import time

def get_times(maximum_time):

    device_times = {
    matrix_sizes = range(500,50000,50)

    for size in matrix_sizes:
        for device_name in device_times.keys():

            print("####### Calculating on the " + device_name + " #######")

            shape = (size,size)
            data_type = tf.float16
            with tf.device(device_name):
                r1 = tf.random_uniform(shape=shape, minval=0, maxval=1, dtype=data_type)
                r2 = tf.random_uniform(shape=shape, minval=0, maxval=1, dtype=data_type)
                dot_operation = tf.matmul(r2, r1)

            with tf.Session(config=tf.ConfigProto(log_device_placement=True)) as session:
                    start_time = time.time()
                    result =
                    time_taken = time.time() - start_time


            if time_taken > maximum_time:
                return device_times, matrix_sizes

device_times, matrix_sizes = get_times(1.5)
gpu_times = device_times["/gpu:0"]
cpu_times = device_times["/cpu:0"]

plt.plot(matrix_sizes[:len(gpu_times)], gpu_times, 'o-')
plt.plot(matrix_sizes[:len(cpu_times)], cpu_times, 'o-')
plt.xlabel('Matrix size')
plt.plot(matrix_sizes[:len(cpu_times)], [a/b for a,b in zip(cpu_times,gpu_times)], 'o-')
plt.ylabel('CPU Time / GPU Time')
plt.xlabel('Matrix size')

Similar to Erik’s original finding, we found huge difference between CPU and GPU. In this test, GPU is 40 – 80 times faster than CPU.

gpu_vs_cpu time
gpu_vs_cpu time
cpu time / gpu time
cpu time / gpu time

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