Gamers know that one of the most important decisions they make when choosing a laptop is what graphics card to get. This decision can be tough, but we’re here to help make it a little easier. So, if you’re not sure the difference between integrated vs dedicated graphics when considering which laptop to buy, keep reading.
In this blog post, we’ll break down the pros and cons of each type of laptop graphics so you can make the best buying decision for your needs. Whether it’s for gaming, graphics design, or just browsing the net. Understanding the difference between these two will ensure you choose the right laptop for your needs.
Let’s get started and stop you throwing your hard-earned cash down the pan.
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Contents Of This Page
- Integrated Graphics For Laptops
- Dedicated Graphics For Laptops
- What Are The Best Graphics For Gaming?
- Which Graphics Should You Choose?
- Best Integrated Graphics?
- Best Dedicated Graphics?
What Is A GPU?
GPU stands for graphics processing unit, originally designed to speed up the process of graphics rendering. GPUs have become one of the most important laptop components for any gamer or graphics designer.
What makes the latest GPUs special is they can process many more pieces of data simultaneously than ever before, which speeds up the rendering process of video and complex graphics. Because of this, GPUs are used in many other applications. But widely known for their powers in the video gaming industry.
What Does A GPU Do?
For gaming, the graphics processing unit is always the most talked-about component above any other and receives all the plaudits for the gaming performance they can offer. But, it’s not all positive when it comes to PCs. The word on the street is there’s a global shortage. Fortunately, for laptop gamers (me) we don’t have that same issue. Because laptop GPUs are neatly tucked inside the chassis on arrival.
So what do they do? Quite simply, the graphics processing unit or GPU accelerates the rendering of 3D graphics. They’re special because they can process many pieces of data simultaneously. The more Cores it has, the faster it can process your data.
Plus, they’ve allowed game developers to add more and more realistic scenes into our games by adding life-like shadows and amazing lighting with technologies such as ray tracing. This has improved our gaming experiences and made it more enjoyable.
The best graphics cards have allowed us to play our games at higher resolutions and faster frames rates than ever before. Which now include 4K and 8K displays, if so you choose.
And the latest Nvidia RTX 30 series graphics cards have helped to speed up rendering times of complex graphics in higher-definition. Making them the ideal tool for graphics designers and content creators and the perfect solution for any gaming enthusiast.
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What Are Integrated Graphics?
Integrated graphics or shared graphics sit on the same chip as the CPU and soldered to the motherboard. One big difference between integrated vs dedicated graphics. Integrated graphics don’t have their own memory. They will use the system’s memory and share that memory with the processor.
As an example; If you have a laptop with integrated graphics (only) and 4GB RAM. When your laptop is processing any graphics related data, the IGPU or integrated graphics processing unit will use some of that 4GB RAM. If at the same time, your CPU is carrying out processing tasks. It will also use some of that RAM. The problems occur when there is too much going on. What could happen is that your system may stutter and take an eternity to complete the tasks at hand. Or worse, one or more of the programmes you have running may not run at all, leading to a poor laptop experience.
Yet, there are some benefits to buying a laptop with integrated graphics. First, they use less power than a laptop with a dedicated card, and less power equals less heat. So you won’t need any extra cooling solutions.
Also, because they use less power the battery will last much longer. Which will help prolong the life of your laptop. And most of the time, a laptop with integrated graphics will outlive a laptop with a dedicated card.
But, a laptop with Intel’s latest integrated graphics will offer more than enough processing power for entry-level gaming. At 1080p while also allowing you to watch 4K movies on the go without too much fuss.
What Are Dedicated Graphics?
A dedicated graphics processing unit is a standalone computer chip. They’re sat on their own circuit board and attached to a PCI Express slot inside the laptop. They have their own cooling solutions. (internal fans) Which is something that’s not required for integrated graphics.
Another difference between integrated vs dedicated graphics is that the latter has its own memory. Called VRAM, which is short for video random access memory. The VRAM stores all the graphics data and allows for quick access so it can perform all the graphical calculations much quicker.
The latest cards available for laptops have up to 16 GB VRAM. Which means they can process this data much faster and much smoother than ever before. Which can help to improve reaction times and also lower the time it takes for an image or scene to shown on screen.
Over a short period of time GPUs have become much more flexible, allowing game developers to do so much more with how computer games look and how they behave. And they’re used in a wider range of applications including 2D and 3D graphics, also video rendering.
They now offer artificial intelligence or AI capabilities, including new graphics rendering techniques like Ray Tracing and DLSS. Thus, enhancing our experiences in the latest high-fidelity game titles. But, because of the extra power required for these technologies, heat will build up. You could have the most powerful graphics card in the universe. If the cooling of the laptop isn’t up to scratch it would be pointless.
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Which Are Better For Gaming, Integrated Vs Dedicated Graphics?
Integrated graphics cards come standard on most laptops and are great for casual gaming. They typically have more basic features than dedicated graphics cards and they’re good enough to play most games.
Dedicated graphics cards are for gamers who want the best possible performance. They offer more features and faster processing speeds, but they’re also more expensive. If you’re a casual gamer who wants to play the occasional game, integrated graphics are a good option. If you’re a hardcore gamer who wants the best possible performance, go with a dedicated graphics card.
There are also many other benefits with a discrete GPU besides the extra power they offer. Like the new AI features and other technologies now available in the latest games. Like Raytracing, with lifelike shadows and reflections. Plus, the AI rendering technique DLSS. Which helps boost frame rates while still delivering amazing images.
Only possible with an Nvidia RTX 20 or RTX 30 series laptop discrete GPU in your portable gaming armoury. That said, having one doesn’t guarantee you’ll enjoy the best gaming experience. Because there are many PC games that will run fine with integrated graphics. Games such as Minecraft, or Roblox, that are far less reliant on the power of your graphics card. Games where your CPU is more important than the graphics card.
My son plays these games, and he doesn’t have a discrete GPU but enjoys his gaming as much as I do. If not more. It’s only if you’re a fan of first-person shooter games like COD Warzone a laptop with a discrete GPU would be best.
To put it bluntly, a discrete GPU would offer the best gaming performance but not necessarily the best gaming experience. It would depend on the games you play.
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Top Dedicated Graphics Cards
Below is a list of the best dedicated graphics cards found in the latest notebooks, and mobile workstations. We have categorised each GPU to help you choose the required graphics card for your needs. But, there are many other superb discrete mobile GPUs available, like Nvidia’s RTX 20 series. Including the RTX 2060, 2070, and RTX 2080, these are all excellent GPUs that will transform any laptop into an ultimate gaming machine.
|GPU||MEM||POWER||CLK SPEED||RES||BEST FOR|
|Nvidia RTX 3080||8-16GB||80 – 150w||1245 – 1710||4K / 1440p||Best Gaming|
|Nvidia RTX 3070||8GB||80 – 125w||1290 – 1620||4K / 1440p||High End Gaming|
|Nvidia RTX 3060||6GB||60 – 115w||1283 – 1703||High Ref 1080p||Mid-Range Gaming|
|Nvidia RTX 3050TI||4GB||35 – 80w||1035 – 1695||Ultimate 1080p||High-Bud Gaming|
|Nvidia RTX 3050||4GB||35 – 80w||1057 – 1740||High 1080p||Budget Gaming|
|GPU||MEM||POWER||CLK SPEED||RES||BEST FOR|
|AMD RX 6800M||12GB||230w||2321 – 2424||Ultra-high 1440p||Best Gaming|
|AMD RX 6700M||10GB||180w||1489 – 2250||Epic 1440p||High End Gaming|
|AMD RX 6600M||8GB||100w||1489 – 2177||High 1440p||High End Gaming|
|AMD RX 5700M||8GB||180w||1465 – 1720||Good 1440p||High-Bud Gaming|
|AMD RX 5600M||6GB||150w||1190 – 1265||Good 1440p||High-Bud Gaming|
|AMD RX 5500M||4GB||85w||1375 – 1645||High 1080p||Mid-Bud Gaming|
|AMD RX 5300M||3GB||85w||1181 – 1445||Mid 1080p||Budget Gaming|
Dedicated vs Integrated Graphics Card, Which Should You Choose?
Choosing the right graphics for your laptop is a must. But there are also so many other things to consider, like the CPU, storage, RAM, display, and battery. All important factors. But, choosing between dedicated vs integrated graphics is one decision that you must get right. You could be wasting money buying a laptop that is too powerful for what you have planned.
I mean, if you plan on playing light video games, or browsing the net, and watching Netflix. You don’t need to waste your money buying a laptop with a dedicated GPU. One with a decent CPU with integrated graphics would be ok. If your plan is to design and edit images with software like Adobe Photoshop. Even though it would be best to have a dedicated graphics card, this software will run fine without one.
Especially with the latest integrated graphics, which have improved so much. Like Intel’s Iris XE graphics or AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 11 integrated graphics. Both, capable of running games at 1080p, albeit with low fps. As well as graphic design software.
Dedicated vs Integrated: Budget Gaming
If you don’t have the budget for the latest and greatest discrete graphics from Nvidia or AMD, that’s ok. Because you will find many affordable budget laptops that will offer a decent gaming experience.
Like one with an Nvidia RTX 3050 GPU, more than enough to enjoy the latest AI technologies. The same can be said for the AMD Radeon RX 5000 series graphics cards.
However, with only a few GBs of VRAM between them, you may need to tone down the graphics settings to enjoy the best gaming performance. But they’re more than capable of running games with decent frame rates at 1080p. They may even offer playable fps at 1440p.
Alternatively, if you’re a casual gamer and not too fussed about competing with the best. Then, a laptop with an Nvidia 20 series GPU would be good and would still allow for Ray Tracing. If you’re not too fussed about that, save some money and grab one with a GTX 10 series GPU.
Whereas, for light video gaming, a laptop with Intel’s Iris Xe Graphics would be good. Which offers discrete graphics performance without the additional heat from a dedicated graphics card. Built into Intel’s latest 11th Gen super-fast processors, and would offer playable frame rates in many of today’s popular games at 1080p.
In my opinion, a laptop with Intel’s Iris Xe Integrated Graphics would no doubt be a perfect budget solution for designers and creators or for those looking for a casual gaming experience.
The same can be said for the latest iteration of AMD Vega graphics. Just like Intel’s Xe graphics, a laptop with only RX Vega 11 integrated graphics under the hood would also offer playable frame rates at 1080p.
Just don’t expect to blow the roof off.
Budget Discrete Graphics Cards Comparison
So, if you decide a budget discrete graphics card is for you, which one do you choose? Is it one that is powered by the NVIDIA Ampere GPU architecture allowing for DLSS, Ray tracing, and other AI technologies? Or do you go with a budget AMD GPU? Which offers faster gaming clock speeds and is built on the ground-breaking AMD RDNA architecture, and will provide high levels of graphics performance.
If you’re still undecided, there is hope. Listed below is a comparison between the Nvidia RTX 3050 and the AMD Radeon RX 5300M mobile dedicated GPUs. If you want to read the full comparison, the guys at Notebookcheck have done an amazing comparison between the RTX 3050 and the RX5300M.
|BUDGET GPU||NVIDIA RTX 3050||AMD RX 5300m|
|Core Speed||1238 – 1500 MHz||1036 – 1445 MHz|
|Max Memory||4096 MB||3072 MB|
|Memory Size||4 GB||3 GB|
|Memory Clock||1500 MHz||1750 MHz|
|SEE BUDGET LAPTOP||ASUS ROG STRIX||LENOVO IDEAPAD|
Please Note: These results are average, and the performance of the GPUs will depend on the used graphics memory, clock rate, processor, system settings, drivers, and operating systems. Therefore, the results may differ slightly with each laptop. In addition, the cooling of the laptop will play a big part in the performance of the GPU.
|SHADOW OF TOMB RAIDER||RTX 3050||RX 5300M|
|Low 1280 x 720||118fps (average)||114fps|
|Medium 1920 x 1080||74fps||60fps|
|High 1920 x 1080||67fps||48fps|
|Ultra 1920 x 1080||59fps||35fps|
|Final Fantasy XV||RTX 3050||RX 5300m|
|Low 1280 x 720||117fps||98.4fps|
|Medium 1920 x 1080||71fps||51.6fps|
|High 1920 x 1080||49fps||29.3fps|
|Dota 2||RTX 3050||RX 5300M|
|Low 1280 x 720||139fps||113fps|
|Medium 1920 x 1080||123fps||108fps|
|High 1920 x 1080||114fps||97.9fps|
|Ultra 1920 x 1080||107fps||94.7fps|
Integrated vs Dedicated Graphics: For High-End Gaming?
If your plan to go toe to toe with the best and not sure which to choose between integrated graphics vs dedicated. It’s simple, you would be better affording a laptop with a dedicated graphics card.
If you didn’t know, the best mobile GPU to date, is an Nvidia RTX 3080 8GB, seen here at Razer. It beating AMD’s best the AMD Radeon RX 6800M on many benchmarks. Even though, the RTX 3080 has a lower boost clock speed and a lower power consumption (230W vs 150+15W), the best mobile AMD GPU is still short.
However, you don’t necessarily need that much power, there are many other more capable GPUs that would offer the an amazing gaming laptop performance. It would also come down to the TGP (thermal graphics power) of the Nvidia graphics card. What I mean is that you could find a decent laptop with an RTX 3060, or an RTX 3070 that could out perform a laptop with an RTX 3080 simply because they have a higher TGP.
So before you go out and grab the first notebook you see ensure you check the TGP of the GPU before you part with your money. Also, the cooling of the laptop will play a big role so make sure you look at past reviews to ensure the laptop doesn’t suffer thermal issues.
Integrated Vs Dedicated Graphics: For Everyday Tasks?
If gaming is not your thing, and you only need a new laptop for college work, emails, and watching Netflix you won’t need a laptop with a dedicated graphics card neither would you need to worry too much about what integrated graphics are inside. But, its best to find a laptop with a sizable SSD to save your school or college work and photos and videos from your crazy weekends.
In addition, ensure the laptop has at least 4 GB RAM, 8 GB would be better. With that it would able you to stream movies, send and receive emails, and run word, excel those sorts of programmes. Then if you decide to jump onto a few games, a laptop with a decent size SSD, at least 256GB, and 8GB RAM would allow you to play many games on steam, Roblox, Minecraft, games that are less demanding on the graphics.
As of September 2021, the best integrated graphics available are listed below, with Intel’s Iris Xe graphics and AMD’s RX Vega 11 integrated graphics are the best of the bunch and will run many games at 1080p.
Best Integrated Graphics
|INTEGRATED||BASE CLOCK||BOOST CLOCK||SHADER CORES||BEST FOR|
|UHD Graphics||350 GHz||1350 MHz||256||Everyday Tasks|
|Intel Iris Xe Graphics||300 MHz||1100 MHz||768||Gaming at 1080p|
|Intel UHD Graphics 630||350 MHz||1000 MHz||192||Everyday Tasks|
|AMD Radeon RX Vega 11||300 MHz||1400 MHz||512||Gaming at 1080p|
Integrated Vs Dedicated Graphics: FAQs
Is It Bad To Use Integrated Graphics?
It depends on what you’re planning to do. If you’re going to be using your computer for basic tasks like browsing the internet or checking email, and watching videos. Then integrated graphics will be more than adequate. But, if you’re looking to do more intensive tasks like playing games or editing video, then you’ll likely need a dedicated graphics card.
Integrated graphics are bad for gaming because they usually have lower performance than dedicated graphics cards. They’ve designed integrated graphics to save power, and not to provide the best gaming experience.
For casual gamers or people who only play games such as Roblox, Minecraft, or games on Steam or other game engines. Integrated graphics will probably be good enough. Yet, if you’re a hardcore gamer who wants the best performance possible, then you should definitely use a dedicated graphics card.
Is A Dedicated Graphics Card Necessary?
Yes, for gaming — even on low settings, the graphics processor integrated into some computers is not powerful enough. For instance, newer video games may be using different rendering techniques than older video games. If your laptop doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card installed then you might not be able to play it. Or it’ll play very slowly, with lag being an issue.
However, if you’re only playing the occasional game and don’t care too much about how good the game looks. (or more specifically how fast it plays) Then yes–you can get by with just an integrated graphics card (IGP). But for most gamers this won’t cut it; there are some upcoming games right now that will make your IGP feel like stone age technology. In that case a dedicated graphics card will be necessary.
Integrated Graphics Or Dedicated Graphics Card – Which Is The Better Option For You?
Choosing between integrated vs discrete graphics will depend on what you are attempting to accomplish. It’s a decision you need to get right because a laptop with a dedicated graphics card can be expensive.
Some models can run into thousands, like the best gaming laptops under 2000 dollars. But it’s important to note that some people might actually prefer a laptop with integrated graphics. Especially when they don’t have the budget for both.
If you’ll only ever use your laptop for things like browsing and word processing rather than serious gaming. Or other high-performance uses then an integrated graphics solution will likely suit you just fine!
While a dedicated model can improve your graphical performance significantly. It’s important first to distinguish between high-end and budget models when looking at this question! A low-cost option may not offer best results even with a decent CPU.
These tend to start at around $600 -$800. Whereas a mid-range option will run most games fine and would set you back around $1000. But if you want the best gaming experience on your portable device, get ready to spend upward of $2000.
To sum it up, integrated vs dedicated graphics. If you have a budget without a limit and you’re interested in high fps gaming. Especially first-person shooter games, you’re best with a gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card.
But first, decide which CPU manufacturer you prefer, so that’s either Intel or AMD. Then, decide between an AMD graphics card or an Nvidia one. If you want top-notch fps, look no further than an RTX 30 series GPU or an AMD 6000 series graphics card. Although, expect to pay a small fortune.
Whereas if your budget is a little tighter, a gaming laptop with an RTX 20 series mid-range GPU, like an RTX 2060, 2070, or an RTX 2080. Paired with a 10th Gen Intel or an AMD 4000 series CPU would still offer superb gaming performance on the go.
So what about integrated graphics? Well, the latest integrated graphics will run most games at 1080p but expect medium to low fps. Although they would be enough for most casual gamers. Either Intel’s Xe graphics or the AMD Vega 11 integrated graphics would be best, and they would also run most other programmes.
There we have it, our guide to help you understand the difference between dedicated vs integrated graphics. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for our latest content sent straight to your inbox.
Until Next Time Cya!