The choice of Dedicated vs Integrated Graphics Card is chief among decisions when buying one of the best laptops, and it’s one of the most difficult to make. In fact, you might not even be aware of the differences between the two so we’ll begin with a quick explanation before moving on to the advantages and disadvantages associated with both.
Very basically, integrated graphics cards don’t have their own CPU (or ‘processor’) instead of using system RAM and system CPU. Dedicated graphics cards have their own CPU that’s known as a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and RAM of their own. You might hear another term, “discrete graphics card”, but “discrete” and “dedicated” mean the same thing in this instance, so there are only really two types to choose between. There’s a more detail description of each below to help you make the decision. Most of the best home computers have integrated graphics cards, but that isn’t the case for laptops.
Integrated graphics cards
As touch upon above, an integrated graphics processing unit doesn’t utilize its own RAM, instead of drawing upon the system’s memory. Integrated graphics will use anything between one and five percent of the available memory for graphics which means your system may slow down if you’re performing a resource-intensive task such as rendering video or playing a game.
There are some benefits to an integrate unit while describing about Dedicated vs Integrated Graphics Card, they’re a lot cheaper and make the laptop more affordable. This might even free up budget for other features like a bigger screen, faster processor, etc. Integrated graphics cards use drastically less power than their dedicate counterparts which increases battery life while also decreasing the amount of heat generated.
If you’re only going to use your computer for run-of-the-mill, vanilla-type graphics processing, then an integrated unit will more than meet your needs. Such activity would include 2D gaming, general office work, web browsing and watching videos. You can still play 3D games so long as you turn the graphics settings down to avoid in-game slowdowns. Integrated cards are better for things like video editing software too Dedicated vs Integrated Graphics Card.
Dedicated graphics cards
A dedicated graphics card has its own source of memory, independent from your system’s RAM. For instance, if your desktop computer has an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 video card with 6GB of video memory, that memory is entirely separate from your computer’s 16GB of system memory. If you do a lot of resource-intensive work like high-end gaming or professional graphic designing, then a dedicated card is definitely the way to go.
There are a few downsides to dedicated cards though when you talk about Dedicated vs Integrated Graphics Card, they can put out a lot of heat if you don’t have a good fan or the right design, and the GPU will heat up quicker the harder you make it work. This can be countered to some extent by ensuring you get a laptop with single or dual fans and plenty of vents. There are also special cooling stands available if you want to keep temperatures down even more.
Switchable cards are also available, which offer the GPU as both an Dedicated vs Integrated Graphics Card. When you’re editing an office document or browsing the web the card switches to the integrated unit, load up a high-end game or watch a high-def movie and it’ll power up and work as a dedicated card. The performance will increase and battery life will decrease accordingly.
Dedicated vs Integrated Graphics Card: Dedicated Graphics Means Better Graphics
Most recent dedicated graphics cards will deliver better graphics performance than an integrated system. But that’s only part of the story. Which you should go for depends on what your priorities are.
It’s no surprise that dedicated hardware is better than an integrated system, but by how much?
Other i7, i5, and lower processors offer integrated Intel graphics under the mid-range Iris Pro and entry-level Intel HD brands. The best Iris Pro graphics system benchmarks at less than a third of the level of the Vega M.
By contrast, the best-dedicated graphics cards, like the Nvidia Titan Xp range, provide more than double the performance. They cost more than a thousand dollars, too.
Dedicated Graphics Also Use More Power: Dedicated vs Integrated Graphics Card
There’s a reason why dedicated graphics cards have built-in fans: they get very hot.
Tests show that under a heavy load, the Titan Xp can hit 185 degrees Fahrenheit or more. That’s in addition to the similar levels of heat generated by the CPU and other components inside the computer. It’s essential to stop your PC from overheating.
By comparison, an Intel Core M processor with integrated graphics might top out at around 160 degrees in total while gaming. There’s no fan at all and it uses a lot less energy.
Benchmarks show that the graphics performance on this setup compares to a dedicated card several years old. But if you aren’t a gamer and value energy efficiency, then it’s likely a better choice.
Dedicated Graphics Laptops Exist
You can get laptops with dedicated graphics cards, but your options are more limited. The trade-offs are a larger size and a higher price.
Integrated graphics laptops like the Dell XPS 13 or Acer Swift 7 are less than half an inch thick. A comparable Dell model adds around a quarter of an inch to the depth. At 0.55 inches, the Asus ZenBook 13 makes a claim as the thinnest laptop with dedicated graphics.
Most laptops with discrete graphics are either gaming laptops or high-end machines aimed at pro users. The larger footprint also tends to mean that 13-inch models are rare, with 15 inches or above more common.
Integrated Graphics Is Cheaper
Computers with integrated graphics are cheaper than comparably specced machines with dedicated graphics cards. That doesn’t mean they’re the cheap option, though. Apple uses integrated graphics in all but the 15″ versions of the MacBook Pro. These are the most expensive laptops in their range.
The iMac range of desktops also has integrated graphics in what you might describe as the “entry-level” model. It’s still over a thousand dollars.
In desktop computers from other manufacturers, where you have much more freedom to configure and upgrade the machine, shared graphics is definitely the budget option. Adding a solid mid-range card like the Radeon RX 580 will add an extra few hundred dollars to the price.
Dedicated vs Integrated Graphics Card: Dedicated Graphics Is Better for Gaming
If shared graphics is less powerful, does that mean you can’t use it for gaming? Not necessarily.
The online gaming platform Steam releases a monthly survey showing the hardware used by its 125 million customers. Dedicated graphics cards dominate the August 2018 list. But more than 10 percent of users are gaming with Intel’s integrated graphics.
For everyone else, integrated graphics is just fine. It can work for casual gaming. It’s more than good enough for most Adobe programs. And as long as you’ve got a fairly modern processor, it will be able to handle 4K video.
In fact, unless you have specific needs, the benefits of integrated graphics—like device size and better battery life—are likely to outweigh the benefits of discrete graphics.