One of the most important components of your laptop is the graphics card. Your laptop graphics card is responsible for rendering the images that you see on screen. It takes the information from your computer’s processor and translates that into images and content that makes sense for your eyes.
Without a graphics processing unit (GPU), you’d be left to read lines of code rather than look at pictures of beaches or watch the latest episode of your favorite show.
Every computer has a graphics processor of some shape or form, but not all are created equal. In fact, there is quite a heated debate about which type of graphics cards you should have on your laptop for photo editing on a budget or more resource-intensive activities, and how important they are to the end-user.
Read on below to learn all about the different types of graphics processors available and how to choose the right type for you.
How Computer Graphics Work
Computers have become a vital component of our everyday lives. Because they are so user-friendly, anyone can learn to use a computer, as it relies less on your technical skills and more on what you see on the screen.
But the images and information shown on a screen is only the front-end. There are lots of complicated operations taking place on the backend, inside the computer, to produce the images, websites, and animations you see on your computer screen.
Your computer has a central processing unit (CPU). This is the brain of the computer. It processes all the information from the software applications you are using and the websites you are visiting.
It then works with the graphics processing unit to produce images based on the instructions from the CPU. The GPU is like the art or design department of the computer, creating viewable images out of the instructions sent to it by the CPU, or the manager of the computer.
The GPU will take the information sent to it from the CPU, and determine how to use pixels on the screen to display the appropriate information. It creates wireframes of the images, fills them in with pixels, and adds lighting, texture, and color.
And it does all of these tasks dozens of times per second, as we scroll down websites or navigate through applications. Without a modern GPU, we wouldn’t be able to use a computer nearly as fast as we are able to today.
Integrated vs Dedicated Laptop Graphics Card
So all GPUs take information and create images out of it. But there are different types of GPUS.
An integrated graphics card is built into the processor (CPU). They are inseparable from the processor, for better or worse.
Being built in means they have to be smaller. As a result, their speed and functionality are somewhat limited, or at least, they have been in the past.
Many cutting-edge laptops, or those used by professionals, creators, or gamers, will use a dedicated laptop graphics card. These standalone from the CPU and can create much more complex images in a shorter amount of time.
So for fast-paced activities, like gaming or video editing, a dedicated graphics card is necessary to handle the sheer amount of visuals that need to be created every second.
With integrated graphics, you can’t swap or change your GPU. But with a dedicated graphics card, you can swap it out for another one at any time. You can purchase individual graphics cards and install them on your PC on your own.
Or, you can choose to buy a laptop that already has the graphics card you want to be installed inside.
Dedicated Graphics Card Performance
One of the biggest benefits of a dedicated graphics card is that it comes with its own VRAM, otherwise known as video memory.
RAM is a type of memory that every computer has. Most decent laptops have 8GB of RAM. RAM is the active memory of your computer. For any application that you are actively using, RAM houses all of the immediate information needed to make that application run fast.
Without a lot of RAM on your computer, your applications have to search for the relevant information somewhere else on your computer, which slows it down. Likewise, if too many applications are running at the same time, your RAM is spread thin, making everyone run slower.
If you’re doing any video-centric activities, such as gaming, without a dedicated graphics card, then it will borrow from your computer’s RAM, slowing everything down.
But with a dedicated graphics card, it comes with its own cache of VRAM, so that your videos or gaming won’t have to dip into your computer’s RAM.
The result is a faster computer overall. And if you play the latest and greatest computer games, this VRAM is necessary for your screen to keep up with all the action.
A dedicated graphics card can also produce millions of pixels per image, resulting in very high definition. You’ll have a high frame rate for video output and much smoother, crisper images.
The Problems With Dedicated Graphics
Dedicated graphics cards are big. They are often eight inches long or more.
And because they are processing so much information, they get really hot. So they also have built-in fans to keep them cool.
Graphics cards take up a lot of space, which is why it’s hard to find laptops that have them since laptops generally prioritize portability instead of power. This has left those seeking the best GPU to stick with bulky, desktop computers.
However, you can find laptops that have dedicated graphics, they’re just going to be a bit bigger and heavier than the ultra-light, slim package that everyone at the coffee shop uses.
Buying a laptop that already has a graphics card is the best option. Most laptops on the market can’t actually fit a dedicated GPU. So if you want to add one, you may need to use an external GPU connection, keeping your graphics card outside of your laptop.
Plus, dedicated cards are expensive, often costing more than most laptop computers.
Who Needs a Dedicated Graphics Card?
There are plenty of people out there who think they need the latest and greatest technology for the sake of having it. But many people overpay for devices that they don’t fully utilize.
Most people don’t need a laptop with a dedicated graphics card. Dedicated graphics are intended for those who perform complex functions that require superfast visual rendering.
This means that gamers playing the most intense, fast-paced video games will benefit from a dedicated card. These are video game genres like FPS, fighting or racing, and in some cases RPGs.
The faster the action, and the faster you need to respond to information on the screen, the more you’d benefit from a dedicated graphics card for gaming.
Likewise, those who edit videos or handle 3D graphic design or animation would benefit from the speed provided by a graphics card.
But not every graphic designer, nor every gamer needs one. Most computer games, even the most modern ones, will perform just fine with an integrated graphics card.
Many people waste money on a computer with dedicated graphics, never actually using it in a way that makes it worth it.
Alternatives to a Dedicated GPU
You don’t need to have a dedicated graphics card to improve the computer processing speed for your images and videos. And Intel has proved that with their latest offerings.
The Intel Evo platform is a set of standards that help computer manufacturers create the most powerful, yet-user friendly laptops on the market. To earn the Intel Evo badge, computer manufacturers can’t just make good computers. The laptops need to measure up to all the standards set forth by Evo.
The partnership of Intel with brands like Lenovo requires the use of the latest 11th Gen Intel i5 or i7 Core Processor, which comes with integrated Xe graphics.
So here Intel is, saying that some of the best laptops available, that outshines all of the competition, should be using a processor with integrated graphics.
That’s because modern integrated graphics are seeing huge improvements in recent years. And the Xe graphics can compete with many of the dedicated graphics cards on the market today.
The Xe integrated graphics can feature up to 1080p with 60 FPS. For gamers, that’s enough to power most of the games played on laptops. While it won’t quite handle the most graphic-intensive games, there’s a good chance that many of the games you want to play are supported by this GPU.
But what’s most surprising is that the Intel Evo program is all about creating thin and light laptops. So for the first time, you can get a powerful, thin, light laptop that can also handle graphic-intensive tasks like gaming and design work.
Which GPU Is Right for You?
There’s a laptop graphics card out there for everyone. For most casual users who use their laptops for basic tasks like email and social media, you’ll never need to think about graphics, as any laptop you buy will be fine.
For moderate to serious laptop users, consider an Intel Evo laptop, which has insane integrated graphics in a sleek, thin laptop. But for the most serious computer user, you might still want to stick with a dedicated chip for now.
Looking for more tips and tricks regarding the latest technology? Head over to our blog now to keep reading.