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Yes – all laptops have a GPU. Without one, you wouldn’t see anything on a laptop’s screen.
However, not all laptops have dedicated graphics cards. Depending on the type of GPU, the capabilities of your device will vary a lot.
But does this mean that you NEED a dedicated graphics card? And if not, can you boost your integrated GPU power instead?
In this article, we will cover everything you wanted to know about the GPUs but weren’t sure who to ask. Read on!
NVIDIA RTX Laptops | Source: nvidia.com
Table of Contents
Types of Graphics Cards in a Laptop
There are two types of graphics cards – integrated and dedicated. Some laptop models even come with both types of GPU.
This type of graphics card is built into the CPU. If you just want to watch movies, edit videos, play 2D games, or do some other low-end graphics processing, the integrated GPU will do fine. It is much cheaper than the dedicated graphics card, and it uses a lot less power, which prolongs battery life.
When reviewing laptops, the one integrated GPU I come across most often is the Intel Iris Xe, especially in newer laptops (11th Gen. Intel Core CPU and onward). Based on my tests, it’s a very capable GPU that performs really well with productivity and general tasks.
Check out some of the popular integrated graphics cards and their corresponding G3D benchmark scores to get an idea about their graphics processing capabilities:
|Intel UHD 630||1395||As found on select 8-10th Gen. Intel Core CPUs|
|Intel UHD 750||1684||As found on select 11th Gen. Intel Core CPUs|
|Intel UHD 770||2432||As found on select 12th Gen. Intel Core CPUs|
|Intel Iris Xe||2689||As found on select 11th-13th Gen. Intel Core CPUs|
|AMD RX Vega 7||2639||As found on select AMD 4000 and 5000 series CPUs|
|AMD RX Vega 8||2708||As found on select AMD 4000 and 5000 series CPUs|
A dedicated GPU is a separate piece of hardware that can interface with a motherboard. This type of graphics card is much more powerful and it delivers crisp, clear graphics quickly, for great video editing experience, gaming, and complex graphic design.
A dedicated GPU is a carrier of visual processing in laptops for gamers and creatives. What I mean by that is that the power and capabilities of your gaming, 3D modeling, or editing laptop will largely be tied to the GPU.
On the lower-end spectrum, I often find GTX 1650 in laptops. The newest laptops come with the NVIDIA RTX 40-series.
I’d say that the RTX 30-series, especially 3050, 3050 Ti and 3060, are usually the sweet spot for most uses, in terms of price and output quality.
However, if you’re a pro and rely heavily on GPU, I’d consider RTX 4070 or even 4090.
Still, even the weakest dedicated graphics cards are far more capable than some of the best integrated GPUs. Just take a look at the G3D mark scores for dedicated GPUs
|NVIDIA MX450||3729||Low range|
|NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti (Laptop)||5919||Upper-Low range|
|NVIDIA GTX 1650 (Laptop)||6968||Upper-Low range|
|NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti (Laptop)||10176||Mid range|
|NVIDIA RTX 3050 (Laptop)||8953||Lower-Mid range|
|NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti (Laptop)||10134||Upper-Mid range|
|NVIDIA RTX 3060 (Laptop)||12570||Upper-Mid range|
|NVIDIA RTX 3070 (Laptop)||15094||High-end|
|NVIDIA RTX 3080 (Laptop)||16470||Flagship|
|NVIDIA RTX 4050 (Laptop)||15498||Lower-Mid range|
|NVIDIA RTX 4060 (Laptop)||18685||Upper-Mid range|
|NVIDIA RTX 4070 (Laptop)||19710||High-end|
|NVIDIA RTX 4080 (Laptop)||26856||High-end|
|NVIDIA RTX 4090 (Laptop)||29994||Flagship|
What is G3D Score and Why Is It Important?
G3D score is a benchmarking tool that measures how well a computer can handle 3D graphics. This involves running a series of software tests on your GPU that replicates the kinds of tasks it performs in real-world usage.
Benchmarks are useful as a guide to hardware performance. However, remember that a G3D score shows the 3D graphics rendering capabilities. If your tasks do not include a lot of 3D work, the CPU, RAM and overall performance might be much more relevant.
NVIDIA RTX Laptop Graphics | Source: nvidia.com
Do You Need a Dedicated GPU in a Laptop?
It depends on how you use your laptop. If you do heavy tasks like video editing or graphic design, or play demanding video games, you will need a dedicated GPU.
On the other hand, If you’re all about basic tasks like word processing or web browsing, a laptop with an integrated GPU is good enough, and a dedicated graphics card would be overkill since it significantly raises the price of your laptop.
How Can You Boost Your Integrated GPU Power?
You can boost your laptop’s integrated graphics-processing power with an eGPU. This GPU can be attached externally to your device through a Thunderbolt 4 or USB-C connector.
An eGPU is portable and upgradable. This allows users who need a high-end GPU only for certain tasks (rendering videos, for example) to set the graphics card aside when they’re not using it.
If you’re working with a laptop that is not the latest and greatest, an external GPU could be the best way to boost performance, especially if other components aren’t upgradable.
The prices of external graphic cards vary, from more affordable ones, such as Razer Core X at $300, to those more high-end that can go well over $1000.
When buying a graphics card, your pick will depend on your needs, the type of screen you’re using, and, of course, the budget.
Before opting for a specific GPU configuration, the first thing to keep in mind is what you’re going to use the laptop for.
If all you plan on doing are everyday tasks like browsing the web, writing up a project, or listening to music, an integrated graphics card has got you covered.
Yet, if you’re tackling more demanding tasks or juggling schoolwork and gaming, you could use the extra boost of a dedicated GPU.
Ever wondered what your laptop model and specs are? Read our guide What Kind of Laptop Do I Have? and learn how to check all the other details of your device.