The option to customize your PC by selecting its parts is a major selling point for many people. For gaming computers, the graphics card is the single most crucial component.
What criteria should you use when selecting a graphics card? It’s likely that you’ve heard phrases like “dedicated,” “discrete,” and “integrated” before.
But what do these terms even mean, and how are these three kinds of graphics cards different from one another? More importantly, though, which of these options is best for your brand-new gaming rig?
Come on, then, let’s find out!
How does a GPU work?
With the help of a graphics processing unit (GPU), a computer can render graphical content. When you use the GPU for tasks that rely heavily on visuals, like gaming, video editing, or 3D rendering, you’ll really be able to feel its strength.
How GPUs work in gaming
Most notably, the graphics processing unit (GPU) of your computer is responsible for the majority of the performance you experience while playing games. When you play a game, the central processing unit (CPU) is always busy crunching numbers. The graphics processing unit (GPU) then uses this data to render the scene’s geometry, shading, textures, and colors.
These triangle-shaped polygons are what the GPU uses to create the 3D images. The graphics processing unit (GPU) then calculates where to put the polygons and renders the scene based on perspective, taking into account the player’s choice of where to focus the camera.
The two types of GPUs
There are two varieties of GPUs available today: integrated and dedicated. Discrete graphics cards are another name for dedicated GPUs. Both are viable options for a PC graphics card; choose the one that best suits your needs.
What Is A Dedicated Graphics Card?
Dedicated graphics cards, also known as “discrete” graphics cards, are what we mean when we talk about visual processing units (GPUs) in the context of desktop personal computers.
A dedicated graphics card, as the name suggests, is an independent piece of hardware in a computer that is responsible for processing graphics in all their forms, from the complex 3D environments of games to the basic 2D graphics of a web browser.
By offloading graphics processing to the card itself, dedicated graphics hardware frees up system memory for other uses. A dedicated graphics card has many advantages over an integrated graphics solution, including more available RAM, faster clock speeds, and its own cooling solution, but it also has a much higher power consumption rate.
Open-air coolers with anywhere from one to three fans (depending on the size of the card) are standard, but blowers and liquid cooling are also available.
Higher power consumption is the result of faster clock speeds and more complex cooling systems. Since the PCIe slot cannot provide enough power to keep a GPU and its cooler running, most dedicated graphics cards also include 6-pin or 8-pin power connectors.
When it comes to desktop computers, dedicated graphics cards are typically the best option due to their high performance and efficient cooling. If you plan on installing professional software that places stringent demands on the graphics processing unit (GPU), or if you’re constructing a gaming PC, you’ll need this.
Graphics cards, on the other hand, can be quite pricey depending on the GPU model and the OEM’s choice of cooling solution.
What Is An Integrated Graphics Card?
Sound cards and Wi-Fi routers, once sold as separate devices, are now frequently found integrated onto motherboards.
Similarly, graphics processing units (GPUs) used to be included on many motherboards, but these days they are typically included in the central processing unit (CPU).
However, integrated graphics connect to the motherboard directly through the CPU socket and link to displays through the motherboard’s built-in ports, typically HDMI.
Now, video RAM (VRAM) is something that integrated GPUs lack when compared to their discrete counterparts. Instead, graphics processing is offloaded to the main system RAM. Naturally, this can have an effect on system performance, and the GPUs themselves aren’t nearly as potent as dedicated ones.
The integrated graphics chips included with Intel’s mainstream desktop CPUs are minimal solutions designed to minimize cost and footprint. They typically don’t have enough processing power to handle modern video games.
In the case of less demanding games, they can still serve as adequate backups, but in general, they shouldn’t be used as the primary device for gaming.
AMD, on the other hand, has Ryzen APUs like the Ryzen 5 3400G that can deliver very respectable gaming performance.
These Vega-equipped APUs can be a great way to save some money for those who are trying to build an entry-level gaming PC on a tight budget, despite the fact that the performance is still nowhere near what some of the cheapest budget graphics cards can offer.
If not for one reason, integrated graphics are there for the other: to reduce costs or take up less room. If a desktop user doesn’t need top-tier graphics performance, these cards can be a great way to save money.
They significantly cut down on heat, are lightweight, and can be installed almost anywhere, making them ideal for laptops. However, with the exception of a small number of Ryzen APUs, the majority can provide playable performance.
Integrated GPU vs Dedicated GPU: What’s the Difference?
The main disadvantage of integrated graphics is that having both a CPU and GPU on a single chip reduces the performance of one or both of them. In other words, the combined processing power of a central processing unit and a graphics processing unit on a single chip would be too great.
Additionally, while most modern processors do feature integrated graphics, the integrated GPU is typically underutilized to avoid compromising the CPU’s performance.
However, a dedicated graphics card is not limited in its potential power thanks to its own PCB, memory (VRAM), and cooling solution. In addition, your CPU will have more available resources to use if the task of computing graphics-related data is moved from the integrated graphics on your processor to a dedicated GPU.
Therefore, a dedicated graphics card, depending on the strength of the GPU it contains, will not only provide more GPU power but also reduce the load on your primary processor. In addition, both of those will improve your computer’s efficiency.
Even though a dedicated graphics card will improve a computer’s performance, not every user should seek out a machine with a dedicated GPU installed. As a matter of fact, integrated graphics are increasing in power, and they now provide more than enough processing speed for the typical user’s needs when it comes to basic computing.
Thus, we’ll divide this article into two parts, the first of which will explain when it’s best to use a dedicated graphics card, and the second will explain when it’s better to use integrated graphics.
Which Should You Choose?
The main thing to think about when deciding between a dedicated and an integrated graphics solution is functionality, or what you plan to do with the PC.
If you’re talking about a standard desktop PC for tasks like web browsing, Microsoft Office, video playback, etc., then even the most basic integrated GPU will be more than adequate.
Many of AMD’s less expensive APUs are very cost effective, and Intel’s UHD 630 integrated graphics can handle 4K quite well for regular desktop use.
Dedicated graphics cards are expensive and only worthwhile if you will make full use of their features.
While most people will use their GPUs for gaming, professionals may find that video editing or 3D modeling software can greatly benefit from the additional graphics processing power that a dedicated GPU can offer.
However, we have established that integrated graphics processing units (GPUs) are only suitable for playing very old games or very light eSports titles.
Games that require high framerates or higher resolutions can only be played on a PC with a dedicated GPU.
The video above shows that AMD’s Vega integrated graphics are superior to the Intel UHD 630 chips found in Intel’s mainstream CPUs.
Therefore, the Ryzen 5 3400G, Ryzen 3 3200G, or their 2nd-generation equivalents are the best choices if you want to build a gaming PC without a dedicated graphics card.
While all but the Intel CPUs with an “F” at the end of their model number feature integrated graphics, you won’t find them in the more powerful Ryzen CPUs.
Consequently, Intel is still the best option if you need high-end CPU performance for CPU-intensive software and also want integrated graphics.
Cost must also be taken into account. An integrated graphics solution can save you a lot of money because the GPU is already built into the CPU or APU, which can be purchased for as little as $50 for certain models of AMD Athlon and Intel Celeron processors.
We’ve established that the Ryzen APUs, for a cost of $100-$150, can deliver satisfactory gaming performance. As for prices, in 2022, a decent dedicated graphics card will start at around $100.
The GTX 1660 Ti is an excellent midrange option, but at nearly $300, it will set you back a lot more than you were planning to spend on a computer system even before you factor in the cost of the processor.
Going with a good integrated GPU can save you money, but as we’ve established, it won’t be enough for higher resolutions or higher framerates, so be careful if you’re trying to save a lot of money.
Who Should Get A Dedicated Graphics Card?
Whether or not you need a dedicated graphics card depends primarily on two factors:
- To what extent you are willing to spend on the system you intend to purchase.
- What you intend to do with your computer in terms of the applications and tasks you want to run
In light of these two considerations, we’ll examine the types of people who would benefit from a dedicated graphics card…
1. Serious Gamers Who Want A Desktop (Either to Buy One or Build One) And Who Have A Decent-Sized Budget
Buying a pre-built gaming desktop with a dedicated graphics card installed or including a dedicated graphics card in your part list when building a new computer is your best bet if you’re a serious gamer who wants to play their favorite games at the highest settings and framerates possible.
The good news is that a gaming computer for 1080P can be built for as little as $400-$500, and it will outperform a system that relies on integrated graphics.
Or, you can spend $500–$600 (or more) on a pre-built gaming desktop that provides the same or similar performance.
However, if you’re looking for optimal gaming performance and can spare at least $400-$500, a dedicated graphics card is the way to go.
2. Serious Gamers Who Want A Gaming Laptop and Who Have A Moderate Budget
Most budget gaming laptops have integrated graphics because laptops are more expensive per feature than desktop computers. Additionally, integrated graphics on a laptop can be adequate if you are not playing more demanding games and do not have a sizable budget.
A gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card is the way to go if you need a laptop and want to play your favorite games at high settings and framerates.
If you’re on a tight budget, don’t worry; you can get a good gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card for under $1,000, and it’ll run most of today’s top games smoothly at medium settings.
3. Professionals Who Do Graphics-Related Work
If you use your computer for graphics-related work (graphics design, animation, video editing, etc.) or if you do any of these things for fun, you should probably invest in a separate graphics card, as integrated graphics may not be up to the task.
Who Should Use Integrated Graphics?
As of late, some users may not need dedicated graphics hardware because integrated graphics are sufficient for their needs. Here are some situations and applications that would benefit from integrated graphics:
1. Non-Gamers Who Are Looking for A New System for Basic Computing
Choose a system with integrated graphics if all you need it for is web browsing, email, and video playback on a laptop or desktop computer. In fact, if that’s all you plan on doing with your PC, investing in a high-end model with a separate graphics card is unnecessary.
2. Budget-Oriented Gamers Who Want A Desktop and Who Have A Tight Budget
If you’re a gamer on a tight budget for a new desktop system, you might be stuck using the integrated graphics that come with your processor rather than splurging on a separate graphics card.
The good news is that if you’re willing to do some of the work yourself, you can put together a system for $300–$400 that has a processor with integrated graphics capable of handling light gaming. Thus, you won’t have any issues while playing games like League of Legends, Dota 2, Rocket League, etc. For the most demanding games, you’ll be able to play them on reduced settings.
If you don’t feel like putting in the time and effort to build your own PC, you can still find a reasonably priced pre-built desktop with adequate integrated graphics.
3. Gamers Who Want A Laptop, But Who Don’t Have At Least A Moderate Budget
If you’re a gamer on a tight budget who absolutely needs a laptop, you’ll have to settle for integrated graphics. If you’re looking for a cheap laptop for gaming, one with integrated graphics is not going to cut it.
A low-end laptop with integrated graphics will have to do if all you want to do is play casual games like League of Legends, Dota 2, or Rocket League.
Best accessories for gaming with a great GPU
If your CPU and other parts are up to the task, you can play a wide variety of games without spending any money on a dedicated GPU.
The HP OMEN line of gaming accessories, which includes premium mice, keyboards, and gaming headsets, is exactly what you need to get the most out of these games. Whether you’re running a few matches of Overwatch on your integrated graphics card or playing an immersive game like Cyberpunk 2077 at the highest settings, it’s important to have the support you need to perform at your best.
The HP OMEN reactor mouse is the first piece of your gaming setup. The optical-mechanical switches have a click response time of.02 milliseconds, and you can program your own macros. Because of this, you can easily customize the functions of the mouse’s buttons to suit your needs. The mouse has a lifespan of 50 million clicks, so you can rest assured that it will serve you well for many years.
Gaming keyboard and headset
The HP OMEN sequencer keyboard and the HP OMEN Mindframe Prime headset will take your gaming to the next level. HP crafted these add-ons with convenience and ease of use in mind. This is evident in the headset’s FrostCap function and passive cooling ear cushions, as well as the keyboard’s optical-mechanical switch technology. With these added conveniences, even the longest sessions will be bearable.
The Bottom Line
That’s pretty much it for the pros and cons of both dedicated and integrated graphics. It’s not rocket science, as you can see, but choosing a specific graphics processing unit (GPU) or central processing unit (CPU) is trickier.