Integrated vs. dedicated graphics cards – which one should I choose?

By | 04/07/2016

nVidiaWhen you are buying new computer or new graphics card, you may get confused – we have to choose between integrated and dedicated graphics cards. What’s the difference? Which is better for gaming? Why is this laptop equipment with both integrated and dedicated graphics cards? Both of these types are good in some areas of computer using. I will try to explain it for you. Let’s see what’s the difference between cheap integrated graphics cards and their more expensive dedicated counterparts.

The first difference you will probably spot is price. Yea, dedicated cards are more expensive and some hi-end models cost more like full computer with integrated graphics card. It’s because hi-end dedicated graphics cards are very powerful, created for Full HD or even 4K gaming at 60 FPS, virtual reality and video processing. Integrated graphics cards are mostly for common use, like browsing Internet, watching YouTube videos, listening music, working in office, etc. Of course you can play games, but prepare for lower performance and if you play recent games, it may be laggy or even unable to run on integrated graphics card. For example, game Shadow of Mordor will run on integrated Intel Iris Pro graphics, on very low settings, but will. Btw, Intel Iris Pro is most powerful integrated graphics card. Less demanding games like DotA 2 can be played on Intel Iris Pro with ultra settings.

Integrated graphics cards are not only slower and cheaper, but also smaller, drain much less energy and produce less heat. These benefits over dedicated graphics cards make integrated graphics cards suitable for laptop use. You can find them in desktop computers too, usually in basic office computers and all-in-one type of computers, where all components are built-in into display.

Some laptops have both integrated and dedicated graphics cards. When you are using your laptop for less compute-intensive tasks, like browsing Internet or writing document in Word, your laptop will run on integrated graphics card to save energy. When you are gaming or video processing or doing other heavy tasks, your laptop will switch to dedicated graphics card. Don’t forget about battery if your laptop is using dedicated graphics card, it will drain much faster.

Also is important to note that laptops’ dedicated graphics cards are not as powerful as their desktop counterparts. Mobile graphics are always compromise. If you compare current hi-end integrated graphics card with old dedicated, you may get better performance with lower battery affect. Technology is moving. But if you compare mentioned integrated graphics card back with current dedicated models, you will get again poor performance in compare to dedicated graphics cards.

One important thing is that integrated graphics cards does not have their own memory. They use memory from RAM. You may sometimes see that some games with requirement minimum of 4 GB RAM say that you need minimum 8 GB RAM to play it on (for example) integrated Intel HD 4400. So be careful. Some hi-end integrated graphics cards, like Intel Iris Pro, got some own “memory” known as eDRAM cache, so these are much faster than average integrated graphics cards, but still do not match dedicated graphics cards.

I have personally laptop with Intel Iris Pro as integrated graphics card and nVidia GT 750M (GDDR5 version) as dedicated graphics card. It’s little old laptop model, but thanks to nVidia GT 750M I can play games which are unplayable on any integrated graphics card.

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