Whether you are planning on getting a new PC or building your own, one of the most important components you need to concentrate on is the graphics card, or simply, GPU – the GPU is responsible for converting the data into the actual images that you will see on your monitor.
Dedicated vs Integrated Graphics Cards
There are two types of graphic cards currently available: integrated and dedicated, which is what brings us to the dedicated vs integrated graphics debate. This article will help you decide which suits your needs.
A GPU works in a way similar to the CPU, but instead of handling the entire system’s data and instructions, it only handles those related to graphics. Integrated graphics means that the CPU and GPU are included on the same chip. A processor with integrated graphics can handle both CPU and GPU processes. Integrated graphics cards are also sometimes called shared graphics cards.
In contrast, a dedicated graphics card is completely separate from the CPU – this card only houses the GPU. Dedicated graphics cards are also sometimes called discrete graphics cards because they come with their own memory in the form of VRAM (video random access memory) which provides the GPU with quick access to relevant data. Integrated graphics, on the other hand, simply use the system’s memory to pull out relevant data from.
Dedicated vs Integrated Graphics: Which Do You Need?
Now that you know how each type of graphics card works, let’s look at some factors that will help you decide which one might work better for you.
This should probably be the first thing to consider. Simply put, dedicated graphics cards are expensive. If you can afford one then go ahead, but if you would rather save money on your graphics card, an integrated one would suit you much better.
Additionally, pre-built computers that come with integrated graphics are also cheaper than comparable ones with dedicated graphics cards. None of this, however, means that computers that use integrated graphics are of low quality. All of Apple’s computers use integrated graphics, except the 15″ MacBook Pro versions. Entry-level Macs, such as the iMac range, cost over a thousand dollars despite using integrated graphics.
For desktop computers that come from other manufacturers, you have much more freedom in terms of configuration and upgrades – which makes integrated graphics the more budget-friendly option because you can improve your overall system by adding a mid-range card like the Radeon RX 580 for just a few extra hundred dollars.
Next, you ought to consider what sort of work you’ll be doing on your computer. Some people won’t even need a dedicated graphics card. For instance, if you use your computer for relatively simple tasks like browsing, going on social media, sending emails, etc., then a dedicated graphics card is definitely not something you’ll need. Integrated graphics cards are actually getting more powerful now, so they may be enough even if you’re using your computer for slightly for intensive tasks.
That being said, dedicated graphics cards are better for gaming (especially with features such as GPU scaling), and they seem to be the popular choice among gamers in general. Still, this does not mean that you can’t play games at all with an integrated graphics card. You can, but you’ll have to make some compromises. For instance, you may have to tone down detail settings, 4K gaming will be off the table, and not every game will be available to you.
The Quality of the Graphics
This is perhaps the most subjective category of the bunch because different people will have different sensitivities to the quality of the graphics. If your very line of work, or even your hobby, is related to graphics, then you will need a GPU that is quite powerful. An integrated graphics card will, in this case, merely cause delay and difficulty when it comes to tasks like designing and rendering. It will also not display graphics as good as a dedicated graphics card will.
Dedicated graphics deliver better graphics performance than an integrated system, yes, but if graphics aren’t really that big of a deal for you, or if you won’t be doing any graphics-related tasks, then it’s enough to settle for an integrated graphics card.
Lastly, we look at what each kind of graphics card will cost you in terms of power consumption. It goes without saying that a dedicated graphics card will use more power than its integrated counterpart (especially when you overclock your dedicated GPU), given that it has an entire separate component working solely on its own. Having an integrated graphics card allows you to use less power because the graphics processing will automatically give way to the CPU processing and because it is, after all, just one processor.
An additional benefit that arises from integrated graphics cards using less energy is that they, thus, have lower chances of overheating. Overheating is not only annoying; it consumes more energy than most people can afford – so go for an integrated graphics card if you are actively mindful about the amount of energy you use.
Even though we have established that a dedicated graphics card can typically deliver more GPU power than an integrated graphics card, albeit at a higher price point and with greater energy consumption, the bottom line is simply that the user’s needs reign supreme.
You will be better off with an integrated graphics card if you do not have the budget to accommodate a fancy dedicated graphics card or if the tasks you perform on your system simply don’t require the extra GPU power that a dedicated graphics card is designed for. However, those that perform graphically intensive tasks such as gaming or video editing definitely need a dedicated graphics card.