We know how graphics cards can greatly improve your PC’s performance, both gaming and otherwise. But did you know that just because you have a PC doesn’t mean you need a GPU?
A decade or so ago, laptops were designed to be miniature and compact versions of personal computers. A laptop’s parts were completely made different compared to a traditional PC part. Before technology became better, laptops were only a fraction of what PCs were capable of back then. Nowadays, laptops still run on integrated graphics but there are models out there that already have their own dedicated graphics cards.
If laptops back then could run without a dedicated graphics card, why couldn’t PC’s do the same? Do you need a GPU for a PC to begin with?
We’ll be answering those questions and more in this article.
What’s The Difference Between a Dedicated Graphics Card and Integrated Graphics Card?
A graphics processing unit, or GPU, better known in non-technical jargon as a graphics card is responsible for processing data to create and display images on an output device (like a monitor).
Now there are two types of graphics processing unit that you want to pay attention to: the integrated graphics processing unit and dedicated graphics processing unit.
The difference between the two of them is night and day, but their functions are one and the same.
- An integrated graphics card takes processing power from the CPU itself, hence the name. Modern motherboards are also equipped with their integrated graphics so it doesn’t put too much strain on the CPU.
- A dedicated graphics card is a separate piece of hardware and is installed into the motherboard. This allows the CPU to run at its fullest capacity. The dedicated graphics card will be responsible for processing data necessary for generating images on an output device.
Why Do You Even Want To Go For Integrated Graphics Card?
Integrated graphics cards allow you to save up money, for starters. They’re also very power efficient compared to dedicated GPUs. Desktop and laptop computer CPUs are standardized in more ways than one, so there aren’t going to be major issues in terms of compatibility. Using a modern Windows PC, the OS or operating system will take care of everything for you.
But there is a downside to integrated GPUs, and that’s their performance. They’re not intended for graphically intensive tasks such as video editing and 3D editing, but they can carry their own weight for light games, browsing the web, doing office tasks, and maybe a bit of Netflix.
In addition, an Integrated GPU will share CPU resources, including your RAM. When you’re taking up too much graphics processing power, you’ll immensely slow your entire system down.
Why Do You Even Want To Go For a Dedicated Graphics Card?
An integrated GPU can only do so much, so where does a discrete graphics card come in? A discrete GPU is a standalone graphics card that allows you to process graphics without tapping into the CPU and other resources.
Integrated graphics processors are gimped in terms of processing power, so you can only do so much. On the other side of the spectrum, a discrete graphics card delivers performance for a price.
Discrete graphics processing units give you a level of performance that an integrated GPU can’t match. We’re talking about giving you more power for gaming, rendering video or 3d models, and so on. You also get access to added video ports such as HDMI and DVI as part of a few benefits of owning a dedicated GPU.
But its upside is also its downside. You see, for this level of performance, you end up spending more money to let your motherboard run a dedicated graphics card. In most cases, running a new graphics card on an older desktop PC will force you to make other upgrades such as a new power supply unit. Push comes to shove, you’ll end up spending more money than you need to.
But hey, that’s the price you pay for being able to play video games, run multiple monitors, and do other tasks.
Do You Really Need a Dedicated Graphics Card?
We know that a dedicated graphics card is way more powerful than integrated graphics, but do you really need a graphics card for a lot of things?
Ideally, you want your personal computer or laptop to have its own dedicated graphics card, even if it’s not one of the high-end ones. The reason is that you want your CPU to be untouched when it comes to doing certain tasks, and by untouched, we mean that the CPU only focuses on what’s important to make the system run.
On the other hand, you’re probably thinking about upgrading from integrated graphics to a dedicated one. Here are some interesting questions that will help you determine as to whether or not you really need to get one.
Can Your Current PC or Laptop Handle Games or Other Graphic-Intensive Apps?
If the answer to this question is a NO, and you want to play games or use graphic design apps, then you’ll need to purchase a dedicated GPU.
If you are running an old CPU and the graphic card is outdated, you’ll probably want to upgrade to a newer model. Again, if you need a graphics card, it doesn’t have to be a high-end model. There are several budget graphics cards out there that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Are You Planning On Using Multiple Monitors In The Future?
Today’s integrated graphics cards might be able to support multiple monitors, but chances are you won’t be able to use it to their maximum potential.
Even with the latest integrated graphics cards, you’re only able to accommodate a handful of HDMI and DVI slots, depending on the motherboard. You’ll also need to reconfigure a BIOS setting that will let you use these ports for display.
So, if you really need to use multiple monitors without all the hassle of BIOS configuration and all that, then you need a graphics card that will support multiple displays and with multiple display ports.
When Should You Consider Buying a Graphics Card?
Not all CPU models are capable of giving you the integrated graphics processing power necessary for some light gaming and a bit of professional editing on the side. The CPUs that are powerful enough to get you this kind of processing power isn’t exactly affordable either, but they’re not that expensive, to say the least.
If we’re talking about purchasing Intel CPUs, somewhere along the lines of an i7 or an i9, then you should be able to run web browsing, common desktop tasks, some photo editing apps, and some light video games. An AMD CPU, like a Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7, can give you the integrated graphics processing power that you need.
But it’s still a different story when you have a dedicated video card as a separate component so your CPU won’t be too taxed when it comes to processing data. Even with a low-end or a mid range GPU, the performance of your entire system will improve a hundredfold. And we’re not even exaggerating at this point.
Without a GPU, you’ll have to rely on your CPU to provide you with graphics processing. Even with a mid range dedicated RAM and other components (like an SSD), the system performance won’t come close to another system unit that has its own GPU.
If you are planning on buying a GPU, whether it’s a powerful GPU or not, here are a few points for consideration for non-gamers:
- A dedicated GPU mght not be the most important component but we’re talking about giving your PC some extra power and speed when it comes to doing tasks and games.
- Dedicated GPUs can last you for a few years and can give you added benefits such as running extra monitors and playing high-resolution video games when possible.
- Most motherboards should be able to support the newer models of graphics cards, so there’s no need to do massive upgrades unless you’re getting the high end video cards.