So you’ve happened to come across the two types of computer graphics, Integrated & Dedicated. The two are very different and are best used in their own respective scenarios.
You’re probably about to build a PC or upgrade one, and you’ve come across these two terms. After following through this post, you will have a clear understanding of the differences, and what’s best for your needs.
Dedicated graphics are a piece of hardware whose main goal is to generate an image from the data the CPU provides. It has its own RAM and cooler, you insert it directly into the motherboard and it requires its own power. Integrated graphics share the same resources as the CPU. They’re typically less powerful than dedicated graphics and are more of a convenience.
What Are Integrated Graphics?
Integrated graphics refers to the graphics unit that is built onto the same die as the Processor(CPU). Because of this, they are seen as cost and power-efficient. Where you see integrated graphics being used most is in simple graphical applications that do not require a lot of processing power.
Integrated graphics actually share resources from the rest of the system, this includes the RAM. So if you had 8GB of DDR4 System RAM, your integrated graphics can use up to 50% of it.
What Are Integrated Graphics Best For?
Integrated graphics are not entirely powerless, they are good enough to watch 4K videos and play light non-graphically intensive games. Graphically demanding games and programs will be very heavy for the integrated graphics unit, it really doesn’t have the resources to perform such tasks.
You typically see laptops exclusively using integrated graphics the most because of how lightweight they are. They do not drain the battery life as much, and they generate small amounts of heat.
Also, work PCs tend not to use dedicated graphics as they have no use for them. Work PCs are used for very simple tasks such as completing assignments or office work.
Integrated Graphics Are Cheaper
Intel and AMD both produce excellent processors that come with integrated graphics, the most notable integrated graphics is the UHD Graphics 630 for Intel and RX Vega 11 for AMD. UHD 630 graphics can be found in the 8th and 9th gen desktop CPUs. RX Vega 11 can be found in the Ryzen 5 2400G.
AMD is known to be the budget option when it comes to computer hardware, so you can find decent integrated graphics for cheap when going with AMD. Looking at the Ryzen 5 3400G, you can essentially pick up a decently powered GPU with integrated graphics for around $150.
Integrated Graphics Are Best For Casual Computing
Casual computing means performing regular tasks such as watching videos or doing work. All these tasks use very little graphical resources so you do not need a dedicated graphics card to perform these tasks.
Depending on what games you play, you can get away with an integrated graphics unit by turning the settings down in-game to boost FPS. Integrated Graphics do perfectly fine when it comes to light 3D games such as CSGO or League Of Legends(LoL).
However, if you expect to play demanding games such as Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed, then you’ll definitely need a Dedicated GPU regardless of what graphical settings they’re set at. You can build a decent, cheap gaming PC for around $500 that can run these games perfectly fine at 1080-1440P.
What Are Dedicated Graphics?
Dedicated/discrete graphics are mostly referred to as Graphics Cards(GPU) or Video Cards and they’re completely separate from the CPU. The graphics card has its own resources, it has its own RAM which by the way is called GDDR opposed to DDR. The G in GDDR means graphics, and it’s exclusive only to the graphics card.
Dedicated Graphics can do everything integrated graphics can do but at a much higher capacity.
Dedicated graphics cards are found mostly in PCs however, they can appear in high-performance laptops that really need the extra power. As you can probably tell, machines that use dedicated GPUs are not used conventionally. Users that need graphics cards are performing graphically intensive tasks such as gaming, video editing, or AI machine learning.
Dedicated Graphics Are Best For Gaming
Notice how I said “best”, that’s because they’re not absolutely necessary, it mainly depends on the games you play and certain settings.
You can get away with integrated graphics when it comes to easy games to run, but when it comes to graphically intensive games, a graphics card is needed.
A dedicated GPU becomes even more necessary the higher the resolution is. Gaming at 2K and 4K really need that super fast GDDR memory to keep up with the amount of data being processed.
Nowadays, 1440P(2K) @144hz is considered to be the sweet spot when it comes to gaming monitors. Reaching 144FPS at 2K offers super-smooth high-quality gameplay, and it would be much easier to reach that with a dedicated GPU.
AI/Machine Learning Need A Dedicated GPU
Graphics cards are the backbone when it comes to Machine learning and deep learning, it is extremely important to pick up a dedicated GPU if you’re into Artificial Intelligence. The dedicated graphics card will be able to crunch massive amounts of data faster than the CPU/Integrated graphics can.
To put it into perspective, it isn’t a small improvement, you can see a performance improvement between 15-20x depending on the graphics card you pick.
Integrated graphics simply do not have the resources to process the sheer amount of data machine learning has to offer. GDDR RAM helps significantly when handling massive amounts of data, and high GPU clock speeds will crunch the data.
Video Editing Softwares Need A Dedicated GPU
Depending on which software you’re using, a dedicated GPU can make a huge difference in performance. Certain video editing software offloads intensive imaging processing onto the GPU, that an integrated GPU may not be able to handle. An example of such software is DaVinci Resolve.
When picking up dedicated graphics for video editing, look for Cuda cores. Cuda cores are proprietary to NVIDIA, and they offer GPU acceleration which you can benefit a lot from.
If you are still wondering why you need a GPU for video editing, please check out this post on why you need a GPU for video editing.
Should I Buy A Dedicated GPU?
If you’re considering purchasing a GPU, check out this buyer’s guide on how to choose a GPU.
Yes, If you’re a gamer
If you’re a true serious gamer or play competitively, the best thing you could do is invest in a gaming PC that has a dedicated GPU. You most likely want to play games at the highest settings with the most frame rate possible and to do that you need a dedicated GPU.
You don’t actually need to break the bank to play games at decent settings. As previously stated, you can build a modest gaming PC for around $500 that can run games at 1080P or even 1440P. If you’re looking for a good GPU for 1440P gaming, click the link here.
Yes, If Your Profession Requires It
If you’re a video editor or a programmer working on Artificial Intelligence, definitely consider picking up a GPU to give a helping hand. Video editors need GPUs to help process high-quality images, and GPUs accelerate deep learning thanks to their efficiency with matrixes.
Should I Go With Integrated Graphics?
Yes, If you Use A PC For Casual Work
If you’re just casually browsing the web, watching videos and doing work, then you are perfectly fine using an integrated GPU. Integrated GPUs nowadays are good enough for 4K video streaming and some light gaming.
For light gaming, ensure that you turn down the in-game settings for extra FPS. You will lose graphical quality, but that’s always better for smooth gameplay.