You’re likely wondering if you can upgrade your laptops GPU for better gaming performance. Graphics Cards/GPUs are a super prominent specification now due to the rise in popularity with graphically intensive applications such as Gaming, Video Editing, and Deep Learning.
Back in the day, laptops didn’t have decent graphics, they just had a simple integrated graphics unit for simple image rendering. Now laptops with dedicated graphics are becoming widespread, you can find a laptop with the latest RTX technology effortlessly.
So Is It Possible To Upgrade A Laptops GPU?
All laptops have integrated graphics, and they’re permanently integrated into the CPU. They usually go by the name “Intel HD Graphics”. Integrated graphics are great for simple tasks such as – Watching videos, Processing graphical documents, and very light gaming, because of this they’re very lightweight.
And then you have laptops with both integrated and dedicated graphics, it is pretty easy to identify a dedicated GPU, usually it’ll be NVIDIA GeForce or AMD branded. The dedicated graphics cards in laptops perform closely to the desktop counterpart, the biggest difference with laptop GPUs is that they consume less power.
In most cases, upgrading the laptop graphics card is actually impossible, this is due to the graphics processing unit either being soldered to the board, or integrated with the processor.
If there is a slight chance of upgrading your laptops GPU, you’ll need to be skillful to pull off such a difficult task. The truth is, laptops aren’t meant to be fully upgradeable, you’ll more likely be able to upgrade the RAM and storage devices.
It would make better sense to just get a better laptop because it’ll save you time and patience, also you don’t put a working laptop at risk. Even if you could upgrade the graphics card, your laptop is most likely designed to handle specific power and heat requirements.
Is There A Way Around All The Hassle?
Though it sounds impossible to upgrade the already existing graphics processing units, there is a way to use a modern desktop GPU with your laptop for a boost in performance. It is called an external GPU or eGPU, it has its own PCI-E connection & power supply, and you plug it directly into your laptops USB port.
On paper, it sounds like the perfect solution, but exactly how viable are they? Well, they’re more expensive than the GPU alone, and you’ll never make use of the GPUs full potential. Due to the nature of an external GPU, they’re approximately 10-15% slower than the GPU itself, so the price to performance ratio is quite poor.
In the future, this type of technology could become more viable with faster and better means of transporting data. Thunderbolt 3 currently is the best way of transferring data between the laptop and the external graphics card. Perhaps one day we can eliminate the loss of performance with better data transfer technology
It’s worth noting that not all external GPUs offer full compatibility, for example, if you see a Razer eGPU, it’s likely that it only supports a specific Razer laptop.
Are External GPUs Worth It?
Thunderbolt 3 is actually around 3x slower than a PCI-E connection, so that’ll have a sizable hit on performance, but it isn’t about the performance degradation. If you have an ultrabook, then an eGPU will be worth it because it turns a device from being only good at spreadsheets to a capable gaming machine.
If your laptop already has a decent dedicated graphics card installed, then an integrated GPU would make very little sense. This is because the dedicated GPU that comes with the laptop is likely far more efficient, and you won’t suffer from performance losses.
This video shows in detail the performance degradation of having a discrete external GPU. As previously stated, external GPUs are a great option if you have a relatively decent laptop with no dedicated graphics. External GPUs act as a solution to suffering from poor performance from integrated graphics.
To summarise this post, upgrading laptops’ internal graphics whether it’s dedicated to integrated is likely impossible, but there are ways around it via eGPUs (External Graphics Cards). Upgrading a laptop’s internal graphics just isn’t worth the time and hassle, and when you open up your laptop, you can say goodbye to any warranty.
And external graphics cards only really worth it if you have a decent laptop with no dedicated/discrete GPU from NVIDIA or AMD. Since external GPUs suffer from performance degradation, it’s likely not worth buying one if your laptop has a dedicated/discrete graphics card already.