Dedicated GPU vs. Integrated Graphics: Which One is Better?

Dedicated GPU vs. Integrated Graphics

So you have a question floating around in your mind, just how much better is a dedicated GPU than an integrated graphics solution? Truthfully, both have their uses, and you will have to decide which makes the most sense for your situation. The question remains, are dedicated GPUs better in all instances, or can integrated graphics win in some cases?

There are certainly pros and cons to both, and we are going to dive in and see what makes each of them a viable choice for your computer.

Integrated Graphics

Integrated Graphics

What Are Integrated Graphics?

Having integrated graphics means your graphics processing unit (GPU) is built directly into the CPU (on desktops) or motherboard (on laptops). All of the parts needed to render graphics on your computer are made right into the base parts without needing any add ons.

Integrated graphics, since they are built into the base parts, will use things such as system memory for processing graphics. This will split your memory into system memory and graphics memory. That means if your computer has 8GB of RAM, the integrated graphics may use up to a couple of gigabytes (depending on what iGPU you are using).

What is Great About Integrated Graphics?

One huge plus for an integrated graphics solution is the price. Since it will typically be built right into your CPU (or motherboard on laptops), there is no need to add in a dedicated GPU. That will save you a ton of money, as the GPU tends to be the most expensive part of an entire computer build.

Another huge advantage with integrated graphics is going to be their power draw. You don’t need a massive power supply to run your computer, which will save you money in the long run on your power bill. You could even go with a generic or OEM style power supply with integrated graphics and have no issues at all.

The last significant advantage of integrated graphics is the size. Dedicated GPUs can be large and take up a ton of space in your computer chassis. That is not the case with an integrated graphics solution, as they are built into the CPU and therefore, will not take up any more space. This means they will fit in even the smallest case, giving you a ton of flexibility.

What are the Drawbacks of Integrated Graphics?

The biggest drawback of integrated graphics is gaming performance. While iGPUs can play 2D games and most 3D games, don’t expect to play on high settings or at a high frame rate. Often you will need to lower games to 1080p low settings or even 720p to make them playable.

The same thing is applicable if you do a lot of photo editing or 3D modeling and such. If you are a creative person who utilizes their PC for work or as a hobby, integrated graphics will give you much less performance and a worse experience.

Dedicated Graphics Card

Dedicated Graphics Card

What is a Dedicated Graphics Card?

A dedicated graphics card is a separate add-on component from the main motherboard, which handles all the graphical computation for the computer when added. It requires independent power, has its own memory, and takes up a PCIe slot on the mainboard.

The dedicated graphics card solution is the one most gamers will opt for, as it is designed for that use case. While it can be helpful for other tasks, gamers are the leading market for a dedicated GPU and will benefit the most from using one in their system.

What is Great About a Dedicated Graphics Card?

If you play the newest games, you need a dedicated graphics card. They will be able to give you the highest frame rates at the highest resolution possible. This will make your games look fantastic, and still give you enough frames to play your game enjoyably.

If you are a creative (3D modeling, photo or video editing, etc.), a dedicated GPU will help your workflow. They will allow you to work without the lag that can be present in really intense tool use.

What are the Drawbacks of a Dedicated Graphics Card?

Dedicated graphics cards tend to be very power-hungry. If you get a high-end card, you will need a robust power supply to keep it from crashing your system. When you are buying your graphics card, make sure you look up the manufacturer’s power supply recommendation to ensure you have enough power for the card.

Integrated GPU vs Discrete GPU

Integrated GPU vs Discrete GPU

Gaming Performance

Integrated GPU:

Integrated graphics struggle with intense gaming. If you are the gamer, who has to have the newest games and wants to run them on high settings, steer clear of integrated graphics at all costs. You will be gaming at 1080p or even 720p resolution if you choose integrated graphics.

Integrated graphics are not made for gaming, so that isn’t surprising. They are great for watching videos, browsing the web, and other everyday tasks. If that is your primary use case with some light gaming on the side, integrated graphics may be perfect for you.

Dedicated GPU:

Gaming is where the dedicated GPUs shine. The bulk of the GPU market is designed for gaming specifically, and the difference between this and integrated solutions is massive. Even a budget GPU is going to blow an integrated GPU out of the water.

The dedicated GPU will give you higher frame rates than integrated graphics and allow you to play at higher graphical settings. So you will get a more smooth gameplay experience and have all the eye candy as well. The best of both worlds!

Everyday Use

Integrated GPU:

Integrated graphics work wonderfully in everyday use cases. This is really what integrated graphics are designed for, so there are no issues at all here. If you mainly use your computer to browse the web, check email, watch videos and movies, the integrated graphics solution is all you need.

Dedicated GPU:

Adding in a dedicated GPU will not hinder everyday use performance at all. It can help in things that require hardware acceleration (like some web browser media). So you will get the same or better performance than the integrated GPU when it comes to everyday use.

Workstation Tasks

Integrated GPU:

Integrated GPUs are not made for highly intensive computing operations, so they are poor choices for workstations. While they would be perfectly capable of doing office work and things such as data entry, anything that is graphically intensive should not be tried with an integrated GPU. It simply does not have the power to handle them with any efficiency.

Dedicated GPU:

This is what you are looking for in your workstation. Nvidia and AMD both make workstation specific cards that are great at computing operations. Nvidia’s Quadro lineup and AMD RadeonPro and FirePro are all excellent solutions for workstation use, and either is capable of handling loads more work than an integrated solution ever would.

Who Should Go for Integrated Graphics?

Small Form Factor

If you have a small form factor case, integrated graphics make the most sense. You will only have to worry about your CPU cooler’s size, not the large size of a dedicated GPU. This will give you plenty of room, even for the small cases designed for use with televisions that are the size of a gaming console or smaller. That is something you will struggle to do with a dedicated GPU.

With that said, there are some low-profile graphics cards in the market as well, that you can consider before making any decision.

If You Have a Small Power Supply

If you use integrated graphics, you will not be forced to run out and buy a big, expensive power supply. A stock power supply in an OEM build or an affordable solution you buy aftermarket will suffice. These chips run extremely efficiently, which is not something a dedicated GPU can say. You can see a decrease in wattage or 200 watts or more by passing on a dedicated GPU and sticking with your integrated graphics.

If You Are On a Budget

This is the biggest draw to integrated graphics by far. Whether you choose an AMD integrated solution or Intel, the cost savings over buying a dedicated GPU will be immense. You will save hundreds of dollars on your computer just in the graphics solution alone, and that doesn’t even take into account things such as power supply. If you are building a budget PC and don’t need the highest gaming performance, integrated GPUs are the most budget-friendly solution possible.

Who Should Go for Discrete Graphics?

Hardcore Gamers

If your life revolves around gaming, buying a top-of-the-line GPU should be at the top of your priority list. A discrete graphics card is the only way to go, as it is going to give you a massive increase in both resolution and frame rate. On top of that, you will be able to crank up the settings to the highest possible to play the best version of the game possible.

Even if you go a tier or two down in the discrete graphics cards, it will still blow out any integrated solution on the market. Both Nvidia and AMD offer outstanding budget options that will not cost a ton of money and boost your gaming performance exponentially. We strongly suggest you get one of our recommended  5600X-compatible GPUs if your primary computer use is gaming.

Creative Designers

If you are a professional photographer, photo editor, video editor, 3D modeler, game designer, or any other creative professional, having a discrete GPU will give you the most performance possible in your application of choice. No matter if you are working in Photoshop, Unreal Engine, or Maya, there are no downsides for you owning a discrete GPU. It will do nothing other than increase your performance, and allow you to increase your overall working efficiency.

As mentioned, probably the most impactful creative tasks that require a dedicated GPU would be game design. Whether you are using Unreal Engine, Unity, or any other game engine, they will take advantage of the advanced 3D rendering provided by the discrete GPU. Game design is a no brainer for advocating dedicated GPUs.

Cryptocurrency Miners

The last segment of people that will benefit the most from a discrete GPU is the cryptocurrency miners. If you plan on mining cryptocurrency, building a crypto farm full of dedicated GPUs is the way to go. While you can mine with CPU cores, GPU mining will give you the most mining power possible.

AMD dedicated GPUs were once the best option to mine cryptocurrency, but Nvidia has become strong in recent years. Research which specific crypto you plan on mining and see which brand works best for that particular currency. Generally, they can both mine everything; just one brand tends to do better at specific cryptocurrency than others.

Conclusion

If you are a gamer or a creative professional, get a dedicated GPU. It will give you the best performance possible and reduce frustrating lags and stutters. If you are looking to build an office or home computer where you will not be focusing on gaming, an integrated graphics solution will work just fine. They are capable of some light gaming and work exceptionally well for everyday tasks.

Take your time and look at all the options. There are a ton of different CPUs with integrated graphics, as well as dedicated GPUs on the market. Research them, read up on their stats, and pick the one that will do what you need it to do for your specific use case. Wade through the many parts and make an educated decision, don’t just jump on the next thing you see on sale. If you do the research, you are much less likely to be disappointed in the product you buy.

Are you building a gaming computer or a general use computer? What graphics solution are you going to buy? Let us know in the comments below!

Written By Aamir Irshad
Written By Aamir Irshad

Aamir is the founder and chief editor of PCBuilderz.com. For the last decade and a half, he’s been building PCs for himself and his friends. From those Core 2 processors to the latest Ryzen 5000 models, he has seen it all.

His aim for this website was to help people make the right decisions for their PC component upgrades.

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