Can I change dedicated graphics card in my laptop?

can-I-change-dedicated-graphics-card-in-my-laptop

Another question that I get often asked is: ‘Can I change the dedicated graphics card in my laptop?’

Let’s dive into the answer. But first let’s start from scratch.

One of the more important things to look at when buying a laptop is the graphics card – or rather, what kind of graphics card it has on-board. There are two main kinds: integrated and discrete.

Integrated vs Discrete Graphics Card

Integrated Graphics Card

Integrated means that the graphics chip is included on the motherboard of the computer itself (as opposed to external GPUs). Integrated cards are typically very weak, don’t have their own memory, and cannot be upgraded or replaced by users themselves.

The graphics card in a laptop, also known as the discrete graphics card or dGPU, is an expansion board that contains its own memory and gives direct access to system RAM through pass-through memory mapping. A Graphics processing unit (GPU) is similar to a central processing unit (CPU) but varies by the fact that it contains multiple cores for parallel computing. The GPU’s main job is to process data for images, videos and games faster than the computer could without one. It takes high-resolution images from a video display and transforms them into a format suitable for the monitor. The GPU is able to issue commands to itself, which means that it can process polygonal environments without needing CPU input.

Memory

An integrated graphics solution means that the graphics card is built into the computer’s main board, allowing it to use system RAM for video memory by removing the need for a separate dedicated video memory. This greatly reduces costs because there are so many more laptops than desktops, so an integrated approach makes sense when manufacturers are looking at how to make their product affordable. The downside is that an integrated solution can never provide optimal performance, but this does not really matter because laptops generally do not run games or any other applications where optimal frame rates and rendering power are required in real time. The only programs that require this level of power tend to be design-based professional tools like AutoCAD (for rendering, simulation and 3D imaging) or Sony’s Video Studio.

In a laptop the video card is integrated into the motherboard chipset which also provides for shared memory. This chip supports display output via VGA, digital DVI or DisplayPort links and offers support for DirectX 9 graphics with Shader Model 3 (which makes it suitable only for games such as World of Warcraft), PC-based Blu-ray video acceleration, HD video encoding/decoding and fast 2D rendering with anti-aliasing options. On some laptops you can upgrade the graphics card with an additional inbuilt one that provides better performance than the original integrated solution in addition to dedicated VRAM and memory bandwidth .

Discrete Graphics Card

Discrete means that they have enough power to process graphics without relying on CPU resources as much as an integrated card would.

A laptop may contain an integrated graphics chipset or an add-on graphics card. An integrated graphics chipset does not require memory of its own and accesses system RAM instead when in use; this saves power and reduces heat output inside the laptop. An add-on graphics card requires memory of its own, so whilst it will generally be larger than an integrated chipset and thus compromise portability it will also improve performance dramatically by having more powerful dedicated video hardware with full support for all aspects of modern computing that involve rapid data movement such as video rendering, 3D modelling and gaming.

So the answer to the question above is No. You cannot change the graphics card in your laptop but you can either try Overclocking it or buying an eGPU if your system supports it.

Overclocking

There are some other options if you want better gaming performance but don’t want or can’t afford a new GPU. One option is to overclock the one you have currently. This can be done by downloading software that allows you to significantly increase clock speeds of your hardware- it won’t cost anything for this kind of performance boost . All you need is just a computer with an integrated graphics card that’s powerful enough for what you want it for. Laptops typically have weaker CPUs so overclocking a laptop will most likely not harm your CPU as this can lead to give it away for laptop repair services.

Overclocking a GPU can increase frame rates and provide a better overall gaming experience. If you know what you’re doing, overclocking your mobile GPU is possible to help with gameplay performance.

eGPUs

In general, laptops with discrete graphics have better screens than those with an integrated card because the GPU is directly responsible for the output of the monitor. Of course, this wouldn’t matter much if users can’t upgrade their laptop’s graphics card – but that’s where external GPUs come in. An external GPU (eGPU) essentially lets people attach a desktop graphics card to their MacBook or PC through Thunderbolt and use an external monitor with it (which makes more sense than trying to fit a giant GTX 1080 into your laptop).

With all that said: buying a laptop with stronger graphics is typically worth sacrificing battery life and/or size for quality visuals. Users should make sure they get the best picture quality possible; there are many factors at play such as brightness, contrast ratio, color accuracy etc. Luckily, monitors nowadays come equipped to provide users with stunning visual experiences.

If you’d like to upgrade the graphics in your laptop, eGPUs are probably the best solution. They’re easy to install and will bring much more power to your laptop than integrated GPUs could ever deliver!

egpu

Get a laptop with upgradeable graphic card

In recent years an increasing number of laptops have been released with upgradable graphics cards thanks to improvements in the manufacturing process and the introduction of new machine learning techniques which allow manufacturers to factor in power draw by adjusting voltages dynamically. This means that certain components such as GPUs are able to draw more current when under load, thereby increasing their performance but at the same time using more electricity. For example, MSI offers two overclocking options on some of its models- ‘Silent’ mode is the default setting and lowers power draw by capping the GPU at base clock speeds, while ‘overclocking mode’ enables extra performance but also increases power use; in our review of this laptop we measured an idle power draw of ~20W with the graphics card running at full speed, for example.

Modern machines usually don’t need more than an integrated graphics card (IGP) to handle everyday tasks such as web browsing, office applications and even modest video playback; if you’re looking to run 3D applications or play games then there are two main options available – CPUs with powerful onboard GPUs (e.g. Intel Iris Pro Graphics) or a dedicated graphics card which can fit into either a PCI-E x16 slot on the motherboard or a dedicated socket on the laptop logic board.

Whether or not its worth upgrading your current graphics card depends on how different your current card is from what is currently offered by Nvidia or AMD as well as your budget constraints.

Other factors to think about

Resources

The graphics card in a laptop takes up memory resources in much the same way as other components in the system. The memory is classified as shared or dedicated. Just like the main types of graphics cards, there are shared and dedicated graphic memories within laptops.

Power consumption

The power consumption is also an important design factor when it comes to batteries in laptops. Portable systems would not be portable if they needed mains electricity to power them up and were tethered by a cord connected to a wall plug adapter, so battery life plays an important role in what can be achieved from a laptop computer’s graphics capability.

Verdict

Considering the fact that we cannot change or upgrade the graphics card in a laptop, we have to ask ourselves the question – are gaming laptops really worth it? Our take on this: Get a custom built gaming desktop PC.