Which Video Card is Best For a Laptop?

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When choosing a laptop, many people wonder about graphics performance. Which video card is better? The functionality of the laptop itself depends on its performance. The Consumer Websie will explain the differences between the graphics cards used in mobile PCs

The video card in a laptop, as in a desktop PC, is responsible for processing graphics and displaying images on the screen. This is not only the calculation of graphics output and acceleration of rasterization and texturing of triangles, but also the implementation of non-graphical calculations, which means a serious help in data processing for the central processor and improving the performance of the system as a whole. The more powerful the video card in your laptop, the more tasks you can solve on it: photo editing, video editing, 3D modeling, and even the most complex mathematical calculations. We will introduce you to the main types of video cards and tell you how to choose the most optimal one for your laptop.

Integrated or discrete: which is better?

The term “integrated” means a video core that is part of the processor installed in the laptop. This solution is very convenient for both the laptop manufacturer and users. This provides a centralized cooling system for the CPU and GPU, compact size, no heavy heating and minimal energy consumption, which means a good working time. The user gets a relatively versatile laptop with acceptable performance for little money. The disadvantage of this choice is that the graphics chip borrows part of the laptop’s RAM as video memory.

Which Video Card is Best For a Laptop?|The Consumer Reports

Almost all modern laptops come with Intel or AMD processors, and each processor is equipped with integrated graphics of its own design.

One of the most optimal options for a laptop with integrated graphics, in our opinion, can be called HP 15-bs111ur (2PP31EA), which has an 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, an Intel HD Graphics 620 video core, 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD and 128 GB SSD. There is also its analog — Lenovo Ideapad 530s.The term “discrete” means that a non-removable platform with a graphics chip from a third-party manufacturer (AMD or NVIDIA) is installed on the laptop’s motherboard. You won’t be able to replace or upgrade it. Therefore, when buying a laptop with a discrete graphics card from a particular manufacturer, you also choose a kind of” graphic religion ” of the brand.

Each manufacturer has its own technologies and developments in the field of graphics processing and computational acceleration, including for displaying images on multi-monitor systems. In terms of performance, the chips are roughly comparable, but the latest latest AMD models show some advantage over NVIDIA, but mostly in the top segment. In the middle price range, the priority of choice should be given to video cards of the green brand.

A fairly powerful workhorse is the HP PAVILION 17-ab316ur laptop, which is equipped with an average Intel Core i5 7300HQ 2500 MHz processor, a 17-inch Full HD screen for convenient graphics and games, and a discrete NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti video card. Also worth noting are 8 GB of RAM, a 1 TB hard drive, and Windows 10 Home. In general, a complete set for work and hobbies.

Types of integrated graphics cards for laptops

Modern laptops are already equipped with 8th-generation Intel processors, which use very powerful, but already proven 630-series graphics chips. But if the 7th generation processors used the Intel HD Graphics 630 graphics core, then the latest release added the letter U and the graphics card became known as Intel UHD Graphics 630. In it, the manufacturer increased the number of cores by 2 pcs, the L3 cache by about 4 MB (depending on the type of processor Core i7, i5, i3) and slightly increased the frequency of memory operation. New features have also been added, such as 3D facial scanning, which will be more useful in the corporate segment than for private users. In terms of performance, the new video core is not much higher than the 7th generation. So, if you are offered a laptop with Intel of the previous release and inexpensive, do not neglect this chance.

7th generation Intel video chips (Kaby Lake)

NameFrequency, base/max. (MHz)Maximum amount of memory (Gb)Memory sizeNumber of universal processors
HD Graphics 630300/11506464/12824
HD Graphics 620300/10503264/12824
HD Graphics 615300/10501664/12824
HD Graphics 610300/10506464/12824

As you can see from the table, the most powerful integrated graphics cards are HD Graphics 630 and 610.

Let’s touch on another integrated graphics chip — Intel Iris Plus Graphics. This is a more advanced video core, and its performance is very close to that of discrete modules. They use twice the number of execution cores compared to HD Graphics and double the amount of eDRAM cache. This provides a significant increase in power, comparable to solutions such as the NVIDIA GeForce 930M.

Which Video Card is Best For a Laptop?|The Consumer Reports
The Dell XPS 13 9370 ultrabook uses an integrated Iris Graphics 640 graphics card

These graphics chips are very rarely used in laptops, and they can be found, perhaps, only in Apple products, for example, the MacBook Pro 13 (2017).

Types of discrete graphics cards for laptops

A laptop with a discrete graphics card costs more and is positioned much higher in the performance rating. After all, a separate video card adds several dozen more computing cores to the system, which the laptop can use to speed up the output of a Web page in the browser, and for multi-threaded rendering of complex raster and 3D graphics. 

On the market, you can easily find both relatively budget models with video cards of the previous generation. The most popular laptops are those with NVIDIA graphics chips, because they are better able to handle three-dimensional graphics not only in games, but also in CAD systems. It is worth considering this if you are engaged in design and modeling. Also, new developments of the company allow you to significantly speed up video editing, because specialized software companies are eager to integrate NVIDIA CUDA technologies into their products. AMD also has its own tricks up its sleeve, but their achievements are not so popular with software manufacturers.

Which Video Card is Best For a Laptop?|The Consumer Reports
Acer Aspire 7 A717-71G-58RK laptop is equipped with a very powerful discrete NVIDIA GeForce GTX 106 graphics card, as well as integrated Intel HD Graphics 630 graphics

Currently on the market there are laptops with video cards of the previous 9 and new 10 generations of NVIDIA and devices equipped with AMD R-series (2-7), Vega, RX and RX Vega video cards. The following combinations are found: processor + video card:

  • AMD + Radeon
  • Intel + Radeon
  • Intel + NVIDIA

The first two are the most inexpensive solutions for everyday tasks. The latter is often found in high-performance laptops.

NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards can be easily distinguished by their model number. Each video card in this line has a prefix ” GT ” or “GTX”. The latter is a more powerful video card, capable of processing 2-4 times more information in one clock cycle than its ” GT ” counterparts.

Which video card should I choose: 980 or 1070?

As tests show, graphics based on the NVIDIA GeForce 980 in terms of performance is approximately equal to 1070. Therefore, if the first one is offered to you cheaper than the second, stop at it. Although, it is worth noting that the second one is more energy efficient and saves the laptop battery better.

Which Video Card is Best For a Laptop?|The Consumer Reports
Acer Predator Helios 500

The example with these graphics cards for laptops is not at all random and is related to the price of the devices themselves. The GeForce 980 variant is very difficult to find now, and as an example, let’s call the Acer Predator GX-791-747Q . 

Laptop configurations and their application

How do I choose the right laptop configuration with the best graphics card? First, you need to decide on the tasks that you plan to solve on the laptop. If this is an office suite, then a laptop with a 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 graphics or a more advanced 8th-generation laptop with integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 graphics will be enough for you.

Laptops with a processor and graphics from AMD will also cost about the same. The most powerful and productive laptops with chips from this manufacturer are devices with Vega and RX graphics. They should also be considered as game options.

As an entry-level gaming laptop, the configuration of a bundle of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 4 GB video card and Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor is quite suitable.

A more serious machine for games and graphics can be considered a pair with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 video card and a powerful Core i7-7700HQ processor. It will allow you to play at high and even ultra-high settings in modern games. In 3DMark11, this bundle gives out more than 22810 points.

For clarity, we present the results of performance measurements of various combinations of video card + processor. But it is worth noting that much depends on the manufacturer of the laptop and on the type of RAM used in the video card. Below you can evaluate the power rating of video cards for laptops 2018-2019 with a table.

Laptop configurations with 3DMark 11 benchmark results

Video card + processor3DMark (1280×720 Cloud Gate)3Dmark11 (1280×720)
NVIDIA GeForce GT 930MX 2 GB/ Intel Core i7-7500U91222092
NVIDIA GeForce GT 940M 2 GB, Intel Core i5-6200U60982568
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M 2 GB, Intel Core i5-6200U89064083
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4 GB/ Intel Core i7-6700HQ170945533
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 4 GB/ Intel Core i5-7300HQ147588201
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M 3 GB/ Intel Core i7-6700HQ204089421
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 4GB/ Intel Core i7-6700HQ2286913581
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3 GB/ Intel Core i7-7700HQ2597914732
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8 GB/ Intel Core i7-7700HQ2667222810
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8 GB/ Intel Core i7-7820HK3171128675
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 2хSLI/ Intel Core i7-6820HK3169645279
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 2хSLI/ Intel Core i7-6820HK
(1920×1080 Fire Strike Graphics)
3922150983

Video card, video memory, and GDDR5

Currently, you can find video cards that use two types of video memory, GDDR3 and GDDR5. The first type of performance, in fact, is similar to all the usual DDR3 RAM. But the second type is much more productive. Making a choice between two video cards, the availability of GDDR5 memory is a significant plus. For example, in the Radeon R7 350 video card, the manufacturer can use both GDDR3 and GDDR5 memory, as a result of which its cost in the first case is slightly lower, but the performance is significantly inferior to the GDDR5 variant. AMD’s RX series graphics cards only use GDDR5 memory chips.

As a result:

When choosing a video card as part of a laptop, you should focus on two things: your goals and your budget. If the latter is not too large, then we should stop at the integrated solution from Intel — UHD Graphics is a very productive video card, and it is very good to work on 3D graphics systems, including SOLIDWORKS — we have tested this in practice.

If the goals justify the means, then choose a laptop with a discrete graphics card, preferably GeForce 1060 and higher. And for avid gamblers, there is only one way — 1070 or higher, how much is not a pity. Although, in our opinion, in the latter case, you should think carefully — is the inflated FPS and a slightly better picture on the screen worth these extra $ ?

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