Whether you’ve purchased a computer, console or even a smartphone, you’ve likely come across the term ‘GPU’, but what is a GPU?
We’ve compiled this guide to explain all of the basics about a GPU and why it’s a very important consideration when looking for the best laptop or best gaming laptop. Here’s everything you need to know:
What is a GPU?
A GPU (graphics processing unit) is a component that’s responsible for creating images for your computer. Without any kind of GPU installed in your PC, it would even be incapable of rendering your Windows home screen.
There are two kinds of GPUs. The first is an iGPU (Integrated Graphics Processing Unit) which is a GPU that’s built inside a processor. These generally aren’t very powerful, and are designed for basic rendering tasks rather than for the likes of gaming and 3D animation. That said, AMD and Intel have been improving their iGPUs in recent years to boost the performance for demanding workloads.
If you’re buying a desktop processor without a graphics card, then it’s worth making sure it actually features an integrated processor, as this isn’t always the case.
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The second type is a dGPU (Discrete Graphics Processing Unit). This is found in a graphics card for desktop systems, or as a dedicated chip in high-end laptops. The discrete GPU is usually substantially more powerful than an iGPU, specialising at rendering advanced graphics for the likes of gaming and content creation.
If you want a gaming PC, then a powerful dGPU is essential. They can also support technology such as ray tracing, which enables advanced lighting and shadow effects for extra realism. AMD and Nvidia are currently the main providers of dGPUs, but Intel has also released its own Xe Max GPU (found inside the Acer Swift 3X) and plans to launch more in the future.
There is a catch to discrete GPUs however, as they require a dedicated cooling system to maximise performance and prevent it from overheating. This unfortunately means gaming laptops are usually far heavier than a standard laptop with just an iGPU. Discrete GPUs also have a high power consumption, resulting in a significantly shorter battery life.
Discrete GPUs also boost the cost of a laptop, while high-end desktop GPUs are usually the most expensive component when building a PC – the absolute cheapest graphics card in Nvidia’s latest 30-Series range is £299/$329. Because of this, a discrete GPU is only really recommended if you need it for the likes of gaming, content creation or other intense workloads.
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