A Guide to Discrete Graphics & GPUs
What Are Discrete Graphics
Discrete Graphics is your Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) or graphics card. It's a separate PC component from your CPU with its own memory dedicated solely to processing graphics.
Discrete graphics can also be referred to as a Graphics Processing unit or GPU. There are two main companies that design and manufacture discrete graphic hardware, those being NVIDIA and AMD. Choosing to go with Discrete Graphics Hardware provides you many advantages over integrated graphics in both the short and long term.
Discrete GPU vs. Integrated Graphics
A question that arises often in the PC community is “what is the difference between discrete graphics vs. Integrated Graphics cards”?
To answer this question it’s important to understand what makes discrete graphics different from integrated graphics.
Integrated graphics are graphics hardware built into the CPU (central processing unit). Having graphics hardware as part of the CPU can be advantageous for small lightweight machines like laptops and netbooks, but when it comes to running graphically intensive programs or games, the integrated graphics fall short, delivering a poor experience. This is where discrete graphics come into place, with dedicated components engineered for the specific purpose of encoding & decoding graphics.
Advantages of Discrete Graphics Cards and Dedicated VRAM
With Discrete Graphics being a separate component designed to handle its own task, they provide you with many advantages when it comes to gaming and other graphics intensive tasks.
The main advantage of using discrete graphics is the additional graphics processing power you add to your computer. While there are many GPUs to choose from on the market most of them offer you far superior performance than your systems integrated graphics. Discrete graphics cards drastically improve gameplay quality as they are responsible for processing the image to display on screen, resulting in higher frames per second (FPS) and resolution over integrated graphics.
Another reason discrete graphics are able to outperform integrated graphics is due to the dedicated VRAM on board of the GPU. This VRAM (Video Random Access Memory) allows the GPU to load more data than the integrated memory, resulting in faster performance.
While integrated graphics are built into the CPU and can't switch out for newer hardware, discrete graphics have the advantage of being a modular hardware component that you can remove and replace with newer hardware in the future. This upgradability leads to a longer PC lifespan as you can choose to upgrade the discrete graphics when newer & faster components become available without having to replace the entire PC.
Downsides of Discrete Graphics Cards
The price of Discrete Graphics cards varies widely, with some of the highest end GPUs going for $1,500+ . While the top of the line discrete graphics aren't always necessary, a quality price range would be between $300-$700 for enjoyable gameplay. Even at this price point, discrete graphics cards contribute to the reasons why gaming PCs cost so much. Obviously the games you play also determine how much graphics power you need, so take that into consideration when deciding on a discrete graphics card.
Another downside to using a discrete graphics card is the additional energy draw. Due to the design of discrete graphics they do require a fair amount of additional energy from your PSU (power supply unit). It is important to factor in how much additional power your PC will need to run your discrete graphics chip, in some instances you may want to upgrade your PSU to ensure you aren't overloading your system which could lead to system failure or damage.
Are Discrete Graphics cards good for gaming?
Discrete Graphics are going to be your best option for gaming graphics because the dedicated hardware is optimized for the specific purpose of graphic processing. With dedicated VRAM increasing the amount of potential loaded graphics data, discrete graphics give you a vast improvement over integrated graphics when it comes to running games. In addition, many modern discrete graphics cards offer new technologies (Nvidia DLSS) to upscale your game image to make for a smoother, more enjoyable experience.
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