A common theme in game development is that games will grow to depend more on the GPU or the CPU. Utilization typically follows specific video game genres like FPS, which requires more graphic processing on the GPU than the CPU, or strategy games, which often need a better CPU to run AI simultaneously.
Regardless of your game, all games have graphics requirements that can be as low as only requiring an integrated graphics card within a CPU (often called APUs by AMD) or as high as requiring a dedicated GPU. Games that rely heavily on the CPU are the easiest to run, while dedicated GPUs provide better visuals and detail at a marginally higher frame rate.
This guide covers what games require computer graphics cards and what to consider when getting one.
When a PC Needs a Graphics Card
A gaming PC will almost always need graphics cards for most mainstream games. Let's look at what configurations best benefit more graphics-driven games.
The CPU Doesn’t Have an Integrated GPU.
While iGPUs are in most AMD and some Intel chips, some designations do not have integrated graphics cards available and require a dedicated GPU or discrete graphics card to display. Among the two prominent manufacturers, AMD CPUs with no “G” variant on their naming scheme are incapable of onboard graphics, and Intel CPUs have an “F” in their designation.
You Play Graphically-Intense Games
Games considered graphically intense will rely primarily on the GPU for high frame rates and more detail for faster, pace, movement-oriented games. Games like Cyberpunk 2077, Grand Theft Auto V, and Battlefield 2042 require higher frame rates for a smoother experience than lower graphical-intensity games utilizing textures and shaders that free the workload on video memory or VRAM.
You Use Your PC as a Workstation
If you use CAD or editing software, like most workstations on the market, and only have integrated graphics, encounters with shutters and longer loads are expected. A PC with a dedicated graphics card and separate CPU will significantly improve CAD, rendering, and other projects.
You Use Two or More Monitors.
While integrated options can support up to two monitors on different connections, getting a gaming-oriented GPU can have upwards of 5 display connections for multiple monitors. Some specially built-display drivers drive up to 8 displays simultaneously for non-gaming purposes.
Integrated vs Dedicated Graphics
The performance expectations are the most significant difference between integrated and dedicated graphics systems. With separate power and cooling to draw from, a CPU and GPU operate more efficiently when separated.
Benefits of a Dedicated Graphics Cards
Here are some main benefits of having a dedicated or discrete GPU over integrated.
Improved PC Performance
Graphics cards use memory to store texture data and other information for the GPU (graphics processing unit) instead of integrated graphics that keep any necessary video information in 1-2GB of DRAM, significantly smaller than what modern graphics cards contain.
In addition, separate cooling solutions for the CPU and GPU help the airflow of any case on the consumer gaming market.
Higher Fidelity Graphics
With more video storage, the space for more texture detail allows for higher fidelity graphics without compromising FPS on most games. The more recently a graphics card is released, the more VRAM it will have on models due to GDDR (Graphics Double Data Rate) advancements.
Increased graphics quality allows for further render distances and more visual detail in every frame. According to the Steam Hardware report in November of 2023, graphics cards like the GTX 1060, GTX 1660, and RTX 3060 have been the market leaders for entry-level systems with performance that triumph over the previous generation of graphics cards that held upwards of 1-2GB for the average consumer.
Considerations of Installing a Standalone Graphics Card
When getting a graphics card, it's essential to consider the following when purchasing or prepping your system to receive one.
Can Your Power Supply Support a Dedicated GPU?
Finding the overhead needed in a gaming PC power supply is easy to calculate with sites like WhatPSU, which specialize in taking your CPU and GPU wattage and giving a rough estimation of the bare minimum needed to run a system with those selected components.
Taking the amount listed and adding 100-150W should give your PSU efficiency and power capacity to run all connected peripherals and hardware.
Can Your Rig Handle the Number of Monitors You Use?
Most gaming-oriented graphics cards will have anywhere from 2 to 5 display outputs with 2 to 3 different types of connections. Specialized display-oriented graphics cards are available from retailers but offer little to no gaming performance.
If multi-monitor gaming is what you are after, consider getting a high-end Nvidia GPU, like a 4080 or 4090, with a Nvidia G-sync monitor that can accommodate multiscreen rendering in the display settings.
Summary of if a Computer Needs a GPU
If you intend to spend significant time on a gaming PC, you will want a dedicated graphics card for the best performance. Depending on your CPU's cores, an extensive array of GPU models ranging from budget to enthusiast across multiple generations are available.
At Apex Gaming PCs, we have both Integrated and nonintegrated options available in our mainline of custom PCs. If you are looking for a cheaper previous-generation model sporting a GTX 1650 or GTX 1660, our refurbished PC builds are great entry-level gaming PCs. Whatever your graphic needs are, we hope to be of service at Apex!
Written By William Wilson