The 10 Best Laptops With Dedicated Graphics Cards
This wiki has been updated 14 times since it was first published in December of 2018. Embedded GPUs certainly save space and energy, but when it comes to power, they can be severely lacking. If you're a gamer, designer, or anyone who needs to work with high-quality video, it's worth considering a laptop with a discrete graphics card. Here are some of the top clamshells with dedicated video processors, one of which should meet the needs of anyone, no matter their budget. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best laptops with dedicated graphics card on Amazon.
December 26, 2018:
While many large tasks call for massive, well-cooled desktop PCs, some of today's new laptops are upending that landscape, with some of the most compact and efficient technology ever released to consumers. The MSI Stealth is an excellent balance of price and performance, while their Titan is about as strong as they get. Acer's Predator Helios line is an exercise in well-performing computers on a relatively small budget, and the 500 model includes the very interesting Vega 56 chipset, which is probably what inspired Nvidia to release its respected 1070 Ti update. Creative professionals should consider a MacBook Pro, the less expensive of which has passable Radeon 560X graphics, while the more costly one has the new and venerated Vega 20 processor. But, do remember that Macs are a beast all of their own; only a very small range of apps and games are published for the platform, in contrast with Windows PCs. The Razer is an easy one to carry around, and despite its portability, it's awfully powerful. The ROG Zephyrus is another super-slim model. For all-purpose use, the HP Spectre is a great choice, as it's one of the few convertible 2-in-1s with a discrete GPU. In the upcoming year, be on the lookout for Nvidia's new RTX line to jump into the mobile GPU fray, and also be ready to take out a new mortgage if you really want to buy one.
Are Dedicated Graphics Cards Superior?
A dedicated card has its own RAM, so it won’t slow down the non-graphical processes that your computer is engaged in, and it can make use of a lot more RAM as it needs it.
If you’re in the market for a new laptop, you’ve probably seen models with two types of graphics cards advertised: integrated and dedicated, sometimes also called discreet. Understanding the differences between these can help you understand why you probably want a model with a dedicated card, though there are still some times when an integrated unit is more appropriate.
The primary difference between integrated and dedicated graphics cards lies in how they utilize RAM. An integrated card doesn’t have any RAM of its own, so it relies on the laptop’s RAM for its operations. It might seem that this could work rather well if your computer has enough RAM to start with, but an integrated card can only use a small percentage of a computer’s RAM at any given moment, and that cap is far below the capabilities offered by dedicated cards. A dedicated card has its own RAM, so it won’t slow down the non-graphical processes that your computer is engaged in, and it can make use of a lot more RAM as it needs it.
From a heat and battery life perspective, integrated cards are actually superior, as they consume less power and run cooler, so your laptop is less likely to make you miserable on a hot day, and it can last longer on a single charge. On the flip side, however, you sacrifice a tremendous amount of graphic processing, consigning yourself to 2-D gaming, word processing, and watching videos.
Dedicated graphics cards are going to allow you to perform more complicated graphical tasks associated with things like graphic design, video editing, and gaming. As such, these laptops are generally targeted toward a more professional demographic, boasting faster CPUs, more RAM, and higher-resolution displays than you’ll often find on models with integrated graphics cards. As a result, laptops with dedicated cards are often significantly more expensive than their integrated counterparts, which might be an important thing for you to consider.
Choosing The Right Laptop For Your Needs
Understanding what exactly you need from your laptop will go a long way toward ensuring that you purchase the right model, as each will offer a particular set of features and capabilities that could be deal breakers for some users, and mean next to nothing to you. For example, many laptops with dedicated graphics cards need physically larger batteries to compensate for the tremendous amount of power that these cards require to run. This can make them bigger, heavier, and less portable, especially if you’re using them for applications that are best served by as big a screen as possible.
This could get us into a debate between Macs and PCs here, but we’ll let the loyalists be loyalists and the rest of us can look at the specs.
If you’re like me, and you edit video on a regular basis, you’ll undeniably want a model with a big screen and a lot of power. But like many video editors, I don’t often take my work on the road, as I’ve curated a space with particular lighting and sound to give me an edge and some consistency. I still use a laptop with a dedicated graphics card for the traveling convenience it offers when I need it, but it lives most of its life in one place. So, for me, something like battery life is almost meaningless, as the computer is plugged in all day for about 300 days each year.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a gaming laptop or a graphics design machine you can take anywhere with you (including planes and buses where space is at a premium), you’ll still probably want a big screen, but you’re also going to care rather deeply about battery life and heat in ways that others don’t need to consider.
When you know your needs, you can make a more informed decision. But within that point it is important to speak directly to the graphics cards themselves, to ensure yours will serve your purposes most effectively. And for the most part you’re going to want to find a laptop that offers a card with the most RAM and the best speeds within your budget. Some brands will force you to use the cards they come with, while others are upgradable. This could get us into a debate between Macs and PCs here, but we’ll let the loyalists be loyalists and the rest of us can look at the specs.
Additional Features To Consider
Beyond the graphics cards themselves, and beyond the obvious considerations like battery life and screen size, there are some more minor features you can look to that can help you decide if you’re stuck between two or three desirable models. One of these on its own likely wouldn’t be a deal breaker, but it can be a deal maker.
One of the most important things people often don’t consider when buying a laptop is its weight.
One of the most important things people often don’t consider when buying a laptop is its weight. These are machines that are designed to be portable, after all, and if you need a hitch trailer to lug your computer from one place to the next, then it probably isn’t going to be as useful as you’d like.
The keyboard is another key feature people often don’t spend enough time scrutinizing. A backlit keyboard is pretty much standard among modern laptops, but not all keyboards are created equal. Gamers are going to want to look for RGB keyboards that can support custom layouts for a variety of games and gaming styles. And if you can get in front of the model you’re considering and actually type up 1000 words on it, you can get a sense of how the keyboard feels and performs. Keep an eye out for dedicated number pads, as well, as these can be lifesavers for certain programs or professions, and they aren’t anywhere near as common as they used to be.
Last, but certainly not least, is the bezel. This is an especially important feature for gamers and video editors, as it helps to give you that immersive feeling you get when confronted with a much larger screen. As screens get better, bezels tend to get slimmer, but that lack of a frame can also make the screens more vulnerable to damage, so make sure to balance this feature against how rough you tend to be with your gear.
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