If you're in the market for a new computer, you may notice that two broad types of video cards exist. Some computer specification documents list integrated graphics as an installed option, while others advertise a separate dedicated card. Differentiating between the two is sometimes confusing, but it is important to know the differences to understand which technology is right for you.
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Whereas integrated graphics chips are built in to the motherboard, you can add and remove dedicated graphics cards to your computer at will.
Motherboards have three types of slots for connecting video cards. Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) slots are the oldest and most common, but they are too slow for today's fast video cards. PCI slots are easy to identify because of their white colour.
Most motherboards have a considerably faster PCI-Express slot intended specifically for high-end video cards. Look for this slot above the PCI slots. It has a greater length and is typically a different colour than the PCI slots. If your computer is older, you may have an Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) slot instead of PCI-Express. AGP is much faster than PCI, but the standard is no longer widely supported.
Integrated cards use the computer's processor and main memory, so they are much cheaper to produce. Motherboards with integrated graphics typically cost the same as motherboards without integrated chips.
Dedicated cards are more expensive because they have their own processor and memory. Buy a computer with integrated graphics if you are on a budget.
Integrated graphics cards are powerful enough for everyday tasks, but the processors and memory on dedicated cards allow them to reach much higher speeds. Use a dedicated card if you play PC games or edit video.
Overall system performance is also better with a dedicated graphics card. Integrated cards offload tasks to the main processor and RAM, so they take resources away from other applications. It may be worthwhile to install a dedicated card simply because of this drawback.
Availability and Compatibility
Integrated graphics are common on both laptop and desktop computers, but much more so on laptops because they use less power and take up less space. Although some laptops do have dedicated cards, many support integrated graphics only. Desktop users can usually install a dedicated graphics card with no problem.
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