What Is A Discrete Graphics Card?

A discrete graphics card is a graphics card on a separate board that is installed in an independent slot on the motherboard

To begin with, let’s remember what a video card is? this is a device that converts a graphic image into a form suitable for further display on a computer screen.

In computers or laptops, a video card is necessarily used because, as you found out a little higher, it is necessary to display an image on the screen. But not all users know that there are two types of video cards – discrete and integrated. What does it mean?

The first question that arises when buying a laptop is the choice of an integrated or discrete graphics card. Therefore, today I will help you understand the aspects of each option and offer the best solutions for games, work, and at home.

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The discrete graphics card in laptops

A discrete graphics card is a graphics card on a separate board that is installed in an independent slot on the motherboard and purchased for additional funds, for example, if you assemble a computer yourself. It is an independent electronic board with a graphics processor, its own video memory, a power circuit, and a chipset.

Discrete in electronics means: “having separate electronic components,” such as separate resistors and inductors. Any discrete video card has its own memory + can get it from the RAM if necessary. An integrated video card does not have its own memory and uses RAM if necessary.

In short, the integrated one is much slower and cheaper, it has less power consumption, and the discrete one, on the contrary, is much faster and more expensive. The laptop heats up more with it and eats the battery with great appetite.

A discrete graphics card in a laptop can be implemented in two ways:

  • A removable stand-alone board connects to the laptop system via the motherboard MXM connector, which is a modification of PCI-Express for mobile computers.
  • A section of the motherboard with a graphics core, video memory, and other structural elements solder on it.

Each of these modifications of discrete video cards has its own cooling system.

Advantages of discrete graphics

  • It offers high performance up to the playback of modern AAA-class gaming content at maximum settings. For example, if you want to play some powerful game that just came out at maximum settings, then in the case of an integrated video card, this is unlikely to work. But with a discrete graphics card – please. True, the cost of such a video adapter easily crosses the mark of several hundreds of dollars, and this is not the limit.
  • The presence of its own video memory does not reduce the performance under load.
  • Own cooling system allows you to adjust the temperature under load or use the passive mode for everyday use.
  • If a discrete graphics card is made in the MXM format, it is easy to replace it in the event of a breakdown. However, only on an identical model, since the system imposes certain restrictions on the installation of more powerful and energy-intensive models.
  • Discrete graphics cards support multiple monitors. Integrated video adapters do not always support this solution.
  • Finally, you can use multiple discrete graphics cards at the same time within the same computer.


  • High noise level under load; distracts from the game or interferes with work.
  • Elevated operating temperatures.
  • The high cost of laptops with a discrete graphics card.

A discrete graphics card is equipped with powerful gaming laptops and devices designed to work with 3D models, photo and video content processing, and rendering.

Integrated graphics card

An integrated graphics card is a device that is built into the processor or chipset of the motherboard. The downside is that it is impossible to update (replace) such a video adapter – only together with a processor or motherboard.

Advantages of the built-in video card

  • Economical power consumption significantly increases the battery life of the laptop. It is essential for laptop owners who prefer to work not from the mains but from the battery.
  • Affordable prices. Buying a laptop with integrated graphics will cost several thousand less, which can be very important if you have a limited budget.
  • The integrated graphics card requires significantly less cooling. It means that the laptop will run quieter. And the risks of loss of stability due to overheating the graphics core are minimized.


  • Low performance compared to discrete graphics cards.
  • The lack of personal video memory means reserving the RAM resource for the needs of the GPU, which affects the overall power and speed of the laptop.
  • If the graphics core fails, replacement or repair is impossible, and you will have to completely change the central processor or even buy a new laptop.

Integrated video cards are equipped with ultrabooks and ordinary laptops for home and office purposes. Laptops for the home are designed to fulfill daily needs: browsing websites and social networks, playing multimedia, simple games. Work laptops are designed for office work with text files and spreadsheets.

Which graphics card is better?

The main point when choosing a laptop in terms of graphics is its performance, which is determined by the goals. And this question should be considered in advance. Unlike desktop PCs, laptops are not technically upgradeable. You can slightly increase the system power only by replacing the RAM and expanding the storage capacity.

If you are buying a laptop for modern gaming, which is especially true in the face of a shortage of graphics cards for desktop PCs, a discrete graphics card will be the only right decision. Also, laptops are equipped with a discrete graphics card for working with graphics, 3D models, and CAD design. Also, laptops with independent graphics allow you to prepare content for vlogs and streaming channels.

If finances allow, pay attention to the most powerful lines of Asus ROG and DELL Alienware gaming laptops. MSI offers good budget and mid-range gaming laptops for games with moderate requirements.

If you often work with photos, but at the same time portability and performance, take a closer look at lightweight and powerful ultrabooks with discrete graphics.

For surfing the net, communicating, and working with documents, pay attention to models with integrated graphics – laptops in the middle price segment manufactured by Acer and Asus.

If you are looking for a versatile device that you can take with you on a business trip or vacation or wear to work every day, then light and compact ultrabooks with an integrated graphics card will be the best choice.





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