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Laptop Graphics Cards


Laptop graphics cards never perform up to the standard of their desktop counterparts. In spite of this, there are laptop graphics solutions which can still offer impressive performance even in the newest games. Cheaper laptop computers provide a basic integrated graphics solution which makes them inadequate for playing games. Regardless of your budget, you will generally need a laptop with a dedicated graphics system if you want to play any games. The following tips will prepare you for buying a new laptop within your budget and with the specifications that you are looking for.

Integrated versus Dedicated Graphics Systems
Almost all laptops that you can find for under $600 only provide integrated graphics. Integrated graphics chips share system memory instead of having their own dedicated graphics memory. While some of these chips are better than others, none of them are ideal for playing anything more than the least demanding of games. By contrast, dedicated graphics provides its own graphics memory which means that you will have more available RAM and far better graphics performance.
The cheapest laptops often come with an integrated Intel graphics chip. The higher-end ones usually come with integrated ATI chips which, if you have at least 2 GB of RAM, can be good enough for playing some older games or some of the least demanding newer ones.
For around $700, you should be able to find a laptop computer which has a low-end dedicated graphics card. Older laptop graphics systems such as the ATI Radeon HD 2600 or the GeForce 6800 GS are still far better than any integrated solution and they can still be found in some cheaper laptops. A laptop with such a graphics card can play most modern games, albeit only on low to medium settings. For a laptop whose graphics card compares to that of even just a mid-range desktop, you can expect to spend upwards of $1000.
Upgradeable Laptop Graphics

Upgrading a laptop graphics card is complicated. While upgrading a laptop with integrated graphics is impossible, many laptops with dedicated graphics cards are, in theory, upgradable. Most dedicated laptop graphics use the MXM standard. MXM stands for Mobile PCI-Express Module. This is the standard for dedicated mobile graphics.
Finding a replacement graphics card is the hardest part, since very few online retailers actually sell them. Fortunately, there are some specialist suppliers available or MXM graphics cards can sometimes be found on online auctions such as eBay. You will need to find something that is compatible with your computer, since there are several variations of the MXM interface as well.

Overclocking a Laptop Graphics Card
Some dedicated graphics solutions can be overclocked to provide a considerable boost in performance. Overclocking a laptop graphics card is somewhat riskier than overclocking a desktop graphics card, since heat is a greater concern. As with overclocking any components, the warranty will usually be void. You will also shorten the life of your hardware. If you do decide to overclock your laptop graphics card, it is a good idea to have an additional laptop cooler. You should also carefully monitor the temperature at all times. It is not uncommon for a laptop graphics card to run at around 80 degrees Celsius at stock speeds without any additional cooling.

 

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