Help Me Choose: Video Cards


Whether you’re watching DVDs, surfing the web or playing games on your laptop, the quality of your viewing experience is directly related to the performance of your video card. The video card, along with the computer display technology itself, determines image clarity, color brilliance and accuracy of motion that you experience on-screen.

Your system can offer three different types of graphics solutions:

  1. Integrated graphics
  2. Standard on-processor graphics
  3. Optional discrete graphics processing unit (GPU) cards
  • In the Video Card dropdown menu, if you choose "Intel," you'll be filtering your computer choices to those with integrated and/or on-processor graphics.
  • If you choose "NVIDIA" you'll be filtering for more powerful, high-performance computers designed for an enhanced multimedia experience.

Integrated graphics

A number of Dell laptops and Ultrabooks™ include graphics processors that are designed into the system motherboard. Integrated graphics allow PCs to be built without a separate graphics card, thereby reducing costs and battery power needs for customers that don't require high levels of graphics performance. Integrated graphics share system memory with the rest of the computer, which can impact the system performance when multitasking or during video-intensive activities, such as gaming or watching high-definition (HD) videos. To select integrated graphics, choose "Intel" in the Video Card dropdown menu.

On-processor graphics
This technology is integrated into the central processing unit (CPU) of all 2nd and 3rd Generation Intel® Core™ processors and AMD accelerated processing units (APUs). By choosing these processors for your computer, you gain the benefits of the on-processor graphics engine. These CPU and graphics technologies are smart choices for everyday computing and casual gaming.

Discrete graphics cards
If you play demanding video games, watch HD movies or use video-intensive applications on your laptop, you may want something a bit more powerful than integrated graphics or on-processor graphics. Discrete graphics processing units (GPUs) are separate, or "discrete," from the motherboard and are usually available as small boards, or "cards," that plug into an expansion slot on a laptop's motherboard. Unlike integrated graphics or on-processor graphics that must share system memory with all the other processing functions on your computer, a discrete GPU features dedicated memory of its own (generally, higher memory means higher performance). These GPUs, which often feature several gigabytes of memory, greatly accelerate graphics performance so you get more lifelike graphics. To select discrete GPU, choose "NVIDIA" in the Video Card dropdown menu.

Switchable graphics
Most of the newest NVIDIA discrete graphics card options, as well as AMD discrete GPUs, support switchable graphics technology to help you extend your battery power. If you're computer's CPU features on-processor graphics, switchable graphics can help avoid unnecessary energy drain by switching to the discrete GPU only when running graphically intensive workloads and automatically switching back to the on-processor graphics solution for less demanding applications.