Integrated vs dedicated graphics card: features, differences and benefits

We don’t have to explain that graphics cards play a big role for the spo-comm Mini-PCs. Especially in the digital signage field they are significantly responsible whether applications can be realized or not. What exactly are the differences between dedicated and integrated graphics card? And why are dedicated ones better? Find the answers in this article.

Integrated graphics cards (IGP)

A graphics processing unit – or shortly GPU – is integrated when it is a part of the chipset on the motherboard or on the same die with the CPU. The first option is called an onboard graphics card.

Since an integrated graphics card has no own memory, it utilizes – just like all the other programs – a part of the system’s RAM. How high the amount of this part is, can be controlled via the BIOS or dynamically by the system itself.

Our Mini-PCs with an Intel CPU are equipped with the integrated graphics card Intel GMA or the successor Intel HD Graphics.

Pros and cons of an IGP

Because an integrated GPU has no own video RAM it needs just a small amount of space. Combined with the feature of the low power consumption it is perfectly made for the use in small devices such as notebooks or tablets. They also cost less because no separate fan is needed. Such graphics cards can be used for any common office program or the use in the industrial field. Due to the low clock rate and the fact that it shares the RAM with every other application, an IGP has a substantially lower performance than a dedicated graphics card.

Dedicated graphics cards

In contrast to an onboard-graphics card, a dedicated graphics card holds an own video memory, or short VRAM. It is connected to the mainboard via a PCI-, PCIe- or an AGP-port.

At the moment we have four Mini-PCs in our product portfolio with a dedicated graphics card. The spo-book KUMO IV and the spo-book RUGGED GTX 1050 Ti are equipped with an Nvidia GeForce graphics card. The two other ones are the spo-book QUADRO P1000 – which is equipped with the namesake graphics card – and the spo-book NOVA Q170 that can be stocked up with an Nvidia Quadro P2000.

Pros and cons of a dedicated graphics card

The biggest advantage of a dedicated graphics card is that is has an own VRAM. That’s why the RAM can be relieved and used for other programs. Another pro is that these peripheral devices are clocked way faster and thus are more performant. Especially for the use in workstations or the demanding digital signage field, where many monitors are controlled simultaneously or programs like Adobe Photoshop or CAD for 3D modeling are used, a dedicated graphics card is absolutely needed. The enormous performance is accompanied by a high power consumption and heat development. That’s why a separate fan is needed, ergo much more space than with an IGP is occupied.

It can be summarized that a dedicated graphics card is not necessarily needed for standard applications as mentioned above. But for demanding implementations or multi-monitor solutions in the digital signage field they are very relevant.

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