Better graphics level up the digital experience whether it’s for a better gaming performance or video editing. And you’re here because you want an upgrade for your laptop – though you’re not sure how and where to start.
Well then, I’ll tell you all there is to know about upgrading your laptop’s graphics card – honestly.
The Quick Answer: Just Buy A New Laptop
I’m sure this isn’t the answer you wanted to hear. Buying a new gaming laptop – or any new laptop for that matter – is expensive.
But to tell you right off the bat, graphics cards are also expensive. It makes more sense to buy a new laptop with that money. At least your purchase is an entirely new device and not just for one graphics card processor.
If you don’t mind the splurge, or if you prefer to stick to your current gaming laptops, the answer to can I upgrade my laptop graphics card? is still a yes.
As long as your laptop doesn’t have a specifically dedicated GPU from NVIDIA or AMD, you have to option to use an external graphics card or an external GPU. You can simply plug it into a compatible USB port and that’s it.
Here’s a sample for your reference:
For integrated graphics cards, you can open up your laptop and replace the graphics card on the motherboard. The question you need to answer is, is the hassle worth it? That’s entirely up to you.
But as per the experts, just buy a new one!
How to Upgrade a Laptop Graphics Card
I know I said that it’s not recommended to change graphics cards.
But the fact that you took time to look for an article like this probably means you prefer or even need to change it than buying an entirely new device.
So here’s a section for your GPU options.
Option 1: External GPUs or External Graphics Card
The easiest to do this is to buy an external graphics processing unit (GPU) and connect it to your gaming laptop.
This way, you won’t have to open up your laptops and risk damaging delicate parts inside. We’ve already touched on external GPUs in the section above, but here’s to explain it further.
Think of it as the hard drive or CPU BUT for graphics cards. You only need a compatible port and wire and you’re good to go. The usual connection of this is a Thunderbolt 3.
It’s important to note, though, that external GPUs are only recommended for laptops without dedicated graphics cards.
The thing is, most laptops have a dedicated GPU – most usual ones being by NVIDIA and AMD.
As the term goes, it’s a dedicated or a discrete graphics card. This means it’s best to use the dedicated or graphics card and to not steer away from the compatible card.
The good news is there are select laptops (like our Razer example above) that can be compatible with NVIDIA and AMD – so there’s no problem.
PROs of an External GPU
Here are some of the external GPU benefits:
- No need to open up your laptop or disintegrate the motherboard
- Easy to install
- A quick fix to achieve desktop version quality graphics
CONs of an External GPU
Here are some disadvantages to look out for:
- Quality degrades overtime (not worth the expense)
Option 2: Integrated GPU Card or Integrated Graphics Card
Keep in mind this next option is not recommended, but it’s possible. If you’re confident that you can perform your GPU upgrade on your own, or if you’re techy with computers, then go ahead.
As you can see in this sample photo, it looks complicated! That’s because you’d have to open up your laptop (as in removing the screws and all) and change the processor.
If you’re not careful, you can damage your motherboard instead of just changing your laptop video card or graphics card.
How to Upgrade Integrated GPU
Upgrading means changing your integrated graphics card to dedicated. Think of it as swapping your built-in or integrated graphics card to a new one.
Luckily for you, there is now an upgrade kit being sold where you get everything you need.
Here are the general steps for your quick reference:
- Purchase a compatible discrete graphics card and an upgrade kit.
- Uninstall your laptop GPU via BIOS (it’s an installed firmware on your computer) then shut down the power supply.
- Physically open up your laptop (yes, the hardware)
- Use a grounding strap to avoid static and being electrocuted.
- Remove heat pipes and heat sinks carefully (install new heat pipes if deemed necessary).
- Along with the heat pipes, also remove the two (2) hex-shaped nuts you see.
- Apply the thermal paste for heat dissipation.
- Remove the old GPU and install the new GPU.
- Re-apply thermal paste.
- Close the laptop and screws.
- Reboot the computer.
Always be careful and unplug it from the power supply before opening it up. The heat pipe can be dangerous if not handled properly.
You can also watch these tutorials for the software settings you need to tweak in switching from integrated laptop GPUs to dedicated.
- How To Switch From Integrated GPU To Dedicated GPU [ AMD / NVIDIA ] Best Method – Desktops / Laptops by TuF Gaming
- How to Change From Integrated Graphics to Dedicated Graphics Card – New Additional Step! by GMODISM
- How to enable and/ or switch to the dedicated Nvidia GPU in a laptop by FlashFrags
- How to switch from Intel HD graphics to dedicated Nvidia graphics card by GMODISM
As you can see, they’re mostly changing from Intel graphics cards to NVIDIA. This will give you an idea of what most gaming laptops or gaming PCs use for their graphics cards.
PROs of Upgrading Integrated GPU
Here are the PROs of changing your laptop GPU entirely:
- It won’t degrade through time – it’s like you went to upgrade a laptop
- Probability of a better performance since it’s installed
CONs of Integrated GPUs
These are the disadvantages:
- Dangerous to do (especially if you’re not a professional)
- Not worth the time, money, and hassle
- You may end up damaging your laptops for good
Upgrading Laptop GPU: Clarifying Questions [FAQs] [Q&A]
If this is your first time encountering the terms, it might get confusing. So I’ll address them in this section.
Integrated vs. Dedicated GPU
They are similarly a type of graphics card, but they have certain differences:
Here are the distinctions to remember:
- It uses the system CPU or RAM. It doesn’t have its own.
- Cheaper than dedicated ones.
- You’ll need more RAM on the system level.
- Good for 2D and light gaming, light work
These are the differences to note:
- Have a separate CPU (a.k.a. the GPU) and RAM.
- Uses more power.
- For high-end gaming performance, heavy editing and graphics work.
- Most GPUs are by NVIDIA, AMD (best graphics cards brands)
- A lot more expensive!
From these comparisons, you’ll easily see why people want to upgrade from an integrated graphics card to an external dedicated one.
The performance is highly different, so a GPU upgrade is a must for some of us.
What’s a Heat Pipe?
In simpler terms, heat pipes are heat-transfer devices that ease the heat of laptops (or any electronic device) so they won’t, well, overheat.
There are liquids in these things, that’s why I mentioned being extra cautious in removing them. Getting electrocuted is a serious risk.
What are NVIDIA and AMD?
I’ve mentioned NVIDIA and AMD multiple times above because they are the leading brands when it comes to computers and in the gaming arena.
If you play games, these are surely familiar to you.
Why Do Experts/Professionals Discourage the Upgrade to a new GPU?
Because it’s not worth it.
Though I gave you the steps for cracking your laptop open to install it, I’m still not encouraging you to do so especially if you’re not a professional tech person.
But don’t be dismayed, there are plenty of ways to upgrade your laptop performance if you want a stronger power that’s comparable to that of a built desktop – such as an external GPU or a faster CPU.
Do Mobile Phones Also Have GPUs?
Your phones have graphics too, so it means they’re running on mobile GPUs. And if you’re looking to upgrade like that of laptops, no you can’t. The best you can do is to change phones.
For additional trivia, the best mobile GPU for Apple is A13 Binoic and for Android, Adreno 64o.
So, Should I Upgrade My Laptop Graphics Card? [TL;DR]
If you need to, yes! If you want better performance, better graphics, and additional power, you should.
Don’t get us wrong – I’m not discouraging you from changing your GPU or graphics card. What I’m discouraging is the method of opening up your laptops to change the GPU hardware. I think it’s not smart and resourceful to do so.
You can upgrade your laptops safely by:
- Using an external graphics card processor compatible with your laptops
- Buying a new (or newer) laptop
- Changing from integrated to dedicated processors through a software upgrade (see Youtube tutorials above)
Is It Better to Buy a New Device Instead?
Professionals will tell you yes, it’s smarter to just spend the money on a laptop that’s entirely new instead. Some would even say to just invest in building a desktop if your concern is better performance.
Though buying a new GPU for your laptop can be cheaper at one glance, it’s not the case if you consider the long-term quality. External GPUs degrade in quality over time, so it’s not worth it.
You might also see others suggesting you open up your laptop or desktop hardware and changing the card piece yourself. I discourage this for you and your laptops’ safety.
If you really must, it’s best to bring your laptop to an actual technician or expert who knows what they’re knowing.
Improving your laptops’ performance to be similar to a desktop is an exciting upgrade – I agree!
But I’m here, to be honest with you and suggest that you think twice. Although you can, there are better ways to upgrade the laptop performance that gives you a good bang for your buck.
Good luck and happy gaming!