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Can a Laptop Have Two Graphics Cards? (Explained for Beginners)

Deciding which laptop is for you is not an easy task and a bad decision can lead to frustration because laptops don’t have the same upgradeability as desktops have.

There are many laptops configurations on the market and on some of them you will find two specifications for the graphics card, so you may be wondering why?

Laptops can have just one graphics card (integrated) or they can have both integrated and dedicated graphics cards. The dedicated graphics card will be activated by the driver only when greater graphical processing power is needed, otherwise, the integrated card will be used.

In this article, I will discuss why you need 2 GPUs, how to determine if your laptop has two cards, and how you switch between the 2 cards, so keep reading!

Why Does My Laptop Have 2 GPUs?

Laptop

As a general rule laptops have 2 GPUs to be able to handle the graphical rendering power needed to run games, CAD, and video rendering applications and still have increased battery life when these applications aren’t used, so you have a graphics card for every use scenario.

All Intel processors come with an integrated GPU, so the graphics card is part of the processor silicon, this means that it is very efficient with power demands and can have its clock speed reduced, it is less than 1W in idle mode and 8–10W at full power.

A high-end dedicated GPU will need 5–10W in idle mode, so if you don’t have an integrated card your battery life will be drastically reduced, with the idle power demand of a dedicated GPU you will have less than 4 hours of battery life for a normal laptop.

So you have an integrated graphics card that will handle basic tasks like surfing the internet, whacking Youtube and movies, listening to music, reading books, etc., and a more powerful card that will be switched on when you are gaming, working in CAD applications, are doing video editing or other tasks that demand more graphical rendering power.

You don’t have to worry about how to switch between the two graphics cards, the switch will be performed by your drivers automatically so you enjoy the best performance that your card has to offer.

How Can I Determine If My Laptop Has 2 Graphics Cards?

All Intel processors have a graphics card as part of the processor silicon, so if you have a laptop with an Intel processor and an NVIDIA or AMD graphics card then most surely have 2 graphics cards, one integrated into the processor and the second one is the dedicated NVIDIA or AMD one.

This is the easiest way to determine if your laptop has two graphics cards, but you can also find the specifications of your laptop online and check if you have specifications for 2 cards.

One more way is to open NVIDIA Control Panel (right-click on the desktop and you will find it in the menu) and under 3DSettings>Manage 3D Settings if you have two graphics cards you will have the option to select the High-performance NVIDIA processor or the Integrated processor.

Can You Have 2 Dedicated Graphics Cards on a Laptop?

The majority of laptops that have 2 graphics cards on the market will feature an integrated one and a dedicated one.

Of course, you have seen those insane desktop builds with two of the most powerful cards on that market put together but this scenario is very rarely seen on the laptop scene. The reason is very obvious the cost of developing a laptop with two dedicated graphics cards that has a good cooling system is insanely high.

There are some monster laptops on the market that have 2 dedicated GPUs but they are very big and heavy, so there is a big compromise on the portability aspect part of it.

My advice is that if you need that much graphical performance stick to build a desktop, you have better cooling options.

Does Having 2 GPUs on a Laptop Increase Performance?

Having 2 graphics cards will increase your laptop’s graphical performance because you can have a powerful card that doesn’t drain your battery that can be used only in gaming, CAD, or video rendering applications where there is more graphical performance needed than the integrated card can provide.

The good news is that with the introduction of DirectX 12, dual GPU laptops can benefit from the Multi-Adapter technology which will make your dedicated graphics card work together with the integrated one.

Because integrated GPUs are becoming more and more powerful it will be a waste of power if they are never used in demanding applications.

So with the introduction of the Multi-Adapter technology, when your dedicated graphics card will be bottlenecked your laptop can use the integrated card to take some load from the dedicated one so you will have more graphical performance.

How do I Switch Graphics Cards on My Laptop?

Most of the time you don’t need to switch between graphics cards, this is done automatically by your drivers but if you still want to do this manually you can do this from the NVIDIA Control Panel under the tab 3DSettings->Manage 3D Settings if you have an NVIDIA card.

If you have a Radeon graphics card you need to do the switch from the Catalyst Control Center, you will find the option under the tab Power->Switchable Graphics but you can do this only after you go to the Power->PowerPlay tab and select Maximum performance on the Plugged In option.

Do Normal Laptops Have Graphics Cards?

Yes, all laptops have graphics cards or you won’t be able to see any image on your screen, most laptops come with integrated graphics cards to be as energy-efficient as possible. If your laptop has an Intel processor then surely you have the integrated graphics card from the processor.

Make sure you have the latest driver for your graphics card, it is very important!

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I started building and fixing PCs in high school. After a couple of years of offering consultancy to a PC repair shop, I became the goto guy for all my acquaintances for PC/Laptop related buying advice or troubleshooting.