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Do All Laptops Have GPUs? (Explained for Beginners)

There’s a fair bit of terminology for computers and laptops. Because of that, a question many people have when getting a new computer is whether a laptop has a graphics card (GPU) built-in. So today I’ll answer this important question, and how good or bad they are for gaming.  

Laptops have at least one graphics processing unit (GPU). It’s built-in and known as an integrated graphics card. Gaming laptops come with a dedicated graphics card as well as an integrated one. The dedicated graphics card is more powerful and it is used only in high graphics demanding tasks (gaming, etc). 

There are many different brands of laptops such as Lenovo, and Dell, and so I’ll explain what brands of laptops come with a GPU and which ones don’t, as well as how to tell. On top of that, I will explain the different types of GPUs, and what each of the two types is best suited for.

Do All Laptops Come with GPUs?

Laptop on table

A graphics card (GPU) is very well known to gamers, and having a good one is necessary to play graphics-intensive games. So, do all laptops come with a graphics card (GPU) or do you need to buy one separately?

Virtually all laptops come with a GPU. They will have an integrated graphics card (GPU) at a minimum. Some laptops that are designed for gaming will come with a dedicated graphics card that performs much better than an integrated graphics card.

Interestingly, there are two main CPU manufacturers, Intel and AMD. If you buy a laptop brand such as a Lenovo, or Dell it will generally have an Intel motherboard and CPU. You may have seen the sticker on the outside of a laptop or desktop computer that has ‘powered by Intel’ with holographic writing.

For example, the following brands make gaming laptops with AMD CPUs according to the official AMD website:

  • Lenovo
  • Hewlett Packard (HP)
  • Alienware
  • Razer
  • MSI
  • ROG

So, even if you get a different brand of laptop it will generally have an Intel or AMD motherboard and CPU. Both, of which generally come with an integrated GPU. This is a GPU built into the motherboard. Laptops that are sold as ‘gaming’ laptops have all the same components as regular laptops. The main difference is they will have a dedicated graphics card (GPU).

The term dedicated can be a bit misleading because, in reality, it is the same as an integrated graphics card. It is just more powerful and plugs into a different slot on the motherboard. 

Because it’s more powerful it’s generally bigger. It’s common for ‘dedicated’ graphics cards to have a fan built into them. The reason is they need more power to run, this increased power 

Depending on how you think you’ll use your laptop will determine if you need a ‘gaming’ laptop or a standard laptop. These are generally just called a laptop. I’ve explained why you would get a higher-powered ‘gaming’ laptop or instead get a regular laptop in this article about do I need integrated graphics in my CPU.

It explains exactly when it makes sense to get a laptop with an integrated graphics card, and when it makes sense to get an external graphics card.

Do Laptops Have a GPU and a CPU?

There are a few main components that every laptop needs. Two of these are the GPU and the CPU. It’s hard to know what a laptop comes with, and it can be a bit daunting to know everything about them, and whether you’re missing something essential. So, here’s whether all laptops have a GPU and a CPU.

Laptops have a GPU and a CPU. Some laptops have a GPU built into the CPU which is called an integrated graphics card. Others have a separate graphics card (GPU). These are much more powerful than an integrated graphics card. They plug into the CPU and are not built into the CPU.

Virtually all laptops that are sold in stores or online have both of these components built-in. Without them, the laptop wouldn’t be able to open the operating system such as Windows or Mac iOS. 

The CPU and the motherboard can sometimes be a bit mixed up in everyday speech. Technically there’s a motherboard and a CPU chip that is plugged into a motherboard.

The motherboard is the main hub that all the other computer components plug into. But, many people call a motherboard a CPU, and they also call it a processor. Here’s what a CPU commonly means:

  • Motherboard
  • CPU chip
  • Processor

The processor is also technically the CPU chip. So you can take all of these words to mean the motherboard and the CPU chip. An integrated GPU is installed onto the motherboard and generally isn’t removed if a new higher-powered GPU is installed on the same computer. It’s instead deactivated and serves no function when a new higher-powered GPU is installed. 

Do Gaming Laptops Have Graphics Cards?

Gaming laptops are generally more expensive and have higher specs than all-purpose laptops. You may want to know if you need to buy an additional graphics card for it, or if a gaming laptop comes with one, here’s what I found.

Gaming laptops generally come with a graphics card. All laptops come with a graphics card but gaming laptops typically have what’s called a dedicated graphics card. This is a graphics card that isn’t built into the CPU. These are much more powerful than an integrated graphics card.

A gaming laptop is designed for games that need high-end graphics. These are some of the most popular games such as Fallout, CS: Go (Counter-strike), and Dota 2. These games can be played on the low to medium graphics settings on a general-purpose laptop. But, can struggle a bit during parts of the game when a lot is happening on the screen.

With a gaming laptop, they can be played on the highest graphics settings and are incredibly smooth. 

How Do You Check if Your Laptop Has a GPU?

Before getting a laptop you can check that it has a GPU. For an existing laptop, you can also check what kind of graphics card (GPU) it has in the settings of your OS. Here’s how to check what GPU a laptop has in both of these cases.

For a new laptop, it will be listed on the specifications info on the online description next to ‘graphics card (GPU)’. For a laptop, you’re using go to either the Device Manager on Windows or the Apple icon at the top of the screen on a Mac and select ‘About this Mac’ from the drop-down menu.

This will open up an infobox that will list the specs for your Mac laptop, where it will say what your graphics card is.

Virtually all laptops have a graphics card unless it’s very old before graphics cards were a thing. And before they were included with laptops. This would be a laptop that is about 15 to 20 years old. But, it can depend on the model so it always pays to check with a laptop that is over 10 years old.

If a laptop is this old, the graphics card technology is a bit behind for it to comfortably play any of the newer games. Although the newer games have been out for many years – over 5 in most cases – they always patch the games with updates that need higher and higher graphics. 

So, although a game like Dota 2 came out in 2013, they release big patches to it every month or so. Which in effect makes the game virtually a new release.

Sources

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.