The words discrete and dedicated graphics are used interchangeably and mean the same thing – it’s the piece of hardware in a laptop responsible for translating binary data into the visuals you see on the display. A discrete graphics card is distinct from one that’s integrated in that unlike an integrated graphics card, which shares processing resources with the CPU (central processing unit). A discrete graphics is manufactured with its own source of RAM (Random Access Memory) along with other components to translate data into visual content. Now that you’ve got the basics. Let’s get down to the reason why you might get a “Discrete Graphics Card Required” message.
When Does the “Discrete Graphics Card Required” Message Pop Up?
This message typically appears on the screen when you’re trying to run a game, a graphics design package, or even a video that requires a dedicated graphics card. Back in the day, this issue was more recurrent, as the vast majority of PCs had only integrated GPUs.
The software or game sends this request to your CPU to connect to a discrete graphics card. And when no address is returned, then, it responds with the message “discrete graphics card required.”
Nowadays, some folks still get this message when they have a new CPU with huge graphics processing capabilities. However, some apps and games are even more demanding even with the new processors’ level of advancement.
A discrete graphics card is a stand-alone piece of hardware that handles the more complicated processing of visual content.
This class of graphics was designed to make up for the shortcomings of integrated graphics processors. Integrated GPUs had too many limitations for the growing world of games, digital media, and illustration which were already miles ahead when it came to graphical demands.
Two companies were the pioneers of manufacturing these dedicated cards: NVIDIA and AMD. Gamers, app developers, and video producers embraced the new tech right away. These cards can be found already installed in many PCs and laptops. At an added price in comparison to computers with integrated GPUs, of course.
To understand why the integrated GPUs weren’t up to par. And how the discrete graphics cards were an essential requirement for some apps, let’s see how they differ.
The GPU, and the discrete graphics card, both receive data and transform it into a signal that can be displayed on a screen. This means that the unit has to do some ‘data processing’ before the signal is ready to be visualized.
In cases where the PC only has an integrated GPU to work with. The data processing is carried out by sharing resources with the CPU. These resources can be the GPU taking up a chunk of the laptop’s memory. A bit of the power. And a sizable amount of bandwidth.
This naturally slows down the laptop. And in some cases, freezes the screen for some time. This can quickly become annoying for users, leaving many desiring an upgrade to a dedicated graphics card.
Dedicated graphics cards are equipped with their own resources for processing visual information. So, they don’t impose on the CPU. This, naturally, lets you enjoy your games or focus on your work. Without the kind of interruption you get, like from a frozen screen. Allowing you to utilize the full capacities of your laptop.
Again, integrated GPUs share the power that feeds the CPU. But since they don’t often perform complicated tasks, they don’t consume a huge amount of power.
On the other hand, since discrete graphics cards do their own visual processing. They need a separate line of power for their on-board resources to work. Since the amount of data processing carried out in these boards is immense. Discrete cards consume quite a bit more electricity. They also have their own fan to keep things cool, which needs powering up as well.
At minimum, an integrated GPU can sip 1GB of memory from an 8GB RAM in a laptop. More complex graphics will use more system memory.
As a result, a discrete graphics card has its own memory resource, called vRAM. New models easily have 6GB, 8GB, 10GB, up to 24GB of vRAM, like the brilliant RTX 3090. This boost in graphics memory links directly to the huge enhancement in graphics quality we’ve been seeing in the video game industry.
For some time, the difference in quality between integrated and discrete graphics cards have been significant. However, this has changed a bit recently. The latest integrated CPUs from Intel have incredible capabilities and features.
The differences in day-to-day applications might not be huge, but the difference is noticeable. Some games, graphics apps, and technical packages, however, still need a higher level of graphics processing that only a discrete card can provide.
Integrated GPUs are notorious for heating up and affecting the whole motherboard with that overload. This has long reduced the longevity of PC components, and it’s pretty much remained an unsolvable issue for some time.
But now since discrete graphics cards come with their own cooling systems. Overheating the entire motherboard is a thing of the past. And the rest of the electronic components can remain cool under pressure. This translates to a more durable laptop.
GPUs are much too primitive to allow for much customization if any at all. The more advanced discrete graphics cards are typically customizable to suit the different needs of users. This is important especially for laptops, as battery life sometimes takes precedence over image quality when your away from a power outlet.
In the past, CPUs barely supported low-res videos and graphics. Anything higher than 360 DPI slowed down your laptop and even froze the screen. That’s why many games, illustration software, video editing apps, and architectural design bundles needed a separate graphics card to handle higher visual requirements.
Recently, many CPU manufacturers have boosted the capabilities of integrated GPUs, to the point that they can even stream 4K video without breaking a sweat. As good as they’ve become, discrete graphics cards are still way ahead in the race. That’s why their capabilities are well-utilized by game developers and graphic design apps.
Here are some of the situations that still call for installing a discrete graphics card:
- Gaming tops the list, as there’s a vast number of gamers worldwide who seek realistic renderings and a responsive graphics interface. A visually demanding game like Forza Horizon 4 can barely play with anything less than an NVIDIA GTX 1660/1060 or an AMD Radeon RX 580.
- Architectural design packages like Revit need a powerful graphics card to process heavy drawings and renderings. An AMD Radeon Pro WX 3200 is a minimum requirement.
- Graphic design software was always hugely needy in its memory and image processing basic requirements. This is more so with the newest updates and the designers’ ambitions.
- Moviemakers and video producers often build some of the most awesome rigs to process and edit their work. They’d never go thrifty on a good graphics card.