The term “discrete graphics card” is simply another term for a dedicated graphics card, and these two are often used interchangeably.
If you’ve only recently started being interested in PC building, then there’s undoubtedly a ton of terminology that you are yet to become familiarized with. Among other things, one potentially confusing term that you’ll encounter is “discrete graphics card”.
In this article, we’ll briefly go over what a discrete graphics card is and answer some questions that you might have on the subject if you’re not already familiar with it, so read on!
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What Is A Discrete Graphics Card?
So, to get the titular question out of the way – what is a discrete graphics card?
Well, quite simply, a discrete graphics card is any dedicated graphics card that is installed in one of the motherboard’s PCIe slots, including everything from budget solutions such as the GTX 1650 to the high-end monstrosities such as the RTX 2080 Ti.
That said, the term “discrete” here simply denotes an independent, dedicated graphics card that’s not an integrated graphics solution, which brings us to the following question.
Discrete Graphics vs. Integrated Graphics – What’s the Difference?
As mentioned above, discrete/dedicated graphics cards are standalone graphics processing solutions that interface with the motherboard via a PCIe slot. However, many CPUs today come with integrated graphics, so what are the pros and cons of either of these?
The most obvious benefit that integrated graphics cards have is the fact that they are more cost-efficient. If you get a CPU with integrated graphics such as any Ryzen model with a “G” designation at the end of the model number or any Intel Core CPU that doesn’t have an “F” designation at the end of theirs, you are getting a 2-in-1 deal, meaning that you don’t have to spend extra money on a dedicated GPU.
However, integrated graphics can never hope to match the kind of performance offered by discrete GPUs, which is why a discrete GPU remains the only viable choice when it comes to gaming, for the most part.
Discrete GPUs are designed with performance in mind, so they can reach higher clock speeds, they have their own active cooling, they come with their own supply of fast video RAM (meaning that they don’t have to share the system RAM with the CPU, like integrated graphics do), and they are just all-around more advanced in general.
Granted, AMD’s Ryzen APUs that come with Vega integrated graphics are much better than what Intel has to offer right now, so they are viable for entry-level gaming if you’re really pinching pennies. However, they can’t come close to what even the cheapest budget GPUs can offer.
For a more in-depth comparison between discrete and integrated GPUs, you can check out our full article on the subject here.
So, there you have it. Discrete graphics is simply another term for dedicated graphics cards that can offer significantly better performance than integrated graphics solutions can.
For those who don’t really need any serious graphics processing power i.e. those who mainly intend on using their PC for web browsing or for playing old or less demanding 2D games, integrated graphics are a great way to save money. However, if you want to play anything more demanding, a discrete graphics card is a must.
If you’re shopping for a new graphics card right now, you might want to take a look at our selection of the best graphics cards currently available, as you’re bound to find something to fit your needs.