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2015 Laptop Video Card Buying Guide

Laptop video card tips so you get the most out of your laptop computer.

Recommended:
  • High-End: NVIDIA GeForce GTX  400M Series or ATI Radeon HD 6000M Series
  • Mid-Range: NVIDIA GeForce GTS 300M or GT 400M Series or ATI Radeon HD 4000M or 5000M Series
Minimum:
  • Mainstream User: Any NVIDIA or ATI dedicated graphics cards
  • Basic User: Intel HD or equivalent integrated graphics

How important is a laptop video card anyways?

nvidia ati logo pictures A powerful laptop graphics card is a crucial component to have in any modern mobile computer in our opinion.

At a minimum these days you will even need a card that processes 3D to fully take advantage of the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system.

Video performance demands for many of today's applications are greater than ever also, and because these demands are going to only increase if you want to future proof your investment a powerful laptop video card is simply a must.

Today there are choices galore from leading laptop graphics card manufactures NVIDIA and ATI Corporation.  In fact they offer solutions that meet the demands of just about everyone from the low-end all the way to the extreme high-end of the scale.

Laptops With Top Notch Video Cards

In today's demanding computing environment Intel Corporation even makes laptop video cards that are powerful enough for Windows 7 3D features, multimedia applications, and even basic gaming chores.

Solutions in the past from Intel in comparison were what many would simply call lackluster.

So as you see picking up a powerful laptop graphics card is a must, and because we want to see you have the best laptop experience, we are going to help you pick one perfect for your needs.

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Laptop video card options will most likely be either a dedicated graphics card from NVIDIA or ATI, or an integrated Intel branded graphics card. 

Not sure what integrated or dedicated means? Don't worry we will be covering those details in the next section shortly.

As of now however these dedicated solutions from NVIDIA and ATI Corporation are the current performance leaders in the laptop graphics department.  

In fact NVIDIA slightly edges out ATI by having the larger selection of more powerful chips these days.

As of this writing NVIDIA's laptop video cards are among the most powerful on the planet.  ATI also manufactures extremely powerful mobile graphics cards that are neck in neck in the performance department with NVIDIAs mobile graphics chips.

Though we have to admit that NVIDIA is our current favorite, partly due to the fact that we're long time NVIDIA users and also huge fans of the NVIDIA graphics driver set compared to ATI's Catalyst drivers.  But either way you go, be it NVIDIA or ATI, you simply cannot go wrong, for the performance you're going to get out of your laptop is quite awesome.


Intel's notebook graphics card solutions in comparison to ATI or NVIDIA aren't as powerful for they are tailored strictly for the mainstream.  

On the other hand current Intel HD graphics are much better then previous generation integrated Intel chips thanks in part to the graphics demands of Windows 7, and industry trends.

So you can't honestly go wrong with an Intel HD graphics if you're looking to save money on your next laptop purchase.

But despite this increase in Intel HD graphics horsepower we still honestly recommend a dedicated graphics solution from either NVIDIA or ATI for numerous reasons which we will detail.

Who will benefit from a dedicated NVIDIA or ATI laptop video card?

Gamers, enthusiasts, and multimedia power users will benefit the most from dedicated graphics cards by ATI and NVIDIA. For high-end enthusiast level gaming and powerful multimedia laptops we recommend any NVIDIA GeForce GTX 400M Series or ATI Radeon HD 6000M Series chips or higher.  Your line of work and play demand loads of graphics muscle.  Definitely don't skimp on the graphics if gaming and multimedia is your primary purpose.  

nvidia geforce graphics card logo pictureOf course for the absolute pinnacle of performance in gaming and 3D applications, our ultimate recommendation hands down is an NVIDIA laptop graphics card setup in an SLI configuration. 
Just in case you aren't in the know, SLI configurations are in a nutshell 2 graphics cards that work together simultaneously to improve the performance in 3D games and applications.

Do expect to pay a premium for such a setup though, and forget about seeing an SLI setup in anything but the highest-end laptops from enthusiast tailored laptop manufacturers like Alienware, Falcon Northwest, or VooDoo.

For all you mid-range gamers and multimedia jugglers, or average cats simply looking for something powerful enough for all but the hardest of the hard-core 3D applications, we say go for any NVIDIA GeForce GTS 300M Series, NVIDIA GT 400M Series, or ATI Radeon HD 4000M and 5000M Series chips or better.  They are a great all around performers and the typical laptop containing one won't always break your bank.

For everyone else, GeForce GT 400M and GeForce GT 300M series chips are going to be great for your needs and then some.  In fact, if you are looking for a solid performing laptop at a great price you will most likely find one which offers the GT 400M or 300M series as an option.  

The GeForce 400M and 300M series cards are great all around performers that are priced well and they also consume less power then their big brothers contributing to an increase in laptop battery runtime too. This reason in fact is why you will often find them in smaller thin and light notebooks.

As you see there is a NVIDIA GeForce series graphics processor ready to meet the demands of pretty much any of you currently looking for a new laptop computer.

ati radeon graphics logo pictureOf course let's not forget ATI, for if you do decide to go with an ATI graphics processor we really recommend you look for something currently with any ATI Radeon HD 4000M or 5000M Series or higher in general.  

We feel the Radceon HD 4000M and 5000M series are a solid starting point for most applications.  Even something a bit lower than the Radeon HD 4000M however will normally knock the socks off your average integrated Intel graphics processor, so always look over your options closely when shopping around.

But at the end of the day we feel any ATI or NVIDIA graphics card is honestly going to be a great purchasing decision from a performance and future proof standpoint over a basic solution from Intel anyday.

This doesn't mean you should count out Intel HD integrated graphics though, for Intel HD graphics are included on many fantastically priced laptops.  And because Intel has ramped up the performance of their Intel HD solutions, you're going to get plenty of performance to handle everything except high-end games. 

If saving money is your thing, and you're going to be primarily using your laptop for surfing the Web, word processing, listening to music, or watching a movie, then an Intel HD laptop video card is going to be a fully justified purchase.

So what exactly should I look for in a laptop video card?

Like any laptop component it all really depends on your specific needs. In general we recommend you purchase a laptop with a "Dedicated" graphics card solution from either ATI or NVIDIA as we mentioned earlier. 

All you gamers and multimedia users this is a must. A dedicated card is also a wiser choice if you want to future proof your investment.

Dedicated? A dedicated graphics card is one that has its own memory (RAM) onboard. Typically anywhere between 256-512 MB or more. 

Integrated on the other hand use a portion of your laptops main memory for graphics related duties, thus using up some of your overall memory.

Dedicated solutions are also faster and more feature rich in graphics features allowing them to better take advantage of 3D games or multimedia applications.

All you word processors, other light duty users, or those simply on a budget on the other hand may want to look at an "Integrated" laptop graphics card from Intel just in case for they may be a better option for you.  Remember as we previously mentioned Intel solutions are better than they've ever been. 

Of course always remember to pay attention to your options for these days a dedicated solution from ATI or NVIDIA may not be that much more price wise, and if that is the case always go for the dedicated folks.

Additional Laptop Video Card Advice:

As you see choosing the correct laptop video card is an extremely important step when purchasing a new mobile computer. Definitely pay attention to the video card when shopping for it can honestly make or break your purchase.  

Maybe you don't need something powerful now, but we personally recommend you think at least a year or two in the future for software demands will surely change and maybe your own demands will too.  You could get into 3D design or gaming for example.

From a performance and future proof standpoint always go for a dedicated notebook graphics card. A powerful NVIDIA or ATI dedicated card should be your weapon of choice. Look for one with at least 256MB of onboard memory too, and remember more memory is better.

If you are on a budget, an Intel integrated video card may be ok for many of you, but honestly we still recommend you pay special attention to your options for there often isn't much of a price premium these days to step up to a dedicated ATI or NVIDIA.

Remember to also check out our other website resources for we have ton of additional laptop information for you.  Also, please don't hesitate to email us if you have laptop video card questions.


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