Useful Windows tricks: graphics card roulette
Know-howComputing

Useful Windows tricks: graphics card roulette

Martin Jud
Zurich, on 01.07.2020
Translation: Patrik Stainbrook
When Windows doesn't want to work or hits you in the face with a Blue Screen of Death, then it's time to break out the big guns. These nifty little exploits tend to expose the user as the biggest stumbling block while helping the operating system better solve its tasks. Today we're talking about laptop graphics cards.

I'm currently testing two notebooks. One of them, a 15-inch Microsoft Surface Book 3, has a dedicated graphics card. I want to find out how they perform under high stress. How fast do their processors clock down, and how long will the batteries last? But turns out I might have shot myself in the foot. It's only towards the end of my test that I noticed that one of my programs, Furmark, uses the integrated System-on-a-Chip (SoC) instead of the dedicated graphics card. Great, now I get to do it all over again. Be sure to check whether Furmark is definitely using the dedicated graphics card after recharging the notebook for your second test run.

Integrated and dedicated – both are valid

Both an onboard graphics card or a graphics unit integrated on the SoC can be disabled in both Windows and Bios. This makes sense on a desktop system. Ensuring that the highest level of performance is always achieved. However, if you want to save electricity, this isn't the best idea. I'd rather just keep a watchful eye on the settings of each respective program. If Photoshop doesn't start up with your dedicated graphics card as desired, it will do so by default after activating the corresponding option once. Word, Excel, YouTube... All of these can be run with an integrated graphics unit. This doesn't affect performance and draws slightly less power.

In the case of a battery-operated laptop with an additional graphics card, it always makes sense to run a dedicated and integrated graphics unit as a team. This allows the runtime of your notebook to be extended. Or not, if you prioritise maximum performance like I did in my stress test.

Want an example of the difference between dedicated and integrated? Well, let's take the Surface Book 3 right in front of me. It has an Iris Plus Graphics G7 integrated on the SoC as well as a dedicated nVidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q, which hasn't been tested yet. With full use of the processor, RAM and everything but the dedicated graphics card, the Microsoft Surface Book 3 achieves a runtime of two hours and 33 minutes. During the night-time test with the GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q activated, this decreases to one hour and 43 minutes. This averages out to a minus of 50 minutes or a 33 percent reduction.

Ways to boost your performance

Even if most of you already know: this is how you set the graphics card for a specific program.

Option 1

Right click on the corresponding program icon and change your preferred setting in the context menu under «Run with graphics processor».

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Option 2

In Windows, go to «Graphics settings» under «Settings» and add the desired program and option, as shown in the picture below.

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Well, that's all for today. Maybe that'll be all for my little bag of tricks. But hey, I'll let you decide whether this format appeals to you:

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Martin Jud
Martin Jud
Editor, Zurich
I find my muse in everything. When I don’t, I draw inspiration from daydreaming. After all, if you dream, you don’t sleep through life.

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