Nowadays, programming requires much more power than before, compared to simple everyday PC usage for surfing or watching movies. Depending on your budget, especially when it is limited, you will have to consider the different pros and cons of having a dedicated graphics card or go with the integrated graphics.
Now, the question is: Is graphics card necessary for programming, or How important a graphics card is when it comes to programming?
Will a premium GPU, with VRAM and rendering power increase your programming performance? Is integrated graphics enough for smooth programming? or Should you upgrade your PC? In this article, let’s find this out real quick.
The answer to this question is very tricky. But in simple words, I would say, it depends. It completely depends on what you’re programming. Therefore, before answering the question let’s go through a quick definition of CPU and GPU for better understanding.
What is the CPU?
CPU stands for Central Processing Unit, which is also referred to as the “Processor”. CPU mainly carries out and controls the overall functions of the computer. It is usually the most critical component of a computer and is often characterized as the “heart” or “brain” of the computer. And when it comes to gaming, it is a pretty important component of the system.
What is the GPU?
GPU stands for Graphics Processing Unit which is also called a video card or graphics card. It is a specialized electronic component that accelerates the creation and rendering of animations, videos, and images. It helps the CPU by performing mathematical calculations while the CPU can perform other tasks.
But there are two kinds of GPUs: One is an Integrated GPU that is connected with the CPU and shares memory with the CPU. And the other one is a Dedicated GPU that has its card and memory which you have to purchase and install manually.
Now what's the answer?
CPU is mostly the main important component of the computer as all the mathametical calculations are being done by the CPU. But some of the graphics-based programs that require high graphics will rely on GPU chipsets. But the graphics requirements for programming are very limited and the processor’s integrated graphics are more than sufficient to handle the job, as most of the decent level CPUs nowadays come with integrated graphics which are very power efficient. A strong CPU can easily compile or run your code at a decent speed.
But a good GPU can also be important if you develop games using a game engine or do frontend developing kind of stuff. Also, if you want to do machine learning on your computer then it is always recommended to buy a dedicated GPU for your computer. But still, these are more situational and we can say that CPU is more important for programming than GPU.
The difference between integrated and dedicated GPUs:
The most asked question when buying a computer for creative works is – “What are the differences between integrated and dedicated graphics?”. Let’s answer the question with a quick explanation-
Integrated Graphics Card:
Integrated graphics cards live in the CPU (Central Processing Unit or Processor). They don’t have their separate memory and CPU instead using the system CPU and system RAM that is shared with the CPU and. The integrated graphics use up to 5% of the available memory for graphics. Therefore, if you do any graphics-intensive task like rendering videos or playing games, your system may slow down.
Integrated GPUs are great because they come totally free. Also, they make laptops and desktops more affordable. An integrated graphics card also very power efficient, as the integrated graphics are built into the processor, uses less power than dedicated graphics which increases battery life and also decreases the amount of heat generated.
But, integrated graphics have their own drawbacks. First of all, they are weak. This means any graphics-heavy task like video rendering, game developing, or playing 3D video games, etc will consume a big chunk of your computer resources and there might not be enough to operate other tasks. They are mostly intended for the demands of a user who do web browsing and official tasks.
If you’re not going to use your system for any intensive graphics task, then an integrated graphics unit will be enough for your requirements. And of course, you can easily do programming with integrated graphics, as 80% of programming-related tasks don’t require high-end software or rendering power. The minimum you need a PC that can run notepad to start programming.
Dedicated Graphics Card:
Dedicated graphics is separate from the processor and has their own dedicated memory which is not shared with the CPU. It is totally independent of your system’s memory. Suppose, you have a desktop with 16GB RAM and Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 graphics with 6GB of video memory or VRAM. Now the VRAM or video memory is totally separate from your system’s memory. If you do heavy graphics tasks and rendering jobs then a dedicated graphics card is the way to go.
The biggest benefit of a dedicated graphics card is its performance. It has its own computer chip which is designed explicitly for the task. Since dedicated graphics cards have their own memory and power source, they provide higher performance than integrated graphics. They are mostly found in desktop PCs but can be installed in small form factor PCs and Laptops.
But there are some drawbacks to the dedicated graphics card. Firstly, a dedicated graphics card generates a significant amount of heat and consumes more power than integrated graphics. If you don’t have a good cooling system, then the heat will go up quickly and make your work harder. Secondly, dedicated graphics cards are costly. A mid-range graphics card can cause you around $200 to $400.
Is Graphics Card Necessary for Programming?
When it comes to programming you don’t need a GPU at all. But, if you work with multiple monitors or do bit graphics-related tasks then at some point you will need a dedicated GPU for smooth performance. If your budget is low then a cheap entry-level GPU will be able to do these works.
To avoid a misunderstanding, quite often you will be just fine with a decent CPU as programming is a more CPU-intensive task. But sometimes you may experience a little bit of lag when compiling your code. Most of the time you will see that your CPU is completely occupied when you run your code. Therefore, to reduce the overall load from the CPU, you can install a GPU for better performance.
But as the question is about powerful GPU, the answer is NO. You’ll not require a powerful graphics card for programming. As I said earlier, the minimum you will require is a computer or laptop that can run notepad at least for programming.
Should you buy an expensive graphics card for programming?
Buying graphics or not is totally upon you. If your budget allows, you can go ahead and purchase your favorite graphics. But if you are only going to do programming with the computer, then we don’t recommend you to buy a graphics card or a laptop with a graphics card. You can consider spending more money on is the peripherals. Do some research and choose other components that are really important for programming. Find a good keyboard that matches your hands, get a decent CPU that comes with good integrated graphics, get a good ergonomic mouse that will reduce your wrist pain. Also, get one more high-resolution quality monitor.
Therefore, getting a graphics card for programming is totally optional. So, save some money by going with an integrated graphics card. Invest your money in other essential components for a better experience. But in some cases, you will need a good graphics card that we have discussed above. Also, if you are planning for a multiple monitor setup then you might need a graphics card if you don’t have enough ports for multiple monitors.
Frequently Asked Questions :
1. What will happen if I don't have any graphics card?
A graphics card is responsible for rendering images and graphics to your monitor. So, without some kind of graphics card, whether it is integrated or dedicated, you will not be able to see anything on your monitor.
2. Is a graphics card required for multiple monitor setup?
Without a dedicated graphics card, setting up multiple monitors is tough. So, you would need a dedicated graphics card that has enough video ports for the number of monitors you wish to use.
3. Is integrated GPUs powerful enough to for game and app development?
For IOS or Android app development, it is not necessary to have a graphics card. You should invest your money in SSD and CPU for better performance. And also for game development, it is not always required to have a graphics card. But professionals recommend having a graphics card for easy multitasking and smooth performance.
So, now you know that It is not necessary to have a graphics card for programming unless you are not going to do any graphics-related tasks or run intensive software. Also, we came to know that a CPU is more important than GPU when it comes to programming. Therefore, spend most of your budget on CPU, SSD, keyboard, monitor, and mouse.
But it is always recommended from our side to have at least a midrange graphics card in your laptop or desktop PC if your budget allows you.
Hope you got enough information on the necessity of graphics card for programming. If you have any kind of question, you can ask us below. And thanks for being with us 🙂