Can You Upgrade Laptop GPU? Is It Practical?

Many people who game or run render programs opt to use a desktop computer. It was the case for a long time, but lately, laptop performances have caught up with powerful desktop PCs.

It is easy to see why people are shifting to laptops. They are becoming more affordable, additionally, they offer portability and shockingly good performance.

Graphics performance isn’t bad either. With many mobile GPUs and Ti cards in the market, prospective laptop buyers get spoilt for choice.

But what about the upgradability? Do laptops give you the same amount of futureproofing as regular desktop PCs? And more importantly,

Can You Upgrade Laptop GPU?

Yes, you can, but there is a catch. You can upgrade your laptop if you have a non-SOC machine. These laptops don’t have the components permanently soldered onto the motherboard.

If you have a SOC device, you need to replace your entire motherboard to update the laptop’s GPU. To update your laptop, you would also need to find a graphics card compatible with the motherboard.

Can Laptop GPU And CPU Be Upgraded?

Every laptop owner has considered upgrading the performance at least once. Aside from simple upgrades like increasing the RAM, you may have considered a CPU or Graphics Processing Unit upgrade.

While we know that it is possible to get GPU upgrades, what about the CPU? Most laptop manufacturers release two versions on their Intel and an AMD device.

These devices have their motherboards configured to be compatible with one set of chips and components. i.e., you cannot swap out your Intel chip for an AMD chip on the same laptop.

But what about upgrading from an Intel Core i9-12900K to an Intel Core i9-12900KS? Or an R9 M390X to an R9 M290X? In most cases, you cannot.

Why? Many manufacturers solder the chips onto the motherboards. It is, therefore, not possible to upgrade the CPU. In many cases, buying and swapping out a CPU is expensive.

Even if you are one of the select laptops with an interchangeable CPU, it is still challenging. There is no guarantee that the new CPU will work with the rest of the components. You might upgrade to a model incompatible with your graphics card or RAM.

If you are truly looking to futureproof your setup, you might want to get an actual desktop pc. These are usually much easier to upgrade. You can get new CPUs and graphics cards when they drop. For laptops, you don’t get the same level of flexibility.

You can always check the specs and do some research on upgradability. You will likely settle for a laptop that lacks a discrete graphics card, as they are more common. Most gaming laptops have a dedicated graphics card, but things are different for the CPU.

You should buy a newer laptop version with the latest graphics cards as a futureproofing measure.

Is it Worth It To Upgrade Laptop GPU?

Should you buy a new laptop or try to upgrade your laptop’s GPU? It is a question that has bothered many folks in the laptop gaming community. To get to the bottom of it, we have to consider so many things.

Before upgrading your laptop, you should know that changing your card will void your warranty. Laptop manufacturers will not bear responsibility for faulty components if you change your graphics card.

If you are willing to forgo the warranty on your device, go for it. If not, you are better off sticking with your current card.

The process of upgrading the GPU isn’t as straightforward as you might think. First, you need to find a chip whose dimensions fit the socket on your motherboard. Some chips may be proprietary, and if it is the case, you can’t upgrade the GPU.

Aside from finding a GPU that fits, you need to find one compatible with the rest of your components. Not all GPUs will work with your setup. If the GPU and CPU are incompatible, you will have wasted your money.

What if you have a compatible GPU that fits your motherboard? You now have to find drivers for your system. It might prompt you to reset your BIOS and look for software online. It may not be easy for the right drivers, so there is a fair trial and error involved.

You have to figure out whether your power supply provides enough juice for the new GPU. Different GPUs have different power draws.

If the GPU draws too much power, it could fry your motherboard. And considering that you would be out of warranty, the upgrade is a questionable undertaking.

You are better off getting a new device than changing your GPU. Better yet, you could pay a professional to upgrade your GPU instead.

How To Upgrade Your Laptop’s Graphics Card

If you decide to upgrade your laptop’s GPU, there are two ways to go about it.
1. Find a graphics card that fits your mobile PCI express module and swap it out.
2. Use an external desktop GPU for your laptop.Finding a graphics card compatible with your system is the easy part. You need to get the dimensions and compare them to your motherboards and graphics socket.

You then need to check for compatibility with your internal components. Open your PC and find the graphics card. You might have to undo the heat pipes from the motherboard. Carefully lift the old GPU from the socket, careful not to bend the pins.

Place the new GPU onto the socket. Apply a reasonable amount of thermal paste compound onto the GPU. You don’t need to get new heat pipes. Replace the vent pipe, and connect your laptop to an external monitor via an HDMI output cable.

Turn on your laptop and press F1 during the boot sequence. Navigate to onboard devices/components etc. Navigate to the integrated graphics card, and select enabled.

Now, you can go to setup mode. If you don’t see the graphics card, you haven’t installed it correctly. Using an eternal GPU is more complex than swapping out an existing graphics card.

It requires that you buy a desktop GPU of your choice. You also need an external GPU enclosure kit to get started. The GPU connects to the laptop through a USB port. 

You will need a thunderbolt 3.0 for the best graphics performance with an external laptop GPU.
Note that if you opt for an external GPU, you should have a power supply that fits the build. 

Luckily, graphics card manufacturers include power requirements for their cards. An external supply lengthens your laptop’s battery life.
You will get better GPU performance and image quality, even on a third screen, whatever route you choose. Video editing will be faster, and improving your setup makes it better for gaming purposes.

With external graphics cards, you do not need to use thermal paste. You have to keep the GPU in the casing to protect the internals.

The GPU Matters More In Gaming

Your GPU barely matters for most easy tasks like using your PC to type documents and reading emails. Things, however, change for intense rendering and gaming performance. But, just how vital is your graphics card?

Some upgrades are purely cosmetic, such as using RGB lighting. Others are quite necessary. Using gigabit internet, for instance, makes your online gaming experience better. A GPU upgrade could make a huge difference in terms of gaming quality.

Your performance improves, and so does your immersion. However, good graphics are limited by your laptop’s built-in screen. If you want to take advantage of the graphics, ensure that you have a 4K screen. You ideally want a screen with a good refresh rate, say 120 to 144Hz.

If you are playing games with low system requirements, having the latest and greatest graphics card doesn’t matter.

You get the same or similar GPU performance. It is different for more demanding games. For AAA titles, you will get a significantly better gaming experience.

You will get better frames per second and higher resolution. You also have access to better anti-aliasing, a high dynamic range, and a more responsive experience.

Your GPU matters in gaming, but it doesn’t make you better at it. If your game has a skill gap, you need to improve it, regardless of your PC specs.

Conclusion

Can you upgrade laptop GPU? You definitely can if you have a non-SOC device. These are PCs whose components can be swapped out. Most non-SOC models have an MXM module that conforms to industry standard physical dimensions.

It gives laptops incredible upgradability. Improving your graphics card is great, as it improves your gaming experience. In PC gaming community having a better graphics card doesn’t necessarily make you a better gamer.

Most laptops can get graphics upgrades. Integrated graphics cards cannot get upgrades. Is upgrading your laptop’s graphics card worth it? You are better off buying a new laptop.

David Huner
David Huner is a tech lover. After completing his graduation from the University Of Phoenix, he started gather his knowledge mostly on latest technologies that keeps his life smart and cool. Now he wants to spread his knowledge with people who loves technologies.

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