On a regular day, graphics cards are readily available for purchase without having to tussle. These past few years, however, have been an outlier, where getting your hands on the latest pieces of hardware were slender.
What was also kindled during the supply shortages, was a new “hoarding business,” led by scalpers who continue to resell the scarce hardwares at an inflated price.
Even disregarding all the existing crisis—which the industry has seemingly endured and is healing—buying a decent graphics card still isn’t cheap. Much, of course, depends on your requirements, as prices start around $150 and can go as high as $2,000.
That’s the base rate for general U.S. or European markets, but if you’re from an economically weaker nation, it might cost several months of salary. It all demands “budget cuts,” but is a graphics card something to compromise on?
What is a Graphics Card (GPU), and Why Do I Even Need it?
To understand the purpose of graphics cards, you just have to give a superficial look at the name itself, graphics card.
In layman terms, it does all things graphic. The term “graphic” is broad and encompasses all the images and videos you see on your desktop, it isn’t just confined to gaming. If you’re able to read this on your PC, you should thank the GPU.
The GPU is tasked with converting all data (or simply inputs from your actions) into images or videos. But it is entirely possible to delegate the task of rendering to the CPU, provided they have a built-in GPU.
Most CPUs from Intel and some from AMD are capable of doing what a GPU does without needing one. The GPU is already integrated into the CPU, and it is referred to as an iGPU—the only alternative to a dedicated GPU.
How To Play Games Without a Graphics Card
Most modern CPUs (or processors) are equipped with decent rendering capabilities as they’ve integrated GPUs. All you have to check is the CPU specifications and whether they include iGPU or integrated graphics card support.
If the processor does include integrated support, it will be able to do both tasks that are traditionally deputed to the CPU and the GPU, saving you the money to buy two different things.
Despite being cost effective, the iGPU is a downgrade over a GPU when we are talking strictly about video games.
Regardless, you should be able to play non-graphic heavy games with art styles, or older releases, on a decent integrated system.
Less demanding games, like Minecraft (without mods), can run without too much problem.
The restricted power will show signs of struggle with high-end games, but you can still try to squeeze something out. It will obviously depend on which CPU you have, for example, AMD Ryzen 5 5600G can easily fetch you 60fps in most games if you play on 720p and have decent RAM.
Intel iGPUs, though considered to be weaker when running games without discrete GPUs, can do some light-to-moderate gaming at lower resolutions.
Things You Can Do To Run Games Without a Dedicated GPU
Just by having more RAM you won’t be able to play games that require a GPU, but it will make the games you can play smoother. Restrict all your background activities whenever you’re gaming, and make sure nothing extensive is playing in the background.
Switch graphics to low
Tinker with the game’s graphics settings and keep them as low as possible. Most of the time, the game will automatically set the preference, but you can dip it even lower for no lag experience.
Prioritize frame rates
Some games require quick response and reflexes, like multiplayer or platformers, and will feel unplayable if it drops below 24 frames per second. That’s the bare minimum, and unless the game hits around a stable 30fps, you should lower the resolution.
Look for games that do not require a graphics card
Plenty of games, if not all, are built with the GPU in mind. While there aren’t many games optimized for integrated GPUs, they do exist. Unfortunately, your best bet is to play only those that are supported, or whatever your hardware can run.
Overclock your PC
Overclocking is a long and tiresome task, but by doing it you’re increasing your effective PC speed.
All CPUs are built to clock at a certain speed. However, it is possible to push your processor to go a little further and increase its capabilities. Make sure you do a thorough research on your CPU to see if it supports overclocking and, if it does, how much speed does it increase.
This by no means warrants a definite increase in your gaming performance, but should make a difference no matter how small.
iGPU vs. CPU + GPU: Which to Consider?
It is clear that you can indeed play games without a graphics card. Some iGPUs are powerful enough to even handle the latest games, but at a very low resolution and fewer frames per second. It is recommended to have a CPU and GPU combination if you wish to play AAA games.
If your budget is tight and you want to enjoy some light gaming, then integrated solutions should be good enough.
There is always an option to upgrade to a dedicated GPU when you have your finances sorted. There is also no need to upgrade if your PC or laptop already has integrated graphics, unless you want to do professional video editing or VFX.
Does the GPU Offer Utility Other Than Gaming?
Outside budget gaming builds, iGPUs are also good for general use. Most laptops do use integrated solutions because without some sort of GPU, it is impossible to render anything on your screen.
The performance won’t be much different between a dedicated and an integrated GPU when it comes to normal usage, like scrolling through social media or reading the latest article on Blackpowder Games.