When buying laptops, you'll need to consider what type of graphics processor you want. All current laptops with Intel processors come with Intel's integrated graphics hardware, currently marketed as Intel HD Graphics and formerly known as Intel Graphics Media Accelerator. This hardware performs adequately for the vast majority of business uses, but in situations requiring 3-D rendering a discrete graphics card, such as AMD's ATI Mobility Radeon series, will improve performance.
Intel's graphics processors come integrated into the computer's CPU, or on older models on the computer's motherboard. On computers without an additional graphics processor, this hardware will process monitor output, video decompression and 3-D rendering on your PC. Integrated graphics also rely on the system's RAM for memory, taking away some of that memory from other uses such as running programs.
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ATI Mobility Radeon
Laptops with ATI Mobility Radeon cards offload all graphics processing from the CPU. These cards also contain dedicated memory, preventing video processing from eating into system RAM. With this additional processor and memory, the laptop can process video data and render 3-D models far faster than with integrated graphics. Discrete graphics do have some downsides as well: The cards produce more heat, use more power, drain the battery faster and raise the price of the laptop.
To alleviate the heat and power usage of running a discrete graphics processor all the time, AMD uses the ATI PowerXpress feature to switch back to the integrated graphics processor when you run the laptop on battery. This process works automatically and without restarting, making the laptop run more efficiently when you're out and need your laptop to last all day.
Selecting a System
To decide whether to pay the extra cost of a discrete ATI card, consider what you'll use the laptop for. Most business use situations, including word processing, Web browsing and emailing don't require an ATI card nor do they benefit from one. ATI primarily markets these cards for playing computer games. However, depending on your business, there are cases where a video card will help. If your work requires video encoding, 3-D rendering or other sorts of graphics processing, the card will speed up these tasks.