How to perform a laptop graphics card upgrade

how to perform a laptop graphics card upgrade
How to perform a laptop graphics card upgrade

Technology is continually changing, and you must keep up with the latest for peak performance in gaming, video editing, and more. A graphics card is integrated within the laptop, using its RAM and CPU for performance. A laptop video card determines the detail of the images on display with its own RAM and CPU. Read on to find out more about options for a laptop graphics card upgrade, main types of video and graphics cards, and laptop GPUs.

Main types of graphics card for a laptop

Main types of graphics card for a laptop

There are various types of graphics cards for laptops, ranging from different capabilities for gaming or multimedia. Graphics cards work with the CPU and GPU of a system, although some graphics cards have their own VRAM for higher performance.

Integrated graphics cards are attached to the laptop’s motherboard and work well enough for watching YouTube videos and sometimes light gaming without 3D, like Among Us. While dedicated graphics cards, or discrete, are more powerful and more high-end. These cards are best for heavy gaming.

AMDRadeon RX 6700MHigh end
AMDRadeon RX 5600MMedium range
NVIDIAGeForce RTX 6000High end
NVIDIAQuadro P5200Medium range
IntelIntel HD seriesLow end
IntelIris XeLow end

AMD, Intel and NVIDIA produce the most graphics cards for laptops in the market today. The best graphics cards are from NVIDIA and AMD. In particular, the NVIDIA GeForce (GTX) and AMD Radeon series are amongst the best. Intel tends to create integrated graphics cards, but they are not in the same class as NVIDIA and AMD.

How to upgrade a laptop graphic card

How to upgrade a laptop graphic card

Unfortunately, to truly upgrade your laptop cards requires an upgrade in the GPU, which is also attached to the motherboard. Professionals deem replacing graphic cards in laptops “impossible.”

Integrated graphic cards on laptops require removing and soldering a new graphics card on the motherboard. However, times have changed and consumer kits are available to upgrade the graphics card with all the tools necessary.

General steps include:

  • Ensure your laptop is MXM compatible to install the new graphics card.
  • Find a compatible graphics card upgradeable to your laptop and with new heatsinks (if applicable)
  • Uninstall the old graphics card drivers through a BIOS update
  • Use a grounding strap and open up the laptop area that exposes the graphics card, removing all the screws.
  • Remove the heat pipes to access the GPU.
  • Gently remove the heat pipes, as thermal paste may still be to the graphics card.
  • Use a wrench or screwdriver to hex-shaped nuts to access the MXM module.
  • Remove the old graphics card, grab your new model or mobile PCI express module and install it like a piece of RAM into the motherboard.
  • Install the new heat pipes carefully and add the thermal paste to the graphics card
  • Close the laptop with the screws from the beginning
  • Boot the computer up, and you’re good to go!

However, because this is a complicated route a user can take, buying a dedicated graphics card may be a better solution. Many laptops come with a dedicated or discrete graphics card with an integrated graphics card.

For instance, the Lenovo Yoga 720 graphics card is an Intel HD 630. However, its dedicated graphics card is the NVIDIA GTX 1050. Within the laptop, you can switch from integrated to dedicated. Laptops come with a discrete graphics card, but there are options to get an external graphics card to connect to your laptop.

Main types of GPU for a laptop

Main types of GPU for a laptop

Laptop GPUs have more RAM and CPU and do not depend on your laptop’s specs to work to the fullest. A GPU for a laptop is synonymous with a dedicated or discrete graphics card. The dedicated graphics card has different VRAM, cores, higher GPU and VRAM clocks.

If you are looking for a laptop graphics card upgrade, more than likely, you will choose between NVIDIA and AMD. Nvidia and AMD and dominate the laptop GPU market and graphics cards in general.

AMDRadeon RX 580XMedium range
AMDRadeon RX 570XMedium range
AMDRadeon RX Vega 8 (3 years old)Low range
NVIDIAGeForce RTX 3080High end
NVIDIAGeForce RTX 2080 MobileHigh end
NVIDIAGeForce GTX 860M (6 years old)Low range

High-end GPUs such as the new NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU provides a max of 16GB of memory and clocks in at 14000 Mhz at 256 bit. Currently, it is the best on the market.

Prices depend on the GPUs age. Because computer technology and gaming are advancing at a fast-pace, older GPUs may become irrelevant. Thus, high end or medium range prices are more likely when upgrading or changing GPUs.

How to upgrade a GPU on a laptop

How to upgrade a GPU on a laptop

When you’re looking for a laptop GPU upgrade, it is the same as replacing a graphics card on a laptop. It’s a job recommended to be completed by an expert and requires buying a laptop GPU upgrade kit.

General steps include:

  • Find a compatible upgrade GPU for your laptop via MXM module compatibility.
  • Purchase a kit to upgrade the GPU or take your new GPU to a computer shop
  • Uninstall old GPU via BIOS
  • Open your laptop by removing all of the screws.
  • Use a static bracelet to avoid being shocked.
  • Have your thermal paste ready and remove the GPU by removing the heatsink and heat pipes gently
  • Detach the GPU and install the new GPU, and renew the thermal paste;
  • Close the laptop by re-screwing
  • Boot up the computer

This process only works for select laptops with a professional in mind, with the appropriate hardware. More than likely, most GPUs embedded on the motherboard cannot be upgraded, changed or replaced. External GPUs are available via USB port as the last option, which works effectively. 

Main types of video cards for a laptop

Main types of video cards for a laptop

Dedicated graphics cards, also known as GPUs, are roughly the same as video cards. Laptops can use external video cards for optimal gaming experiences, as it is challenging to upgrade a graphics card. Video cards are more compatible with desktops because of their size. Most of the time, a mobile or laptop version of that video card occurs, but it’s less powerful than the desktop version.

AMDRadeon RX 5600MMedium Range
AMDRadeon RX 5500MMedium Range
NVIDIARTX 2070 Super Max-QHigh end
NVIDIARTX 2080 Super Max-QHigh end
NVIDIAGTX 1650 Ti Max-QMedium Range

NVIDIA and AMD also dominate the video cards market, including external options. Other companies such as Razer, Alienware, and Sonnet have created NVIDIA and AMD graphics card boxes with Thunderbolt 3 compatibility.

NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super is one of the best video cards on the market. The NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super Max-Q is a laptop version of the video card, designed to be sleek and quieter.

To summarize, there are laptop versions of video cards from desktop versions. Also, there are external video card options, also called eGPU. Your laptop must have a compatible port and have a gaming box to hold the video card, as it’s powered through ThunderBolt 3. The external video card options are NVIDIA and AMD, through an eGPU enclosure from other brands.

How to upgrade a laptop video card

How to upgrade a laptop video card

You can upgrade the video card on a laptop through a tedious process, similar to upgrading the GPU and laptop graphics card. Most gaming laptops come with the latest technology built-in. If you do want to upgrade your video card in the future, get an MXM compatible notebook to install a new GPU. If your laptop has an MXM 3.0 slot for upgradable video cards then follow the steps below.

General steps include:

  • Buy a new MXM 3.0 graphics card, or purchase a custom kit
  • Uninstall the old video card via BIOS
  • Use a static bracelet for safety
  • Open up the laptop by unscrewing until MXM is visible, including GPU heatsink and heat pipe
  • Remove GPU heatsink and heat pipes carefully
  • Remove the old graphics card and install the new one (similar to installing RAM)
  • Clean heatsink, apply thermal paste to the video card gently
  • Close laptop with screws and boot up the computer

If you don’t have a notebook that can upgrade a new video card, you can get an external eGPU if you have Thunderbolt 3 port. You would have to buy a gaming box, such as the Razor Core X, which is compatible with Nvidia and AMD.

No Thunderbolt 3 or MXM compatibility? You may have to buy a new laptop with the latest video cards. Old school video card installation requires smoldering the motherboard and a professional.

Options for a laptop graphics card upgrade are limited. Usually, you cannot install a new graphics card into a laptop. Most laptops come with an integrated graphics card or dedicated graphics card. Integrated graphics are attached to the motherboard, requiring an intricate way to install a new graphics card. Today, laptops with MXM 3.0 compatibility can obtain a custom kit and install a new graphics card. If your laptop is Thunderbolt 3 compatible, you can use an external graphics card or eGPU.


How can I upgrade my video card?

There are two options to upgrade video cards: new GPU installation with MXM compatibility or Thunderbolt 3 port to connect an eGPU (external graphics card). If you do not have these two options, you cannot upgrade your video card unless you buy a new laptop. It is possible to install a graphics card the old school way, but it may be more costly.

Can you upgrade a laptop GPU?

Yes, with MXM 3.0 compatibility, it is possible to upgrade, replace, or change a GPU. Without MXM compatibility, you will have to make changes to your motherboard, which is more tedious and may cause malfunctions if you improperly installed.

How can I upgrade integrated graphics on a laptop?

For the actual integrated graphics card, you cannot upgrade it. Because it is embedded in the motherboard, the only way to upgrade it would be to change the motherboard or a professional to install another integrated graphics card. If your laptop has a dedicated GPU or the slot for a dedicated graphics card with MXM 3.0 compatibility, you can upgrade the graphics quality. Only dedicated GPUs are upgradeable.

What is the Lenovo Yoga 720 graphics card?

The Lenovo Yoga 720 carries an integrated and discrete graphics card. The integrated is an Intel HD 630. Also, the discrete graphics card is the Nvidia GTX 1050 with 2GB of memory. The graphics card can play some of the most popular games on low or medium settings. It is a medium-range graphics card.

What is an External GPU?

An external GPU, known as eGPU, allows your laptop to enjoy the same graphics as desktop computers. Your laptop must have the Thunderbolt 3 port to connect to a gaming box compatible with Nvidia and AMD video cards.

What is the best graphics card for laptops?

Nvidia and AMD provide the best graphics cards for laptops. Every year there is a new video card with more VRAM and cores for more power to keep up with today’s video games or multi-media activities. The latest gaming laptops carry Nvidia RTX 2070 Super Max-Q or AMD Radeon 5600m.

What is a laptop video card upgrade kit?

Before, it was not possible to upgrade your GPU. Today, you can upgrade GPUs with MXM compatible notebooks with laptop GPU kits. These kits provide thermal paste, thermal pads, X bracket with screws, and the GPU card to upgrade.

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