The standalone additional graphics processing unit (GPU) changed the way we played on PCs in the late 1990s. It is now the burden of rendering your favorite titles so that your CPU can perform other tasks such as A.I. and physics. They are standard with certain brands of gaming desktops and laptops, which are usually more expensive, generate more heat and use more power than standard non-gaming PCs.
However, you don't have to play on a discrete GPU, although you get better results. There are games today that work perfectly on built-in graphics – GPUs that are on the same chip as your PC's processor (also known as iGPU). This design makes them less powerful than add-in GPUs in terms of raw performance, but they can still do the job depending on the game's system requirements and settings.
Here we show you how to set up games so that they can be played on integrated graphics. Our tests use older 8th and 6th generation Intel CPUs, with the former performing better than the latter.
The latest Gen11 graphics from Intel do an even better job in 2020 and are now available in the 10th generation Intel processor family "Ice Lake". For example, recent benchmarks showed that Intel's latest Gen11 iGPU achieved up to 51 frames per second (fps) at 1080 pixels and low settings in Civilization VI. Laptops with Intel Gen9.5 iGPUs only managed 19 fps with the same settings in the game.
In the meantime, today's Gen11 iGPU in Rise of the Tomb Raider can reach 27 fps with similar settings and significantly outperform the older Intel iGPU.
Still, playing with integrated graphics in current models is likely to get better results than older laptops.
To get an idea of how to optimize your settings on laptops with integrated graphics, we have included copies of Hearthstone, Gwent, Rocket League and some others. Our test machines were the Asus Zenbook UX330UA with an 8th generation Intel Core i5-8250U and integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics and a Surface Pro 4 with an 6th generation Intel Core i5-6300U with integrated Intel HD 520 graphics.
Surface Pro 4
Asus Zenbook UX330UA
Why test on older Intel chips? Because they currently play a bigger role in households and offices, CPUs of the 10th generation are relatively new. These two systems represent a cross-section of the types of onboard graphics you will find in everyday work and on student laptops. If games work smoothly on these systems, you can probably use the same strategies to improve your laptop's performance.
To be honest, there are more games you can play with built-in graphics than we can list in a single article of reasonable length. Take a look at a Steam sale and you will see dozens of games that are just right for you. Instead, we're focusing on some popular games to give you an idea of how they work with built-in graphics and what tweaks you should make to get the best experience.
We had no major problems getting Hearthstone up and running, even on a last generation barebone Microsoft Surface Pro. Basically, any computer made in the past four years can play Hearthstone without too much trouble. All you need is an internet connection and adequate battery life when you pull the plug out of the socket.
Here are the minimum requirements:
- CENTRAL PROCESSOR: Intel Pentium D or AMD Athlon 64 X2
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT or AMD Radeon HD 2600XT or better
- Memory: 3 GB
- Camp: 3 GB
The Asus Zenbook UX330UA with integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics showed a constant average of 30 fps at 1080p, even with Hearthstone's high graphics default. As a turn-based game, the frame rate isn't as important as in the other games on our list, but it's nice that you can improve the graphics and not have to worry about your system getting serious problems.
There are a few things you can do to improve your performance on an older device, even with a low impact game like Hearthstone.
Unless your system is a Surface Pro 4. At the highest settings in Hearthstone, there was some slowdown when there were many cards on the screen – or when multiple effects were triggered at the same time. To mitigate this, we have a few tricks.
There are a few things you can do to improve your performance when using an older device like the Surface Pro 4, even with a low impact game like Hearthstone.
Step 1: Open the radio button and set the quality preset to Low. It won't look that nice, we understand it, but it will feel much smoother and run better overall.
Step 2: Disable full screen. This will run the game in a window.
Step 3: Change the resolution setting just one step below the maximum resolution of your display. This means that for 1080p displays, the result should be 720p.
We usually don't recommend using windowed mode and 720p for a more action-oriented game. In this case, however, the window looks good and you can quickly hide it behind a web browser or spreadsheet so your boss doesn't catch you tweaking your Warlock deck at company time.
If you are a little tired of Hearthstone or want to try a new card game, these tricks also apply to Gwent from CD Projekt Red. Like Hearthstone, it is a free PC game, so trying it out does not involve any upfront costs.
Gwent is newer than Hearthstone, so a bit more demanding, but not much. Here are the minimum requirements:
- CENTRAL PROCESSOR: Intel Celeron G1820 or AMD A4-7300
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce GT 710 or AMD Radeon R7 240
- Memory: 4GB
- Camp: 6 GB
Your PC may run smoothly without the Nvidia or AMD GPU. Just go into the game's graphics settings, activate windowed mode, reduce your resolution and off you go.
If you're looking for a good game for a low-end system or a work laptop, you really can't beat the Rocket League. Here are the minimum requirements:
- CENTRAL PROCESSOR: 2.5 GHz dual core
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce 760, AMD Radeon R7 270X or better
- Memory: 4GB
- Camp: 20 GB
The game's video settings are kept to a minimum and offer everything for you under the headings "High Quality", "Quality", "Performance" and "High Performance". This is an elegant way to break down normally blunt graphical settings. In addition, the Rocket League is surprisingly easy for such a good looking game.
Rocket League is also a notoriously competitive game, so visuals sometimes take a high frame rate into the background. Fortunately, the video settings in the game are so different that it is easy to achieve what you expect from the game's performance.
For the more competitive player, you need to dig deep to maximize your frame rate with integrated graphics. The highest frame rate we could reach on average, 88 fps, was associated with considerable costs for the graphics.
To get there:
Step 1: In the options, select the Video tab.
Step 2: Under Basic Settings, change the render quality setting to High Performance.
Step 3: Change the Detail Quality setting to Performance.
Step 4: Under Window Settings, change the resolution setting to 1,280 x 720 (720p).
The game looks very rough with these settings, but we achieved an average of 88 fps in the Asus Zenbook. That's impressive for a modest built-in Intel UHD graphics chip – fast enough that you can play competitive games, even if your game looks a bit boring.
If you'd rather keep a feast for the eyes, increase the resolution to 1,920 x 1,080 (1080p). With the quality presetting in 1080p, we saw a constant 35 fps. Here are the results we saw with all four presets:
- High performance – 88 fps average
- Power – 54 fps on average
- Quality – 35 fps on average
- High quality – 22 fps on average
Overall, the performance preset to 1080p is a good starting point for most systems without discrete graphics cards. It offers a fast frame rate for competitive games, but enough visual fidelity to keep your car's tricky rims sparkling.
Heroes of the Storm
There are dozens of different MOBAs on the market, most of which can be played for free. Blizzards Heroes of the Storm is not as easy and fast as Riot Games & # 39; League of Legends, which is why we chose it for our benchmarks. It's a little more intense and can chug even medium-range gaming rigs at the highest settings.
Here are the minimum requirements:
- CENTRAL PROCESSOR: Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 or AMD Phenom X4
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT or AMD Radeon HD 4650 or Intel HD Graphics 3000
- Memory: 3 GB
- Camp: 20 GB
The minimum requirements are pretty low, but it should be more than a sufficient challenge for our humble Asus Zenbook and Surface Pro 4.
Heroes of the Storm decides which video preset to use, but for our purposes, make sure to set everything to "low". Make sure that the texture quality setting – listed in the right column – is also set to Low.
Our Zenbook Heroes ran at 1080p in the low settings and averaged 113 fps. That's high enough to cope with a slowdown or frame loss that you see in an action-packed competition game with skills that go left and right. Overall, for a game like Heroes, the visual details you lose here are pretty small.
At high settings, you will see a lot more details in the game world and the ability effects, but your frame rate will be significantly affected. The Zenbook achieved an average of 31 fps at high settings. It's playable, but during activity spikes like team battles, the game has slowed down significantly, making it difficult to land attacks accurately.
We saw very similar results on the Surface Pro 4 at 1080p, which averaged 98 fps at low settings and 27 fps at high settings. Our recommendations here are the same: make sure your texture quality setting is set to "Low" and play "Heroes on the Low" if you are working with integrated graphics.
Note that using the Low settings will result in extremely high frame rates. This is important. You need a good amount of leeway for fame rates when it gets hectic in competitive games. On average, we saw that our frame rate temporarily scored approximately 50% hits in large team battles.
Although you can play high settings on a current laptop like the Zenbook Heroes on – even if you're using a discrete GPU – you probably shouldn't do this unless you want to end up deleting frames when the other team reaches your goal .
Fortnite: Battle Royale
The popular (and free) Fortnite: Battle Royale from Epic Games is a problem for us. It's a competitive drop-in gameplay game that makes it ideal to play a few rounds while having downtime at work or waiting for class to start. That's great.
Fortnite is a challenging game, especially if you don't have a GPU.
However, it is graphically more demanding than any other game on our list. Here are the minimum requirements:
- CENTRAL PROCESSOR: Core i3-3225 3.3 GHz or equivalent
- GPU: Intel HD 4000 on the PC; Intel Iris Pro 5200 or equivalent AMD GPU on Mac
- Memory: 4GB
- Camp: 17.5 GB
Don't be fooled by these minimum requirements: Fortnite is a surprisingly challenging game, especially without a GPU. That doesn't mean we didn't make it work – it just required a little extra attention. The Fortnite art style helps reduce the graphics settings in the lower area. We did an average of 32 fps by sacrificing just a little of the graphic detail.
When you start Fortnite for the first time, the game offers the ability to scale video settings based on your hardware. Deny this action and instead continue with our suggestions below.
Step 1: Open the game's "Settings" menu and select the "Video" tab.
There are many settings here, but we can ignore most of them for now. Your priority is the solution because we encountered some issues with integrated graphics, especially the Surface Pro 4.
Step 2: Change the window mode setting to full screen.
Step 3: Next to the Quality setting, select the Low option.
Step 4: Move the slider next to the 3D resolution setting to 75%.
Why not 100%? As much as we prefer to run games at full resolution, it is better for this guide to keep the resolution scale at around 75% as our average frame rate has dropped to 100 fps at 18 fps.
Step 5: Make sure the Motion Blur setting is set to Off.
Also note that the integrated graphics chip may have problems rendering Fortnite if your laptop is several years old. If so, shift your resolution to 720p and keep the resolution scale at 75%. You should now see the frame rate rise back into the playable range.
With these settings, we still had problems with the Surface Pro 4, but maintained an acceptable 28 fps on average.
If you still have problems with the frame rate with these settings, reduce the resolution scale to 50% instead. There is a possibility that you will still have some problems, but this is the lowest that you want to achieve with Fortnite. If you reduce the resolution further, your frame rate increases, but your game is so blurry and jagged that it is almost no longer playable. If so, it's time to move on to iGPU-friendly games.
Make the best of the least
Playing with integrated graphics always offers less experience than playing with a system with a discrete graphics chip. Nothing we do about the in-game settings will change that. However, with these optimizations, you should be able to get a good, playable frame rate from esport games and games with a little more graphical scope.
These tips work for most games, including those that we don't specifically mention here. Set the settings to Low, reduce the resolution scale to about 75% and, if necessary, increase the overall resolution to 720p. With this configuration, you should be able to get a playable frame rate from all games except the most demanding.