Is your laptop underperforming graphically, and you’d like to upgrade it?
Unfortunately, the option of upgrading your laptop’s GPU is essentially impossible.
So Is It Possible To Upgrade A Laptop GPU?
Getting straight to the point,
Upgrading your laptop’s graphics card is impossible because the graphics card is most likely soldered to the motherboard or integrated into the CPU.
So this means even if you have a gaming laptop with a dedicated graphics card, the chances of upgrading your laptop’s graphics card is 0%.
Even if you somehow managed to remove the dedicated GPU without causing any damage, and installing a better chip onto the motherboard, it wouldn’t work…
Without too much waffle, this is because the motherboard of your laptop is configured to recognize a specific CPU and GPU, so it can only detect what it was made for.
These types of systems offer better integration and ease but limit the user’s ability to choose what they want to use.
A small price to pay for a highly optimized system, you have to remember that laptops need to be optimized, so if limiting upgradability for better cooling, and higher data throughput is the trade-off, it might be worth it for those who prioritize performance and reliability over flexibility.
Swapping Laptop Motherboard Out
Technically, swapping the motherboard out for one that supports better components can be seen as upgrading the laptop’s GPU, but is it the same laptop at that point?
By doing this, you will immediately void any warranty you have, and at this point, it would probably be better to just buy a brand new laptop.
Swapping out the motherboard may seem price-efficient, but it’s more expensive than you think, this is because of the voided warranty, and the actual cost of the board and components it comes with.
It would be far more price-efficient to just pay 10% more for a new laptop altogether.
Are There Any Laptops With Upgradable GPUs?
Yes, the Dell Alienware Area 51m was one of the first to market itself as a laptop with upgradable components including the GPU.
Dell’s attempt at giving laptops the upgradability desktops was shortlived with Dell discontinuing the laptop.
Many users were left feeling taken advantage of because they have this “upgradable” system with no possible upgrades.
While not released, the Framework Laptop 16 is set to be released with modular graphics, which means you’ll be able to swap out the graphics card in the future.
Image Credit: Framework
It’s said that you can even remove the dedicated GPU from the laptop, and use the integrated graphics that come with the Ryzen 7040. This is ideal if you’re not a gamer who wants to save battery life.
Alternative Way To Improve Laptop Graphics
So now you know it’s impossible to upgrade the laptop graphics card in the sense that you can with desktop computers, does that mean there’s no hope for you?
Fortunately, there may be an alternative option for you, and it’s using an external GPU/eGPU.
On paper, they seem like the perfect solution right? Well, the viability is questionable at most. They cost more than the GPU alone and are approximately 10-15% slower.
In simpler terms, the price-to-performance ratio is poor, you’re better off buying a better laptop if you’re considering this route.
However, if you happen to have a spare graphics card laying around, then using it for an eGPU can make a lot of sense.
It’s also hard for me to see eGPUs as a true upgrade. A true upgrade is a permanent solution that doesn’t have significant downsides.
eGPUs are large, and heavy, which undermines one of the very benefits of having a laptop which is its portability and mobility.
They make for a great temporary solution, but for those looking for a forever-lasting increase in graphical performance, the limitations and trade-offs may outweigh the benefits.
Hopefully, with the release of Thunderbolt 5 which was announced in Q4 2023, the latest laptops should have capabilities that effectively double the transfer speed compared to Thunderbolt 4.
This could make eGPUs more viable as you’ll be getting more performance, but I don’t expect this to take effect for at least a couple of years.
What About Overclocking?
So you thought about upgrading your gaming laptop’s GPU, it’s impossible as the chip is soldiered.
How about overclocking the chip, Surely this is a better way to get more performance out of my laptop, right?
Well, if you have a modern laptop, it’s most likely that the GPU can automatically boost its clock speed on its own, so there’s no point overclocking.
And while you can overclock your laptop GPU, you’ll find that you run into thermal limits faster due to the cooling limitations.
Conclusion – Is It Possible?
In conclusion, upgrading a laptop’s graphics card is in very early stages with the first attempt being a failure. But hopefully, in the future, we see a change with users being able to replace dedicated GPUs.
At the current moment, your best option is to use an external graphics card, while technically not an upgrade, it does provide more performance.