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What is the best graphics card for laptops?

The HP Omen Transcend 14 gaming laptop sitting on a table.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Modern laptop graphics cards offer incredible power and, in many cases, impressive efficiency, too. They aren’t quite as easy to break down as the best graphics cards for desktop PCs, because their ultimate performance is so affected by the laptop’s thermal efficiency, and the amount of power it can drive through the GPU.

But like AMD and Nvidia’s desktop graphics cards, these mobile counterparts also offer unique feature sets and technologies that make your choice a little easier. These are the best mobile graphics chips to look out for when upgrading your laptop in 2024.

Note: While we’ve done our best to be as objective as we can with these GPUs, there is no guarantee they will perform as expected in every laptop they’re a part of. Laptop thermals and the power they give the GPU access to will have an enormous effect on capabilities. When buying a laptop that has the right GPU for you, be sure to check out individual reviews of each laptop to confirm its performance and efficiency before buying.

The Alienware m16 R2 on a white desk.
The Alienware m16 R2 is a stellar gaming laptop with an RTX 4060. Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

Nvidia RTX 4060 mobile

Best laptop graphics card for most people

As much as our desktop RTX 4060 review was a mixed bag, the mobile version is a much clearer win for Nvidia. In the right laptop with enough thermal and power headroom, this mobile GPU can perform about as well as its desktop counterpart, which is exceedingly rare in mobile gaming. While most RTX 4060-sporting laptops will constrict the GPU in some way due to thermal concerns, it’s possible to get stellar gaming power from an RTX 4060 mobile chip.

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It’s notably faster than the RTX 3060, and adds support for the latest generation of DLSS with frame generation. It has 8GB of VRAM, which is more than most mobile GPUs and as much as you’d get with more expensive mobile chips, like the RTX 4070.

For high frame gameplay at 1080p or 1440p in more casual games, the RTX 4060 is an awesome mobile gaming chip.

Cyberpunk 2077 running on the Lenovo Legion 9i.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Nvidia RTX 4090 mobile

Most powerful laptop graphics card

As with desktop graphics cards, Nvidia’s RTX 4090 for mobile is the fastest graphics card for laptops that you can buy. It has 9728 CUDA cores, which far outstrips anything else in the mobile space, and some configurations can allow it to boost up to 2GHz, giving it incredible performance in any game you throw at it.

It features 16GB of GDDR6 memory and has 76 RT cores, making it the most impressive GPU for ray tracing, too. With 300-plus tensor cores, it can really utilize Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) to boost frame rates further. Thermal design powers (TDPs) range between 120 watts and 150W, and that can impact clock speed by several hundred megahertz depending on the laptop in question.

Performance should work out to around that of a desktop RTX 3080, but that will vary depending on the workload and the laptop it’s fitted within. If you want similarly strong performance, but at a reduced price, the RTX 4080 mobile is the nearest competitor from Nvidia.

AMD RX 7900M

Most powerful AMD laptop graphics card

If you’re an AMD fan, or you found a good deal on a high-end gaming machine and want to know how it stacks up, the AMD RX 7900M is one of the best mobile graphics chips available. With 16GB of GDDR6 memory and over 4,600 shader units, it’s a very fast and capable GPU. It has 72 of AMD’s ray accelerators, which aren’t as impressive core for core as Nvidia’s RT cores, but they do a good job of rendering ray traced lighting in games. If you want to ray trace on AMD on a laptop, the 7900M is the pinnacle of AMD mobile performance for gaming.

It does come with a hefty 180W TDP, so there aren’t many laptops that can make full use of it. If they do pair it with a strong CPU, though, you’ll have a stellar gaming machine, even if the wattage is cut down a little for efficiency purposes. Just don’t expect strong battery life out of a laptop sporting this one.

Acer Swift X 14 2024 front angled view showing display and keyboard.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Nvidia RTX 4050 mobile

Best budget laptop graphics card

If you’re looking for a cheaper gaming laptop, or want a laptop that can do a little 3D rendering on occasion, the Nvidia RTX 4050 mobile is a solid choice. It comes with 6GB of VRAM, where the AMD competition and its last-generation counterparts only come with 4GB. And its ADA Lovelace architecture gives it support for Nvidia’s frame generation technology in supporting games.

Performance is close to double that of the RTX 3050 in some games and applications, and it’s especially impressive in its higher wattage configurations — though at that point, the RTX 4060 is equally attractive if cost is similar.

This GPU is fast enough to give you 60 frames per second (fps) in most games at 1080p, and if you play with the settings, you should be able to get that in some modern AAA games.

AMD RX 7600M XT

Best midrange laptop graphics card

Midrange laptop graphics card is a tricky category to call, because a few extra watts here, an extra large cooler there, and you can have a cheaper laptop with a “worse” GPU performing better than our favorite pick! But ultimately, we settled on the AMD RX 7600M XT. It’s a capable AMD graphics chip with 8GB of VRAM and 2,048 stream processors, for a TDP of 120W, giving it roughly comparable performance to a desktop GTX 1080 Ti or RX 6600 XT.

The 8GB of VRAM keeps it capable of playing some of the latest games — even if some are starting to demand more than that for certain settings. It also supports AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) and ray tracing, although its ray accelerators aren’t as powerful as Nvidia’s RT cores, so it will only be suitable for light ray tracing.

If you’d rather buy an Nvidia equivalent for DLSS support, the RTX 4070 mobile is roughly comparable. It’s better in some games, worse in others.

Boost your laptop graphics

If you aren’t quite ready to buy a new gaming laptop yet, what about improving the performance of what you have? Try these performance settings tweaks to boost your laptop gaming performance, or these tips to help improve your gaming PC’s performance overall.

If your laptop supports it, you could try overclocking your CPU, too.

Jon Martindale

Jon Martindale is the Evergreen Coordinator for Computing, overseeing a team of writers addressing all the latest how to guides, best-of lists, and explainers to help everyone understand the hottest new hardware and software in desktops, laptops, and on the web.

Jon also writes for Forbes, Lifewire, and Microcenter, has authored two novels, and provided back story and dialogue for a handful of games.

 

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