I owned a 10-year old laptop with Core2 Duo chip and Radeon HD 4650 GPU, running Windows 7 Pro. I was able to use Chrome or Firefox with 100+ tabs open and have very few problems or glitches.

Now I run a newer laptop with a Core i5-4310U chip, no GPU, running Windows 10 Pro. I regularly have memory issues, causing Chrome to crash. It generally is preceded by a "blackout" screen, like this: (blackout screen example)

Both have the same 8 GB RAM. I do zero gaming. I do a lot of developing -- 100+ web tabs, VS Code, Slack, Android Studio, database IDE, running node and python in the console.

I am looking to buy a new, more powerful laptop with at least 16gb RAM. The 2 biggest differences between the 2 older machines are Win 7 vs 10 and GPU vs Integrated Graphics. I assume a dedicated GPU is a must. My question is threefold:

  • is the lack of dedicated GPU likely the cause of the crashes?
  • what GPUs do not have "regulators" like nVidia Optimus, which seems to only allow the GPU to work with specific applications -- with web browsers not one of them (according to an email exchange w/ Nvidia support a few years ago)
  • or are the crashes most likely due to a much higher level of graphics/ads/video and typical web pages, not really an issue with the GPU capabilities, there's just too much to decode

Some people state "integrated GPU is fine for web browsing, GPU is only for gaming/CAD/video editing" -- I do none of these, but my graphics don't seem to be capable of keeping up. Thank you for your help.


This is an XY problem.

Those crashes are not caused by lack of dedicated GPU. By the screenshot it looks more like a driver problem, but that's a separate issue. Insufficient GPU performance causes slowdowns, not blackouts (unless you're running out of video memory, but that's very unlikely in desktop applications).

Edit: If you're low on RAM, it makes running into video memory problems slightly more probable, as iGPU "steals" its VRAM from main RAM. But there's a minimal amount reserved at all times and I'd expect it to be enough. Anyway, 8 GB of RAM is not a lot for a developer nowadays. 16 GB is a minimum. You may want to upgrade later so make sure it's not soldered in and the CPU will support over 16 GB. Getting all 16 GB in one stick will make it easier to upgrade later, but will be slightly slower than 2x8 GB because it won't take advantage from dual-channel.

Integrated GPU in 4th generation Intel i5s is more than sufficient for everyday tasks and even works fine for light gaming. I couldn't find benchmark results, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's comparable to Radeon HD 4650 in terms of performance. Unless you're explicitly targeting GPU as a computational unit, and I suppose you don't, you don't need a dedicated one.

what GPUs do not have "regulators" like nVidia Optimus

That's not exactly a GPU-tied feature. Dedicated mobile GPUs are designed to work in tandem with an iGPU because latter ones are way more power-efficient and reasonably competent in common workloads. The dGPU in most configurations is not a complete graphics card, it lacks video outputs and only passes rendered frames to iGPU. A few generations ago some high-end business-oriented laptops had a full-featured NVIDIA GPU that could completely take over Intel's, but I'm not sure if such configurations are still available, as it increases complexity and cost, but doesn't provide any real value.

[…] which seems to only allow the GPU to work with specific applications -- with web browsers not one of them (according to an email exchange w/ Nvidia support a few years ago)

You can choose which programs run with NVIDIA GPU in the NVIDIA Control Panel accessible from desktop's right-click menu. There's also an option there to use it for all applications by default. Enabling dGPU for Chrome may solve your problems, but it's a workaround that will increase energy consumption and heat dissipation (= more noisy fans).

If you haven't yet, update your iGPU drivers to the latest version.

  • "Those crashes are not caused by lack of dedicated GPU." I never stated they were, in fact I specifically asked if they were: "is the lack of dedicated GPU likely the cause of the crashes?" Call this an XY problem if you wish, I identified the differences between the machines in an attempt to isolate the issue. The old machine hasn't had drivers updated since around 2013 (manufacturer stopped providing them) so it's not just the recency of the drivers. "very unlikely in desktop applications" and yet it happens about once a week, sometimes more. – ExactaBox Nov 20 '19 at 9:03
  • Answer updated, I didn't notice the part about running low on RAM earlier. – gronostaj Nov 20 '19 at 9:54
  • Look I appreciate the attempt to help but you're not saying anything concrete. Yes I know 8gb RAM is not a lot these days. But I also have an older 8gb machine with no video problems & few crashes, it has Windows 7 and a GPU. Maybe Win 7 vs 10 is the difference but I can't buy a new laptop w/Win 7. I'd be happy with any GPU with its own memory. Except some GPUs don't turn themselves on except for specific applications (Nvidia calls this "Optimus", don't know if AMD has the same) so even buying a laptop with a GPU doesn't guarantee RAM won't be allocated for graphics. – ExactaBox Nov 20 '19 at 22:03
  • Regarding Optimus, I've addressed it in the paragraph that starts with "You can choose which programs run with NVIDIA GPU...". I've explained that laptops that worked with dGPU as a sole graphics card were rare and may not be available at all, but that's not a problem in the "That's not exactly a GPU-tied feature..." paragraph. Dedicated GPUs have their own video memory, but that's a red herring. If your iGPU is lacking memory for VRAM, then your entire system must be RAM-starved and that's the core issue. TL;DR is: iGPU will be sufficient, just make sure to have adequate amount of RAM. – gronostaj Nov 21 '19 at 11:11
  • Actually, this entire issue may be completely unrelated to GPU and caused by lack of free RAM. – gronostaj Nov 21 '19 at 11:12

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