Help Me, Laptop: Should I Choose a Better GPU or CPU?

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It can be hard to find the right balance between productivity and gaming when you're on a budget, especially when you have to choose between a good graphics card and a good processor. On the Tom's Guide forums, user meshkaff, a civil engineer and a gamer, reports having trouble deciding whether to prioritize a CPU or GPU.


meshkaff
plans to buy a laptop that can run engineering programs, such as Revit and AutoCAD, but that can also play games like Grand Theft Auto V and Battlefield 1. meshkaff asked us to help choose between two options: a laptop with an Intel Core i7-8550U CPU, an Nvidia MX150 GPU with 2GB of VRAM, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD or a laptop with an Intel Core i5-7300HQ CPU, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 4GB of VRAM, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD. meshkaff writes, "Which one should I choose and why?"

To really answer this question, you have to figure out what's more important to you: how good you want games like GTA V and Battlefield 1 to look and the requirements it'll take to run programs such as Revit and AutoCAD.

Gaming

Although the MX150 isn't part of Nvidia's current 10-series, it's pretty powerful for a mobile chip. During our tests, we found that the GPU can run Grand Theft Auto V on High settings at roughly 30 frames per second and Battlefield 1 on Low at 60 fps. In short, this graphics card is more than suitable for the specific games you want to play.

MORE: The Best Gaming Laptops

However, the GTX 1050 will give you crisper visuals at modest frame rates, especially on High settings, for games like Rise of the Tomb Raider and Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. But if you're only concerned with getting the game to run period, then the MX150 is the way to go.

Productivity

To see how well your two configurations hold up against the programs you want to use, let's take a look at the recommended requirements:

Revit

  • CPU Type: Multicore Intel Xeon, or i-Series processor or AMD equivalent with SSE2 technology. Highest affordable CPU speed rating is recommended. Autodesk Revit software products will use multiple cores for many tasks, up to 16 cores for near-photorealistic rendering operations.
  • Memory: 8GB of RAM
  • Video Adapter: DirectX 11-capable graphics card with Shader Model 5

AutoCAD

  • CPU Type: Basic: 2.5–2.9 GHz processor. Recommended: 3+ GHz processor
  • Memory: Basic: 8GB of RAM. Recommended: 16GB of RAM
  • Video Adapter: Basic: 1GB GPU with 29-GBps bandwidth and DirectX 11 compliant. Recommended: 4GB GPU with 106-GBps bandwidth and DirectX 11 compliant

Despite Autodesk's oddly worded requirements for the CPU, each of meshkaff's proposed configurations meets the basic needs for each program. Obviously, you'll get a lot more power from the Intel Core i7-8550U CPU, but the Intel Core i5-7300HQ CPU also meets the program's requirements due to that chip's 2.5-GHz clock speed and four cores.

On the surface, one config is clearly better for gaming and the other is better for multitasking programs. However, AutoCAD's recommended VRAM for GPUs is 4GB, so getting the GTX 1050 would actually be beneficial for your civil engineering work as well as gaming. In that case, we recommend getting the config with the Core i5 and GTX 1050.


Now that we've made sure that everything's on the up and up, we have some recommendations as well as a little curveball to throw at you. With the Acer Nitro 5 Spin ($889), you could get both that beastly processor and that 10-series GPU you want; it's essentially the best of both worlds. And if you want to dial back the price, you could get the Asus TUF Gaming FX504 ($699), which comes with an 8th Gen i5 processor but downgrades the GTX 1050's VRAM to 2GB.

But if you'd prefer the MX150, you should check out the Acer Aspire 5 (2018) ($959), which has an 8th Gen i7 CPU and an Nvidia MX150 GPU. We hope that these suggestions help; let us know which system you choose.

Credit: Laptop Mag

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