A strong GPU is the thing that separates a “gaming” laptop from your grandma’s old Lenovo.
It allows you to render beautiful moving imagery in real time that we can control ourselves, and we constantly take that for granted.
The reason you want your GPU to be as powerful as possible is so that you can push more frequent, higher quality effects (Lighting, Particle Effects, etc.) and game objects at high resolutions onto your TV screen or monitor. It can also be used to accelerate the rendering of high quality videos and many 3D rendering workflows.
This is a gaming website, though, and we’re here to talk about fully utilizing the power of your GPU to get the highest framerates at the highest resolutions.
And we shall begin with a little story..
Titanfall 2 is a game I absolutely love. If I had the time, I would play a few rounds every single day. And it being a fast-paced multiplayer-focused (semi) competitive game, higher framerates (and similarly high refresh-rates, of course) are of great value to me.
In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, I found myself stuck in my home country (where I was visiting for a week-long trip that ended up lasting over 4 months), and in need of a work computer, so as to take advantage of the time we’re all going to be spending at home.
Since I wasn’t in Germany, where I currently live and spend most of my time, I decided to get a laptop, which I could then simply bring with me. This excited me very much as I had mostly positive experiences with my previous gaming laptops. And as an aspiring game developer, it would benefit me greatly to get a system with a big fat GPU to develop and render on.
Gaming was toooootally not a priority xD.
After careful consideration of the (lack of) international shipping situation and the availability of products in Israel (my home country), I ended up going with an HP Omen 15. Would not have been my first choice any other day, but it wasn’t a normal day by any measure. This thing packs a Geforce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU and an i7 9750H Processor, and just as importantly, a 144Hz IPS G-Sync display.
And of course, I had to try me some Titanfall 2 on my new system! See how it runs, stress test the GPU and see how far it’ll get me. Sure enough, the game ran at 144FPS almost flawlessly at the highest settings (I did leverage the game’s Adaptive Resolution Framerate Target to better hold that 144FPS target).
But the game was released in 2016, and is therefore hardly a showcase of modern, GPU-intensive graphics, So I decided to try out some Borderlands 3, which I already had waiting for me in my steam library. Then Control, Then Metro: Exodus and so on. I won’t get into exact numbers, but from this a certain pattern arose, Since I was still playing my games at 1080p the GPU was barely being utilized, while the CPU introduced the infamous bottleneck.
And it’s a laptop, so naturally I wasn’t able to simply switch out the CPU and replace it with a stronger one that can keep up with my GPU (Note: I have, since then, greatly improved my CPU performance by enhancing my system’s thermals), instead, I’ve opted to increase how much I can do with my GPU by introducing a higher resolution.
Yes, I know, a 4K monitor can cost about as much as a completely new system, and I wasn’t about to shell out a bunch of money for a 60Hz display where I can’t even play my old games at 144fps, both because the monitor doesn’t support it, and because most GPUs struggle pushing past 60FPS in 4K anyway! So Instead I went for the natural half-step. I got me a badass 1440p 165Hz monitor.
This 27″ beast supported G-Sync and was ready to impress me. I hopped on Titanfall 2, and was absolutely blown away by how well it ran, even at 1440p, which is a higher resolution than the laptop was TECHNICALLY is supposed to be running. The CPU’s performance didn’t change, of course, but I was finally utilizing my GPU. At 1440p (medium-high settings), and with the use of the aforementioned Adaptive Resolution option In Titanfall 2, I was even playing at ~144FPS quite reliably.
So the lesson here is, if you’re already playing at the highest possible quality preset for your game and your GPU is not putting in real effort, you might want to consider a higher resolution monitor. I personally use the Asus TUF VG27AQ, and couldn’t recommend it more. There are, of course, many other excellent options out there.
Already have an external monitor?
Well in that case, here are a few other tips to get the most out of it!
- Since you are (presumably) going to be doing most of your work on the external monitor from now on, I’d recommend turning down the resolution (and even refresh rate!) of your laptop’s built-in display through Nvidia Control Panel (or AMD equivalent, if that’s your jam). I can play a video game in full 1440p at 144hz+ while watching a 720p video on my laptop screen with minimal impact to performance.
- If your laptop still overheats or your GPU underperforms, you can always tell it to ONLY display your content on the external monitor by going into the display settings in windows, and picking the option “Display only on [whatever number your monitor corresponds to]”, which removes the need for your GPU to constantly draw BOTH screens simultaneously, making more of your GPU available to you.
I tried my best not to get TOO technical in this article, but I would gladly answer any questions about phrases or abbreviations I may have used, or anything else that may have been confusing, so feel free to ask me in the comments below, or Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I sincerely hope you found this article informative and are now better able to utilize that beast of a thing you paid your hard-earned money for.
Let’s get it, gamers.