Building a PC isn’t a simple undertaking, and most people who choose to take on the task are doing it as a cost-effective way to get a beefy gaming PC. That’s not always the case, though, and gamers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from building their own computer. An integrated graphics PC build can set you up with most of the same advantages as assembling a gaming computer, with the final result being a customized, upgradeable, and future-proofed workstation that perfectly meets your specifications.
Many of the challenges and pitfalls of building a computer remain, however, and there are some special considerations to keep in mind when doing an integrated graphics PC build. So before you begin, read through our integrated graphics build guide below. It has everything you need to know about how to put together a computer without a discrete GPU. We’ve even laid out an example build guide with specific components to show you how it’s done.
Photo Editor by Randy L
The term “integrated graphics” simply refers to graphics processing capabilities that are built directly into the central processing unit, or CPU. This is in contrast to what’s known as a “discrete” or “dedicated” graphics card, or GPU, which is a component that is completely separate from the CPU.
Dedicated graphics cards are useful for things like gaming PC builds or for workstations that do heavy graphical work, such as 3D modeling or video rendering, as these are demanding tasks that can be a lot for a CPU to handle by itself. As you can imagine, integrated graphics are not nearly as powerful as a discrete GPU, but they are much more cost-effective if you don’t specifically need the power of a dedicated video card.
Many of the most popular CPUs have integrated graphics processing power, but as there are quite a few that do not, it’s important to know which ones to avoid if you’re doing an integrated graphics PC build. Both AMD and Intel offer desktop CPUs with integrated graphics.
You can tell which Intel Core CPUs have integrated graphics simply by looking at the model number. Core processors without integrated graphics have an “F” in their names (for example, the Core i5-12400F is a variant of the Core i5-12400 without integrated graphics). These processors are intended for PC builds that will have a discrete GPU, such as a gaming computer.
AMD CPUs use a similar naming convention. Ryzen processors with integrated graphics (formerly called “APUs,” or accelerated processing units, before the term was dropped) will have the letters “G” or “GE” in the model name. The Ryzen 5 5600G and Ryzen 7 5700GE are two examples of AMD CPUs with integrated graphics. AMD processors without this distinction lack integrated graphics and won’t be suitable for this build.
Since we’re not too worried about fitting a bulky graphics card into our build, we have a lot of leeway with our case selection. For a gaming PC build, we normally recommend the standard ATX mid-tower. This is the go-to standby for desktop builds that feature discrete GPUs because it offers plenty of room to fit hardware and manage cables without being too massive for most desks.
However, for our integrated PC build, we’re opting for something a bit smaller than the standard mid-tower. That said, we still want something that’s compatible with the most common motherboard and CPU configurations, and one that won’t hamper airflow or make cable management unnecessarily difficult. We like microATX mini cases for this purpose, as they strike a nice balance between size and internal working space.
For beginners and budget-conscious builders, we like the Cooler Master MasterBox Q300L. This microATX mini-tower features a nice clean design with good ventilation and room for cable management. Alternatively, the Cooler Master N200 is another good option, although it’s not quite as aesthetically appealing. If you want something higher-end, the Corsair Crystal 280X is a nice upgrade that comes with a couple RGB LED fans and tempered glass see-through paneling (it’s available in black or white as well).
We’re offering four mid-range processor choices for our integrated PC build; two Intel and two AMD. Many people are particular about the CPU and GPU brands they favor, and we respect that. Really, though, you can’t go wrong with either. The stock coolers that these processors come with are fine for this build – no need to spend extra money on an aftermarket CPU cooler unless you want fancy LEDs for aesthetic reasons, or if you’re planning on overclocking your CPU.
For the Intel folks, we’ve got the Core i5-12400 six-core CPU, which is a great value for less than $200. If you want some more juice, the Core i5-12600K CPU is a worthy upgrade with its ten cores. Both of these require an LGA 1700 socket for interfacing with your motherboard. For the AMD crowd, the Ryzen 5 5600G six-core CPU is a solid value, while the eight-core Ryzen 7 5700G is a good upgrade pick. As with the vast majority of AMD CPUs, these require an AM4 motherboard socket, which we’ll get to next.
Your motherboard needs to A) fit inside your case, B) have a compatible socket for your CPU, and C) have enough slots and connections for things like RAM and cooling fans. We like to go with four RAM slots to allow for future memory expansion and at least four fan headers, which gives us enough to power four case fans for a sufficient cooling setup.
The above microATX mini-towers require a microATX motherboard to match, and you also need one with the proper socket for your CPU (AM4 for AMD or LGA 1700 for our Intel Core processor choices mentioned above). If you opt for a different CPU than the ones we highlighted, be sure you’re getting a processor and motherboard with compatible socket types.
A good microATX Intel motherboard for an integrated graphics PC build is the Asus B660M-PLUS TUF, which also has built-in Wi-Fi. For an AMD CPU, the ASRock B550M Pro4 AMD AM4 microATX is a top-rated motherboard that meets our requirements. If going the AMD route, be aware that certain AM4 motherboards may require a BIOS update for newer Ryzen 5 CPUs.
Our minimum recommendation for any custom computer setup is a power supply with an efficiency rating of 80+ Bronze, and since that’s the price-to-performance sweet spot, it’s perfect for an integrated graphics PC build that won’t be using a dedicated (and energy-consuming) graphics card.
We’ll go for a modular or semi-modular PSU, too. This allows you to remove unused cables for a cleaner build and is ideal for a mini tower case. The Corsair CXM 650-watt 80+ Bronze semi-modular ATX PSU and EVGA 650BQ 650-watt 80+ Bronze ATX semi-modular PSU are both fine power supplies for this setup.
RAM, or random access memory, helps your CPU handle multiple tasks at once. This is especially important for an integrated graphics PC build as your processor is going to be doing all of the work with no GPU to rely on for graphical work. It’s possible to get by with 8GB of 3,200MHz RAM, but we recommend upwards of 16GB for almost every build, and this is no exception.
We want to take advantage of dual-channel memory, so we’re going with a 16GB kit with two sticks of 8GB DDR4 RAM. The Crucial Ballistix Gaming DDR4-3200 RAM or G.Skill Ripjaws V DDR4-3200 RAM dual-channel 16GB kits are good choices that you can get for around $70. And since our motherboard has four RAM slots, you can always buy another 2x8GB kit and upgrade this to 32GB of memory in the future if you decide you need to.
Storage is entirely up to you and naturally depends on your needs. Generally, it’s a good idea to have an SSD as your main system drive (where your operating system and other software will be installed). A minimum of 256GB is okay if your storage needs are modest, but 512GB is better – you might be surprised how easy it is to run out of space. You can get a larger one if your budget allows. A cost-effective alternative is to supplement your solid-state system drive with a bigger 7,200rpm HDD for extra file storage.
The biggest advantage of building a computer with integrated graphics is really the same as any PC build: It’s more cost-effective than buying a pre-built machine, offering more performance per dollar, and you can customize it precisely to your specs.
With a pre-built desktop PC, you have less choice when it comes to component specifications. Pre-built desktops also often use proprietary cases, motherboards, and power supplies that can be expensive to replace and can greatly limit your options when it comes to future upgrades. Building your own PC gives you complete control from start to finish, along with the flexibility of being able to easily swap out components in the future.
Another advantage specific to an integrated graphics PC build is cost. There are a lot of really good reasons to invest in a discrete GPU, like gaming, video editing, graphics work, and more. But, if you’re building a machine designed for light browsing and daily use, a good CPU with solid RAM and motherboard may be the way to go. And you might even end up with room in your budget to upgrade your monitor, keyboard, and mouse!
What's also important to note is that the AMD processors with integrated graphics feature far better performance compared to that of their intel counterparts. Take a look at this handy visual representation for a decent GPU comparison: https://www.reddit.com/r/nvidia/comments/srbcxn/updated_gpu_comparison_chart_data_source_toms/
When building a system with only integrated graphics in mind, AMD is the clear route to take. However, GPU prices are quickly declining, so I'm speculating that you will be able to get a GPU for MSRP in about two months.
Completely agree with "Biggest benefit to building yourself, is you can set yourself up for the future."
The title made me think it was something to do with setting up a separate system (such as a firewall or NAS) that's headless. :P
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