With modern triple-A titles becoming harder and harder to run, there are some key factors to consider if you want to enjoy a satisfying gaming experience, one of which is your VRAM.
It’s easy to assume that the more VRAM you have, the smoother the game will run. This is only half-true because there are different options, such as GDDR6 or HBM2.
There are also other important factors to consider, including the graphical demand of the game you’re playing, but also the resolution, in-game graphics settings, etc.
Let’s first explore what VRAM is and what it’s used for.
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VRAM (Video Random Access Memory)
VRAM is a particular type of RAM designed specifically for and works exclusively with the GPU. As such, it’s optimized to perform better than the system memory, but only in the tasks that are assigned to it by the GPU. Due to their need for cooperation, the VRAM is placed very close to the chip on the graphics card so that it can provide the quickest and most effective service to the GPU.
Its biggest drawback is that it can’t be upgraded, unlike RAM, as it comes as part of the graphics card.
The key task for VRAM is frame buffering. This means the GPU will render an image and then store it on the VRAM, which, in turn, collects that image and places it in the correct order with other rendered images. This way, when called upon, the images will be displayed in the right order.
Another thing that VRAM does is store texture maps. You can think of these as shortcuts that the GPU uses to render images faster.
While these VRAM capabilities appear to give your GPU all the necessary resources for gaming, you shouldn’t underestimate just how demanding modern games are. Other factors can influence the usage of VRAM, so let’s take a look.
Monitor Resolution Matters A Lot
This is either the most or least obvious advice, depending on who you ask. Let’s break it down.
Games use 32-bit color depth, which means 32 bits will be shown per pixel. This means that if you’re playing a game at 1080p, the required memory for storing a single image will be roughly 8.3 MB.
However, things increase exponentially from that point. If you were to game at 4K, you would need 33.2 MB for a single image. These numbers can change dramatically if you’re running a game with high-resolution textures or a bigger polygon count.
VRAM Usage Is Game-Dependant
Even if you don’t have much experience with gaming, it’s logical that games with better graphics will require more VRAM.
As mentioned earlier, the higher your resolution, the more VRAM you will need. We can probably all agree that there’s no point in running a beautiful game like Red Dead Redemption 2 if you’re unable to experience all the visual splendor it has to offer.
This also leads to the logical conclusion that less graphically intensive games such as Minecraft or Team Fortress 2 are easier to run. While that is a sensible deduction, there are exceptions, particularly with one iconic game.
When Minecraft achieved an unbelievable level of global popularity, its developers wanted to upgrade its graphics. However, Minecraft has become synonymous with its visual style, which is somewhat low-poly. Their solution was to introduce ray tracing, so although the signature cube aesthetic remains, it is now more realistically lit and thus requires more VRAM.
There is also a tricky point we need to discuss regarding games’ VRAM requirements. If, for example, a game needs 2 GB of VRAM and your GPU has 4 GB, there should be a performance increase. On the other hand, if your game needs 2 GB and you only have 1 GB, then you’re in for an abysmal low-FPS experience.
In-Game Settings Can Make A World Of Difference
Fortunately for gamers, modern games offer more graphics settings that allow you to tweak and optimize your graphics card’s performance. Understandably, you’ll have to sacrifice some of the more spectacular visuals in favor of better FPS. Unfortunately, that’s a compromise you will have to make.
One of the key settings you might want to adjust is anti-aliasing, which is used to remove the jagged edges around textures. It does so by taking an image and smoothing out the offending pixels. The more samples you use, the higher the load on the VRAM.
The texture quality setting plays a large role in VRAM needs. If you experience stuttering in games, this might be a good option to tweak and see its effect on your PC’s performance.
Your Preferred Game Settings Should Ultimately Guide Your VRAM Decision
Hopefully, this conclusion will be obvious at this point, but it’s important to stress it anyway.
If you’re looking to play modern games at 4K, you better have a GPU with at least 8 GB of VRAM. Below is a brief rundown of how much you will need, depending on the resolution you play at.
- 720P – 2GB of VRAM
- 1080P – 2GB-6GB of VRAM
- 1440P – 4-8GB of VRAM
- 4K – 8GB+ VRAM
Be aware these numbers aren’t entirely VRAM-dependent, and a performance increase (or decrease) can also be caused by modifying other settings.