With modern triple-A titles becoming harder and harder to run, there are some key factors to consider in order to get a satisfying gaming experience, one of those being VRAM.
You have surely been in a position of buying a new graphics card and assumed that the more VRAM you have, the smoother the game is going to run. That assumption is half-true seeing as there are different VRAM options like GDDR6 or HBM2. Nonetheless, there are also other important factors to consider like the graphical demand of the game you’re playing, but also the resolution, in-game graphics settings, etc.
Let’s first see what VRAM is and what it’s used for.
Table of ContentsShow
VRAM (Video Random Access Memory)
VRAM is a specific type of RAM that is built specifically and works exclusively with the GPU. As such, it is optimized to perform better than system memory, but only for the tasks that GPU requires from it. Due to their connection, the VRAM is placed on the graphics card very close to the chip and because of this, offers the most optimized and effective service to the GPU.
The biggest drawback of VRAM is that it can’t be upgraded like RAM, as it comes as a part of the graphics card.
The key task for VRAM is frame buffering. This means that the GPU will render an image and then store it on the VRAM which will, in turn, collect that image and set it in the specific order with other already rendered images so that when called upon, the images will show up in the right order.
Another thing that VRAM does is store texture maps. You can think of these as shorthands for the GPU to use to render images faster.
While all these VRAM capabilities appear to give your GPU the best possible resources for gaming, you shouldn’t underestimate just how demanding modern games are. There are also other factors that can influence the usage of VRAM, so let’s take a look.
Monitor Resolution Matters A Lot
This one is either the most or the least obvious, depending on who you ask. Let’s break it down.
So, games use 32-bit color depth which means that 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.
Of course, things grow exponentially from that point so if you were to game at 4K, you would need a 33.2 MB for a single image.
And these numbers can change dramatically if you’re running a game with high-resolution textures and with a bigger polygon count.
VRAM Usage Is Game-Dependant
Even if you don’t have too much experience with gaming, it’s easy to guess that games with better graphics will involve more VRAM.
As mentioned earlier, the bigger resolution you run, the more VRAM you’re going to require and there’s no point in running a fabulous game like Red Dead Redemption 2 if you’re not going to experience and enjoy all the beauty it has to offer, right?
This would then lead to a logical conclusion that less graphically intensive games like Minecraft or Team Fortress 2 would be more accessible to run. And that certainly is a valid deduction, but there are some caveats, with Minecraft especially.
Seeing how the game reached the unbelievable heights of global popularity, the developers wanted to feature better graphics, but the issue is that Minecraft is symbolic because of its low-poly look. So their solution is to introduce ray tracing and although the signature cube esthetic remains, now it’s realistically lit and therefore requires more VRAM.
There’s also a tricky point we need to discuss games’ VRAM requirements. If a game needs 2 GB of VRAM for example, and your GPU has 4 GBs, there won’t be any performance increase. On the other hand, if your game needs 2 GBs and you only have 1 GB, then you’re in trouble. Playing that game will be an absolutely abysmal low-FPS experience.
In-Game Settings Can Make A World Of Difference
Fortunately for gamers, modern games keep coming with more and more graphics settings that allow you to tweak and optimize the performance of your graphics card. Naturally, this would mean you will have to sacrifice some of those pretty graphics in favor of better FPS, but unfortunately, that is a compromise you’ll 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 questionable pixels. Of course, the more samples you use, the higher the load on the VRAM.
Logically, the texture quality setting plays a large role in VRAM needs. If you’re experiencing stuttering in games, this might be a good option to tweak and see what kind of performance increase you are going to get.
Your Preferred Game Settings Are What Should Ultimatively Guide Your VRAM Decision
Hopefully, this conclusion is obvious at this point, but it’s important to stress it out anyway.
If you’re looking to play the most modern games at 4K, then you better have a GPU with an 8 GB of VRAM or more. Below is a rough rundown of how much VRAM you’re going to need at what resolution.
- 720P – 2GB of VRAM
- 1080P – 2GB-6GB of VRAM
- 1440P – 4-8GB of VRAM
- 4K – 8GB+ VRAM
Of course, these numbers aren’t all VRAM-dependant and performance increase (or decrease) is possible through some settings modifications.