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.
Most people assume that the more VRAM they have, the smoother the game is going to run. This is half-true because there are different 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.
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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’s optimized to perform better than the system memory, but only in the tasks that the GPU requires from it. Due to their connection, the VRAM is placed very close to the chip on the graphics card, so it offers the most optimized and effective service to the GPU.
Its biggest drawback 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. This way, 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.
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 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 need. We can all agree that 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 lead to the logical conclusion that less graphically intensive games like Minecraft or Team Fortress 2 would be more accessible to run. While that certainly is a valid deduction, there are some caveats, especially with one particular game.
When Minecraft reached unbelievable heights of global popularity, the developers wanted to feature better graphics. However, Minecraft is symbolic exactly because of this very look, somewhat low-poly. Their solution is to introduce ray tracing so, although the signature cube aesthetic remains, it’s now realistically lit and therefore requires more VRAM.
There’s also a tricky point we need to discuss on 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 for an absolutely abysmal low-FPS experience.
In-Game Settings Can Make A World Of Difference
Fortunately for gamers, modern games keep coming up with more and more graphics settings that allow you to tweak and optimize your graphics card’s performance. Naturally, this means you’ll have to sacrifice some of those pretty graphics in favor of better FPS. Unfortunately, that’s 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’re going to get.
Your Preferred Game Settings Are What Should Ultimatively 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 the most modern games at 4K, then you better have a GPU with at least 8 GB of VRAM. Below is a rough rundown of how much you’re going to 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
Of course, these numbers aren’t all VRAM-dependant and performance increase (or decrease) can be caused by the modification of other settings.