When purchasing a new video card, one of the things that you’re on the look out for is its VRAM or Video Random Access Memory. But what exactly is this VRAM and why is VRAM usage one of the most important factors for shopping around?
We’ll talk about the basics of video memory, how graphics cards work with video RAM, and much more in this article.
What Is VRAM And What Is Its Use?
VRAM, or Video RAM, or Video Random Access Memory, works a lot like your system RAM. But the Video RAM stores graphics data so the graphics processor can access it and displays it accordingly on the screen.
Simply put, it’s RAM but intended for the usage of graphics cards only. Your system will not be tapping into the VRAM unless it has something to do with graphics. Graphics cards, by default, will have different VRAM sizes. Your system memory will be handling everything else to make sure that your computer is running smoothly. Both the System RAM and graphics card VRAM are completely different and totally independent from one another if we’re talking about data processing.
VRAM used to be referred to as DDR SGRAM and transitioned into GRDDR2 RAM. Nowadays, we’re running video cards with GDDR6 RAM with memory clock speeds going higher than 1125MHz and transfer rates of more than 144GB/s.
A good example of this video card is the NVidia GeForce RTX 3080Ti, which was 12GB GDDR6X RAM and a memory clock speed of 1800MHz.
The more GB of VRAM a video card has, the higher the graphics settings you could go for in a video game and the higher the GPU’s processing power.
How Much VRAM Do I Need For Gaming and Apps?
How much VRAM you need will depend on what you’re using the PC for to begin with. If we’re talking about video games, then you’ll need a bare minimum of about 2GB VRAM. Most modern games aren’t that demanding when it comes to VRAM usage.
VRAM can affect gaming performance and is usually where dedicated GPU memory comes into play. A lot of modern games can run 1080p resolution with a 6GB video card (at least a GDDR5 or higher). But 4K gaming will have you running more than that.
What you should also consider is that more VRAM doesn’t mean better gaming performance. If you’re on an 800×600 monitor, then you won’t need anything higher than 4GB of VRAM. But then again, who’s gaming on an 800×600 monitor nowadays, right?
However, VRAM requirements for graphics design, 3D modeling and animation, and video editing will be a lot higher than for playing video games. You’ll need a dedicated VRAM of at least 4GB to 6GB GDDR5 if you want to do these graphically-intensive tasks.
A lot of industry professionals would recommend at least anywhere between 6GB to 8GB GDRR6 VRAM if you want to tackle the largest and most complex projects. A decent-sized card would be the Nvidia RTX 2060, which has 6GB of VRAM.
What Else Can Affect VRAM?
Playing games and using graphically-intensive applications are just half of what affects how much VRAM you’ll need for your PC.
The Type of Video Game Affects VRAM Usage
We’ve talked about the quality settings of video games affecting your VRAM usage, but it really boils down to the type of video game you’re playing. Playing an older video game like Dishonored at Ultra Settings is going to be completely different than playing Elden Ring or Microsoft Flight Simulator at similar settings. This is because both of the modern games mentioned require a ton of graphics processing power to display landscapes and other details properly.
Ultimately, playing video games at the highest possible settings capped at the desired frame rates will dictate how much VRAM capacity is perfect for you. And by perfect, we mean you have enough VRAM to power through those games or graphically-intensive apps without making your graphics card work too hard.
With that being said, you’ll need to invest in a future proof graphics card and about 6GB of VRAM at the bare minimum. You’ll have enough dedicated memory to power through video games and apps without breaking a sweat. But if you have more money to spend, 8GB of VRAM is up for consideration.
And you don’t even need to be tech-savvy to understand the details on the graphics cards’ packaging. The VRAM capacity is easily read and accessed on the box. Any other detail like clock speed are slightly inconsequential unless you’re planning on overclocking.
Your Screen Resolution Matters Too
Let’s talk about your gaming PC or laptop’s display. If your display has a large resolution, then you’ll need more VRAM. Processing 1 frame will utilize your VRAM and the more pixels there are in a frame, the more VRAM is required.
Between a 1080p monitor and 1440p monitor, you’ll end up using less VRAM for the former. A 4K monitor sitting at 3840×2160 resolution will consume more VRAM than another monitor with 2560x1440p resolution.
Your In-Game Settings Will Affect Your VRAM Usage
As gamers, we always want to go for the highest settings possible. There’s nothing more beautiful to look at than high resolution textures paired with uncapped frame rates.
A lot of the modern games like Elden Ring will require more memory compared to games like League of Legends and Valorant. But even with these types of games, pushing to higher settings will still need more VRAM than necessary.
Any PC game running on an old GPU will need to compromise between consistent frame rates and higher texture quality. Settling for the latter might lower frame rates, while settling for frame rates will result in lower texture quality.
And believe us when we say that texture quality doesn’t completely affect gaming experience. If you have an older GPU want to run something like Elden Ring, you’ll probably need to scale down on the in-game settings.