Video memory is one of the most misunderstood components of a video card. Many people can’t seem to grasp its importance. After all, it doesn’t actually affect the video speed. So what is VRAM, and what is its importance?
VRAM is a type of high-speed memory used specifically by the graphics card to quickly store and access graphical data for display on a computer screen in applications like gaming and video editing.
Of course, that’s oversimplifying things. So let’s dive a little deeper to help you understand what VRAM is.
What Are The Different Types of VRAM?
VRAM is a vital component of a computer’s graphics card. As simple as that sounds, there are actually different types of VRAM to cater to the varying requirements of different systems. If the games you play require a specific amount of video memory, you need to know what type will work best with your system.
Multibank DRAM (MDRAM)
MDRAM, developed by MoSys, is a high-performance VRAM. Unlike conventional VRAM, which accesses the entire frame buffer at once in a monolithic fashion, MDRAM employs individual smaller memory banks for concurrent access. These small banks can be accessed individually, making data retrieval from different parts of the memory simultaneously possible. As a result, you get a faster and more efficient image creation process.
Rambus DRAM (RDRAM)
RDRAM, introduced in the 90s by Rambus Inc, was created to enable faster data transfer rates. It was intended to be a high-speed alternative to traditional memory technologies such as Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM).
Synchronous Graphics RAM (SGRAM)
SGRAM is a specialized type of memory that is optimized for graphics-intensive applications. It is relatively low-cost with a clock-synchronized RAM that makes use of masked write that modifies selected data in a single operation. So instead of running a series of read, update, and write operations, everything is done in one swift step. This allows faster and more efficient data transfer between the memory and the GPU. Although it is single-ported in reality, it simulates dual-ported technologies by opening up two virtual pages at the same time.
Window RAM (WRAM)
Window RAM, not to be confused with Microsoft Windows, is a high-performance VRAM designed for efficient data reading. It can also display all the memory content simultaneously, resulting in a faster display output than single-port RAM. WRAM is perfect for running applications with very high resolution using true colors.
Why Is VRAM Important For Gaming?
VRAM plays a key role in image quality and loading times. As a rule of thumb, games with better graphics need more VRAM. Attempting to render high-resolution games with inadequate video memory will overload your GPU, causing it to rely on the system’s RAM. This overflow can negatively impact your gaming experience as it reduces the speed and efficiency of data processing.
You can technically play video memory-intensive games, like Red Dead Redemption and Halo Infinite, even with relatively low VRAM. But the overall experience won’t be as good. After all, much of their appeal comes from their visual magnificence. So not being able to experience that will be quite disappointing.
If you aren’t particularly into hardcore gaming, you’re probably thinking about how that affects you. Well, as it turns out, even less graphically intensive games like Minecraft still require more video memory than you think, especially after its developers made some improvements in its graphics. It still looks like its signature cube aesthetic, which we all know and has come to love, but it now uses ray tracing to make it look more realistically lit.
How Much VRAM Do You Need?
How much VRAM you need will depend on the software you want to run. Games and other applications with specific GPU requirements will indicate the minimum and recommended VRAM necessary for their operation.
Honestly speaking, there isn’t such a thing as too much VRAM. If you have the budget, there’s no harm in getting the highest video memory money can buy, especially if you’re a hardcore gamer or professional video editor. Having more VRAM than you need doesn’t just cater to your current needs. It also helps future-proof your system.
It’d be a shame to replace a perfectly good GPU with lots of years left in it because it can no longer satisfy your video memory needs. After all, a GPU’s lifespan is longer than you may think. But if your budget is a little strained, getting a graphics card with at least 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM should be enough for 1080p gaming.
But if you plan to game in quad HD or ultra HD resolutions, I highly recommend you go for 8 GB or more. Here’s a quick guide on how much VRAM you need based on your needs.
- 2 GB (720p)
- 4 GB (1080p)
- 6 GB to 8 GB (1440p)
- 8 GB to 12 GB (2160p or 4K)
For video editors:
- 8 GB (for editing 720p to 1080p files)
- 16 GB (for editing 4K files)
- 32 GB (for editing all types of files)
- 64 GB (for editing 8K files)
How to Increase VRAM?
No doubt, a graphics card can help improve the overall performance of your system. But what if your GPU’s video memory isn’t that high? Unfortunately, adding more VRAM isn’t as easy slapping more memory modules as you would with a regular system RAM. Video memory is soldered into the GPU’s PCB. So if you need more, buying a new graphics card with a higher VRAM is the only way to increase VRAM.
But don’t let that discourage you just yet. There are plenty of ways to optimize your memory if you aren’t yet ready to buy a new one, especially if your GPU has a few more good years left on it.
Allocate More RAM for GPU Usage
If you’re using an integrated GPU, allocating more of your RAM as VRAM to the iGPU chip can help increase your video memory. Of course, this also means making a few compromises with your system’s performance since it shares most of its memory with your GPU. Upgrading to a faster RAM can help you squeeze every last bit of juice from your iGPU, but it can only take you so far. Keep in mind that the system RAM is much slower than the VRAM.
Reduce Unnecessary VRAM Usage
Another way you can increase video memory is by lowering your graphics settings. But that also means scaling down the complexity of your project, which may not be feasible for professional workloads. But for gaming, it’s much easier than you think. Most modern games will give you options to reduce the resolution, such as texture detail and anti-aliasing. Of course, when you do this, make sure tot close all other applications on your PC.
Upgrade Your Storage
VRAM works closely with your system’s storage. This is especially true for professional workloads. Falling back on slow, mechanical storage for cache won’t just slow down your application. It may even crash.
So it’s important you find a fast NVMe drive. But make sure it’s compatible with your motherboard to prevent bottlenecking the system. For example, getting an NVMe Gen 3 SSD is the best option if you have a PCIe Gen 3. While this isn’t the best solution, having high-speed storage can still help reduce the load time of whatever game or application you’re using.
What’s The Difference Between RAM and VRAM?
Although they share a similar name and are both a type of random access memory, they have very different functions. For starters, RAM refers to the system’s general memory. It isn’t as fast as VRAM, but the CPU uses it to do more complicated tasks, such as running programs the system requires. Without it, your computer wouldn’t work.
VRAM, on the other hand, is responsible for how smooth the images and graphics render on your screen. The more VRAM capacity you have, the more data it can process in less time with better resolution. It’s generally faster than RAM but can only handle simple tasks specific to the graphics card.
Here’s a more comprehensive article differentiating RAM and VRAM if you want to learn more about this.
VRAM isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when building a PC. But it’s just as important as the rest of your computer. Although your computer will run without it, you’ll see a huge loss of image quality in your games. In fact, some games may not even be playable without the right amount of VRAM. So if you really want the best gaming experience, investing in a GPU with a high video memory is definitely worth it.