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How much video RAM you need depends on what you are doing. In gaming, the more graphically demanding the game or the higher the resolution you’re playing at, the more Video Random Access Memory (VRAM) you’ll need.
Today, modern computer games often use more than 2 GB of VRAM, but rarely more than 4 GB. To make things more complicated, games don’t use a fixed amount of RAM but use a variable amount depending on: What is happening on screen?
What Are Modern Graphics Card
Modern graphics cards come with between 2 and 12 gigabytes of video RAM (VRAM) built into the graphics card. AMD recently released the RX 480, with models coming with 4 or 8 gigabytes of VRAM. But does that extra VRAM come in handy? How much do you really need?
Techspot tested three different graphics cards with models that were equivalent aside from their amount of VRAM. Performance was essentially identical at this resolution, even when cutting the amount of VRAM in half.
Even when raising the resolution, there is little difference between the cards, including cards with only 2 gigabytes. Where there is a noticeable difference, the frame rate isn’t high enough to be playable anyway. Lowering the settings to increase the frame rate to a playable level removes the cards’ performance difference.
The biggest difference showed up with Rainbow Six Siege, where an R9 380 with 4GB of VRAM was 26% faster than an R9 380 with 2GB of VRAM at 2560 x 1600 resolution and on Ultra settings. In this situation, it would definitely be worth paying for the extra VRAM.
Paying more for more VRAM is rarely worth it from a price-to-performance perspective. Unless you know that your particular game, graphical settings, and resolution will benefit, then choose a graphics card based on the GPU itself and don’t worry about the amount of VRAM. Getting a more powerful GPU with less VRAM is always a better idea than getting a slower GPU with more VRAM.
What is a VRAM?
Just like the RAM in your computer offers your CPU quick access to the important data it needs to carry out processes, VRAM works essentially the same, as it offers your GPU quick access to the data it needs to carry out graphics-related processes.
Because VRAM is built onto your graphics card, it is much quicker for your GPU to access the data that it holds, rather than if your GPU were to access that same data from your system’s memory or the SSD/HDD in your computer.
Unlike RAM, however, you can’t install more VRAM in your system or on your graphics card. Again, VRAM is built directly onto the graphics card. So, your graphics card’s amount of VRAM is the amount of VRAM your GPU and system will have to use until you upgrade your graphics card.
How Monitor Resolution Impact’s VRAM?
In the simplest of terms, the higher the resolution a monitor has, the more VRAM will be used to process a single frame. Just like how the higher the resolution of a monitor, the more VRAM it will utilize, the more detailed and graphics-intensive a game is, the more VRAM it will utilize.
So, for instance, games like Team Fortress 2 and Minecraft won’t utilize as much VRAM as games like Middle Earth: Shadow of War, or Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. The former games aren’t games that are known for the graphics quality and details, while the latter games offer much more advanced scenery and graphics details.
Minecraft isn’t a very detailed game, and it won’t utilize as much VRAM as a more demanding game like Middle Earth: Shadow of War.
And, really, since better graphics really means more data, that means that a single frame in a more graphics-demanding game will have more data to process than will a single frame in a less demanding game.