VRAM simply means Video RAM, and it is a form of storage just like regular RAM. A VRAM is built directly into your graphics card and stores the relevant graphic data such as textures. The biggest difference here is that VRAM consists of faster RAM types such as GDDR5 and GDDR6, although VR and workstation GPUs use HBM or HBM2.
Everyone knows that GPUs are a very important part of gaming. If you want a smooth gaming experience, you need to figure out how much VRAM you need along with how much RAM you need. We take a look at the factors which determine how much VRAM your gaming rig requires.
How Much VRAM do I Need?
The biggest advantage that VRAM has over regular RAM is that since it is built right into the graphics card, it’s quicker for the GPU to access information from there than from your SSD or HDD. But the downside of this is that you can’t simply install more VRAM into an existing GPU; you will have to upgrade the GPU itself.
In order to save money and effort, it is best to get the right GPU to suit your needs from the start. Here is a quick look at the problems that can arise if your VRAM is too low given your GPU usage.
Low video memory almost always means performance issues in games. This means lower frame rates and considerable lagging.
Texture issues are things like distorted images, frame delays or altogether skipped frames, and screen tearing. Low VRAM can cause all of these. If you have low VRAM, you will need to play games at lower texture detail.
Stuttering is probably the most annoying thing that can happen due to low memory, and it really spoils the whole gaming experience. However, remember that it is possible to remove (or at least reduce) stuttering caused by a low VRAM by lowering your settings.
Factors That Affect VRAM Requirements
The next time you find yourself wondering, “How much VRAM do I even need?” consider the following factors first.
This should be obvious, the higher your in-game resolution, the more video memory you will require. Higher resolution means extra pixels, which then increase the texture size and require more memory. In general, the amount of VRAM needed for common game resolutions is as follows:
- 2 GB for 720p
- 3 GB for 900p
- 4 GB for 1080p
- 6-8 GB for 1440p
- 8-12 GB for 2160p
But since resolution isn’t the only thing that affects memory, here are other factors to keep in mind.
The Games You Play
Some games not only have higher resolutions but require more video memory in general. AAA games and those that are not optimized (such as the 2017 version of PUBG) will always require more VRAM as well as RAM. The more detailed and high quality a game’s graphics are will also determine how much memory it uses.
For instance, graphic-heavy games such as ARMA 3, Witcher 3, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (to name a few) will require a LOT more memory than simple games that don’t really focus much on graphics, like League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Sometimes, using third party mods or similar add-ons can push your video memory usage to much higher amounts than normal. This is because some mods come with high-resolution graphics and textures. If using mods is your preferred way of gaming, then you should probably invest in a more VRAM heavy GPU.
This part is a bit more technical, but bear with us a moment. AA or Anti-Aliasing is used to smooth out the jagged edges of the objects in a game, or to eliminate them completely. It gives the appearance of better resolution to a game that might have average graphics otherwise.
However, anti-aliasing does need more pixels to do its job, so when this setting is enabled, video memory consumption also increases. The extent to which it increases will depend on the AA method used. The most common ones include Super Sample Anti-Aliasing (SSAA), Approximate Anti-Aliasing (FXAA), Multi-sample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA), Temporal Anti-Aliasing (TXAA), and Coverage Sampling Anti-Aliasing (CSAA).
Tweaking Game Settings
You can always tweak your game settings to optimize your video memory use. The higher your game settings are, the more data your GPU needs to run them and the more memory it consumes as a result. Since the reverse is also true, you can turn down game settings to reduce memory use.
A lot of gamers who have older systems but want to play newer games have to lower settings in this way for their games to run properly. Remember that settings such as Anti-Aliasing (which we’ve already talked about), Level of Detail, and Texture Quality come with a high cost: extensive VRAM use.
Choosing VRAM for GPUs on Different Budgets
Higher video memory alone cannot translate to higher performance, because the most important thing is the GPU that you have. An entry-level GPU is not powerful enough to be able to support heavier VRAMs, and so on. In general, entry-level GPUs can support VRAMs up to 2 GB, mid-range GPUs can hold VRAMs ranging from 3 to 6 GB, and high-end GPUs can easily support 8 GB and higher VRAM.
Quick Ways to Fix Memory Issues with Gaming
Because lags and memory issues in gaming concern both the VRAM and the GPU itself, here are some quick ways to fix these issues before going out to buy a GPU.
- Run games on lower settings.
- Lower your game resolution (for example, you can play at 900p instead of 1080p).
- Disable functions such as Anti-Aliasing and settings that increase texture quality and such.
- Try overclocking your GPU for better performance.
- Learn how to monitor GPU temperature to prevent instability, especially if you overclock it.
Long story short, the more demanding your games are, the more memory you will need. In any case, we recommend choosing a GPU that at least supports at least 4 GB of video memory. Another thing to remember is that multi-GPU setups (which are quite popular now) don’t double your memory, so you still need to choose wisely.