On VRAM and It’s Role in Gaming Computer GPUs

February 28, 2024

Few elements of a gaming computer setup are more important than the graphics card, or GPU, and there are several specifics to be thinking about when choosing a new GPU. One of these that should never be overlooked by any serious gamer: The VRAM they choose.

At Xidax, graphics cards are major considerations we take for all our clients as they build custom gaming desktops, laptops, workstations and more. What is VRAM within a GPU, how does it compare to traditional RAM, and how does it impact performance? Let’s go over these basic questions, plus how much VRAM you’re likely to need based on your setup.

VRAM Basics

For those familiar with traditional RAM, or Random Access Memory, VRAM may seem similar. The two are both from the same family, known as memory storage units that temporarily hold data involved in processing or computing tasks. The main difference between RAM and VRAM is that traditional RAM is a volatile computer component, meaning it loses all stored information when a power source turns off.

In many ways, however, VRAM performs an identical task to RAM within your GPU. It allows the GPU to gain quick access to any data that’s stored within it, which in turn allows the GPU to perform its tasks more quickly and efficiently. The more VRAM your graphics card has, the better it can handle high-resolution textures and other demanding graphics tasks.

Another area where VRAM differs from traditional system memory is how you can upgrade it. Unlike RAM, which you can simply uninstall and then upgrade with double or even exponentially more memory, VRAM is built into the GPU itself, which means the only way to upgrade it is to buy a new card with more VRAM on board. Some manufacturers will offer options for improved performance through overclocking instead, but this usually results in more heat and noise produced by your GPU’s fan components.

How VRAM Impacts Computer Performance

Another major difference here between VRAM and other forms of memory is that VRAM is only required when the computer is carrying out tasks that are demanding from a graphics standpoint. During all other tasks, including browsing the web, checking email and other common activities, your system’s traditional RAM will be more than adequate.

Now, that still leaves plenty of areas where VRAM impacts performance. Here are the primary ones:

  • Resolution requirements: The greater the resolution your computer uses, the greater the demand on VRAM within your graphics card. An ultra-high resolution monitor running at 4K might require higher amounts of VRAM than a lower resolution monitor. This is because the GPU has to render a greater amount of individual pixels the higher the resolution. If your GPU isn’t up to the task, you’ll get lagging performance or even an unresponsive system.
  • Game VRAM usage: In nearly every case for modern computer games, VRAM will be utilized in some way, usually in significant amounts. This is because the intense graphical content of a game, from larger textures to extremely detailed models, requires a great deal of storage space on your GPU. As a result, gamers should ensure they have enough VRAM on their graphics card to handle not only any resolution demands but also high framerates and other related settings as well. As you might have already guessed, games with more demanding resolutions and graphical rendering needs will require more VRAM than those with less intense visuals.
  • Your specific settings: Just as large a factor here as either of the previous two sections is the settings you’re utilizing within your gaming setup. Are you running all your games at high settings and resolutions? If so, you’ll require more VRAM than if you were running games at low settings and resolutions. Just as with the resolution, any time you switch up your graphical settings to be higher or lower it impacts the demand on your GPU’s VRAM. This means that if you’re experiencing poor frame rate or other output issues but are unable to upgrade your GPU or VRAM, you can compensate by lowering your game settings to a point where your system is stabilized.

How Much VRAM Is Needed?

If you’re purchasing a new GPU, how much VRAM will you need to support your needs? To be clear, the full answer here depends on factors specific to you, such as the kinds of games you play, the VRAM amounts they require, your specific GPU settings and several others — we’ve gone over many of these basics above.

That said, there are a couple areas where VRAM recommendations are pretty standard, at least in a broad sense. One of those areas is resolution — here are the common resolutions used by gamers, and a rough estimate of how much VRAM they typically require if all other factors are equal:

  • 720p resolution: Around 2GB of VRAM
  • 1080p resolution: Between 2-4GB of VRAM
  • 1440p resolution: Between 4-8GB of VRAM
  • 4k resolution: At least 8BG of VRAM

Again, these are just general guidelines — they will be impacted, often heavily, by the other factors we’ve been discussing. As an example, a 1440p resolution with all settings turned up to the max will require far more VRAM than a 1080p resolution at low settings.

Bottom line: When it comes to VRAM for gaming computers, think about how demanding your games are and then aim to have a GPU that can handle that load while also leaving some room for other graphical adjustments. VRAM is one of the most important considerations when it comes to gaming graphics, so don’t neglect it!

For more on VRAM, or to learn about any of our gaming computer products or services, speak to the pros at Xidax today.

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