How Much VRAM Do I Need For Gaming?
Buying a brand new graphics card is relatively easy. But buying the right graphics card can force you to think. See, when you choose a GPU for your gaming PC there are some things you need to look at. Information like clock speed, how many Cuda cores or compute units it has, the architecture, etc. One of the information you see is VRAM or Video Random Access Memory. And this is the thing that you may need to think about for a second. Because based on this, manufacturers launch the same card with different VRAM variants at different prices. You surely do not want to overspend on a GPU if your requirement is not enough.
So, the question is “How much VRAM do I need for gaming?”. The answer is not straightforward. See, How much VRAM do you need is depends on various points, even if it is only for gaming. GPUs comes with different VRAM variants such as 2GB, 3GB, 4GB, 6GB, 8GB, 12GB or up to 16GB and 24GB. Higher memory means a higher price. But is higher video memory that effective while gaming that it cost you extra more bucks for extra memory?
So better understanding of how much VRAM do I need for gaming? Follow the article.
What Is VRAM?
VRAM stands for Video Random Access Memory. As its name suggests is it a short-term memory for your graphics card. It is quite similar to RAM or system memory but completely separate and served a different purpose.
VRAM often refer to as framebuffer and act as just that. Before GPU loads any scene or frame, the scene first loaded to the VRAM. That scene or frame includes texture, lighting, physics, game assets, etc. VRAM just holds that information so it can pass to the GPU and then GPU process the data and display it.
Every single frame that needs to be displayed, it first stored in VRAM as a framebuffer and then pass to the GPU.
Types Of VRAM
Before finding out how much VRAM do I need, one critical piece of information you need to know is the types of VRAM.
Most of graphics card today’s market comes with either memory type of
GDDR stands for Graphics Double Data Rate. This is the most common type of VRAM you’ll see in most of the graphics cards today. However, GDDR has improved by sixth-generation up until now 2021. GDDR6 has some massive improvements over GDDR5 and GDDR5X in transfer rate and memory clock.
Thanks to the low manufacturing cost of a GDDR type memory, the graphics card itself comes at a much lower price than HBM
HBM stands for High Bandwidth Memory. This memory type is less common in graphics cards. Only a few AMD’s card manufacture with HBM memory. HBM memory also has a high cost to manufacture than GDDR. And the graphics that have HBM memory in it also cost you quite a bit more.
However, some advantages are using HBM memory over GDDR such as small form factor, power-efficient, higher max bandwidth, etc.
What Factors That Can Affect VRAM Directly
Some factors do affect VRAM utilization when it comes to gaming. Sure the more VRAM the better the image to look graphically and frame processing will be.
Depending on your use cases the amount of VRAM utilization varies. It may require high VRAM or less. The factors that affect VRAM utilization while gaming is
- The Resolution Of Your Monitor
- The Game Itself
- Graphics Settings Of The Game
The Resolution Of Your Monitor
The screen resolution is one of those things that can heavily affect VRAM utilization. The more your monitor resolution will be the higher it uses VRAM to display the image on your monitor.
So how does it work while gaming? Let’s take the example of a Full HD monitor. The resolution of a Full HD monitor is 1920 x 1080. Typically, games are rendered at 32bit color depth. 32bit per pixel(8 bit for each red, green, blue and alpha ) on a 1920×1080 monitor so that 32 x 1920 x 1080 = 6,63,55,200 bits. So a single frame is about 8.3Mb. This 8.3 Mb image data is stored in VRAM before rendering the image. As the resolution goes high the image size getting bigger.
The Games You Are Playing
It is obvious that games will use VRAM. But how much? Just like the higher resolution of the monitor. The higher a graphically demanding game, the more VRAM utilize will be.
For example, games like Among us or Minecraft will utilize a relatively lower amount of VRAM compare to games like Assasins Creed Valhalla or Horizon Zero Dawn. Because Among us and Minecraft aren’t graphically demanded games. Sure they have textures, lighting, models, and other game assets but the quality of those aren’t as high as Assasins Creed Valhalla or Horizon Zero Dawn.
And that’s how different games will affect the VRAM and why higher graphically demand games require to have sufficient amount of VRAM to run without any lag and stutter.
Graphics Settings Of The Game
Like I mentioned above the overall graphics will heavily impact the VRAM usage of your graphics card. That’s why the graphics setting of any game plays a major role in VRAM usage.
For example, you set a game’s graphics setting at very high. As a result, the overall graphics quality will increase, and thus the size of data of each frame that needs to load in the VRAM.
On the other hand, lower graphics settings will decrease the size of data and will not occupy as much as VRAM-like high settings.
How Much VRAM Do I Need For Gaming?
Now you know what is VRAM, the types of VRAM and what causes VRAM to be used. Let’s back to the main question, how much VRAM do I need?
Screen resolution, the game itself, and the game setting you are playing on everything can determine how much GPU VRAM will be utilized and how much VRAM you’ll need to play games smoothly now and in the future.
Here is the general idea of how much VRAM do I need for gaming in 2021.
- at 720p resolution: 2GB-4GB of VRAM
- at 1080p resolution: 4GB-6GB of VRAM
- at 1440p resolution: 6GB-8GB of VRAM
- at 4k resolution: 8GB-12GB of VRAM
These values are the general assumption of how much a graphics card VRAM can utilize on a certain resolution. And of course, the game setting and the game itself.
For instance, games like Minecraft, World Of Warcraft, LOL will utilize less than 4GB of VRAM even at 1080p resolution. And this 4GB utilization also can be changed depending on the graphics settings you are playing on these games. On 1080p resolution, RTX Minecraft required a minimum of 6GB of VRAM and I’m not talking about the graphics settings. It can be low, medium, or even high.
Highly graphically demanding games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Watch Dog Legion, PUBG can utilize more than 4GB of VRAM at 1080p in low-medium settings. Also if you increase the resolution, the VRAM requirement will automatically increase.
What Is The Right Amount Of VRAM For Resolution And Games?
So, how much exact memory required for gaming? As I said before it depends on which games do you like to play and on which resolution. Do You play casual games, lightweight games that don’t require heavy GPU or you like to play AAA high graphics games with extra details? Do you play games on 1080p or 1440p resolution?
Of course, a higher VRAM and a decent powerful GPU can run almost all games but there’s also a budget factor that comes in.
As gaming evolving, the developers making more such games require higher VRAM utilization. For reference, I would say right now in 2021( even if you read this some years later ) minimum of 6GB-8GB VRAM on a 1080p resolution will be a better choice.
Even if plan to upgrade your monitor in the future, for say upgrade from 1080p to 1440p, at least you don’t have to upgrade GPU’s too. If you can go higher, it definitely won’t disappoint you. But if you don’t, still 6GB-8GB is well enough for the next 2-3 years.
Does More VRAM Increase Gaming Performance?
Well, No. More VRAM does not mean better performance. For instance, assume a game utilize less than 4GB of VRAM even on a high setting. Even you swap with the same graphics card with the 8GB variant of it, you’ll get the same performance. Because it won’t be using anyway.
However, not having enough VRAM will decrease the performance dramatically. You’ll face issues like lag, stutter, constantly low frames, etc.
Is VRAM The Only Matrix While Purchasing The Graphics Card?
VRAM is not only but one of the important pieces of information you should look at while purchasing a new graphics card. GPU clock speed, Cuda cores, architecture, and other specifications are equally important to look at. Also, memory generation can impact your gaming performance. For example, a graphics card with 4GB GDDR5 will memory perform better than a graphics card with 4GB GDDR3.
What If I run out of VRAM?
If you run out of VRAM, the game will use your system memory to load the data before it sends to the GPU for rending and display. As I mentioned low amount of VRAM will decrease the performance quite a bit.
Can I increase My Graphics card VRAM?
No. Unlike system memory, video memory can’t be replaced. The VRAM already soldered on the graphics card PCB (Printed Circuit Board).