If you want to play the latest and greatest AAA video games on ultrahigh settings – squeezing every drop of performance out of these modern gaming marvels – you need to have a PC loaded with VRAM.
How much VRAM do I need, though?
Well, it turns out that this isn’t exactly a cookie-cutter kind of answer.
Sure, you need a baseline of VRAM – ideally at least 4 GB of dedicated VRAM – but this is very much a situation where the more VRAM you have, the happier you will be. To a certain point, anyway.
But more on that in just a moment!
VRAM 101 – What is VRAM?
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of how much VRAM you need to run today’s games (let alone tomorrow’s), it’s important to touch on what VRAM is precisely.
VRAM – short for Video RAM – is the dedicated memory that your GPU (graphics card) takes advantage of when it’s time to store and access graphical information.
Games developed just ten years ago didn’t lean quite as heavily on VRAM as today. But that’s because GPU technology wasn’t anywhere near as advanced as today – and games weren’t as demanding.
Right now, though, you need (bare minimum) to have at least 4 GB of VRAM rocking and rolling under the hood of your PC to have even a halfway decent gaming experience.
But more on that in just a minute.
To wrap this up, VRAM is a dedicated memory specifically for your GPU to use. It lightens the load on your CPU and your system RAM, providing a whole buffer of RAM for your graphics components to capitalize on.
Highlighting the Different Types of VRAM
You should also know that there are two significant types of VRAM available on the market today.
The most popular (and the most common) type of VRAM available is GDDR VRAM, which differs somewhat significantly from DDR RAM that most folks are more familiar with.
Built for speed, this RAM can be a little bit on the expensive side to manufacture – and that’s why it is used almost exclusively with high-end graphics cards (the kind of graphics cards that are in ultrahigh demand right now).
HBM VRAM (High Bandwidth Memory) RAM is much more power-efficient than GDDR, but it isn’t quite as powerful or as robust.
Because of this, this type of VRAM is rarely found in consumer-grade GPU is anymore. The AMD Vega series is the only one that still takes advantage of HBM VRAM, with most manufacturers shifting their focus to GDDR in a big way of late.
Just How Much VRAM Do I Need, Anyway?
As we mentioned a little bit earlier, as a baseline number – the absolute minimum – you want to have at least 4 GB of VRAM in your PC.
4 GB of VRAM will usually (not always, but usually) meet the minimum requirements for most modern games today. This isn’t exactly going to allow you to run the latest and greatest titles from AAA developers on ultrahigh settings, though.
It’s just going to get you barely in the door, with enough resources to boot the game up and tool around in low settings (maybe medium).
If you want to be sure that your PC has enough VRAM to handle games reliably – and if you want to sort of “future proof” your gaming PC for the next couple of years – you’ll want to get a GPU that has at least 8 GB of VRAM, if not more.
Yes, these kinds of cards will be a little more expensive.
Especially today, when Cryptocurrency miners are snapping up GPUs, left and right, primarily because of the VRAM that makes them so powerful for crypto mining.
But if you can find a GPU with at least 8 GB of VRAM, you should be able to reliably get three or four years of service out of that card before you need to bump it up.
You will only be doing yourself a favor if you can go above and beyond gigabytes.
10 GB cards are pretty expensive, to be sure, but they are going to give you at least another year or two of utility before you’ll want to do an upgrade.
You do, of course, have “oddball” cards out there, like the Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti that come with 11 GB of VRAM. At that point, there’s a point of diminishing returns (at least with games right now), though, and these kinds of cards are a bit overkill for today’s gaming setups.
What Utilizes VRAM Most?
As a general rule of thumb, the frame buffer for your monitor will not be all that resource-intensive.
You don’t need a massive graphics card with a ton of VRAM to look at stunning HD pictures or stream in 4K. You can get away with a lot less VRAM – sometimes as little as 50 MB.
You need bigger cards with lots of VRAM when you get into more graphically intensive programs and games.
Modern games really stress PC components, requiring a lot more resources than any other time in gaming history.
A lot of data buffers are required to handle scenery graphics, lighting, shadows, water physics, geometry, and pretty much everything else you see when you play your favorite games – especially when you crank those settings too high or ultrahigh.
Throw new gaming technology like ray tracing, complex texture mapping, and anti-aliasing into the mix, and it’s no surprise that GPUs today are as big, as heavy-duty, whereas loaded with VRAM as they are right now.
Will More VRAM Boost Performance?
Yes, 100%! The more VRAM you have available, the happier you will be with your gaming experience – at least to a point, anyway.
As we highlighted a moment ago, graphics cards that are “overbuilt” with more than 10 GB of VRAM may not be fully utilized these days. There are a bit of diminishing returns.
At the same time, those cards are a lot more future-proof and should be useful at least a couple of years beyond where today’s 6 GB to 8 GB VRAM cards will be.
It’s something to think about when you put your next gaming PC together.