One of the big questions we get asked around here when it comes to GPUs is; how much VRAM do I actually need for gaming? In truth, there isn’t a definitive answer to how much VRAM you actually need – it’s much more complicated that than and comes down to a whole host of individual factors.
That being said, in the following article, we’ll be taking a closer look at VRAM to explain what it is, does, and how it affects your gaming performance in various settings. We’re going to try and simplify the technology behind VRAM to equip you with the knowledge to make a more informed decision on your next GPU purchase.
So, without further ado, let’s dive straight into it!
If you’re familiar with the technology that goes into modern-day GPUs, you’ll probably have a pretty good grip on what VRAM is. However, for those that don’t, VRAM does essentially what your PC’s RAM does. It allows the GPU to gain quick access to data that is stored within it – in any order and at any time.
Having active data stored in the VRAM allows the GPU to run more efficiently as it doesn’t have to go between other components when processing graphics-related tasks. Ultimately, having more VRAM gives the GPU access to more data, therefore allowing it to function much more efficiently.
One area where VRAM differs from generic system memory is upgradability. Unlike system memory, you can’t simply uninstall VRAM and upgrade it with a double or quadruple the current amount. The GPU’s VRAM is built into the hardware itself, meaning if you want more VRAM, you’ll have to purchase a whole new GPU.
Unlike System memory – which affects most of the applications on your PC – VRAM only comes into play when your PC is performing graphically demanding tasks. That being said, it still plays a major role in the way your PC performs, especially when it comes to gaming.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at three of the main areas where VRAM makes a big difference.
Does Your Resolution Require VRAM?
The short answer is yes, absolutely. To keep this as simple as possible, the greater the resolution, the greater the demand on your graphics card’s VRAM. The main reason for this is the GPU is having to physically render more individual pixels when using a screen resolution – requiring access to more data at any given moment.
Below are the most popular screen resolutions – ordered by the number of pixels they display from lowest to highest:
- 720p (1280 x 720)
- 1080p (1920 x 1080)
- 1440p (2560 x 1440)
- 4K (3840 x 2160)
4K is currently the most demanding mainstream resolution used within today’s games. It is much more demanding than both 1440p and 1080p, providing additional clarity that can’t be replicated by lower resolutions.
That said, it requires a hell of a lot of VRAM to run a game in 4K smoothly. As we’ll soon learn, only the top-level GPUs have the brute performance requirements to run games at this screen resolution.
Do Games Utilize VRAM?
If the last section on resolution didn’t answer this, yes, games do utilize VRAM. In the same way that more demanding resolutions require more VRAM, the same can be said for more graphically demanding games.
For example, if you play titles such as Fortnite and CS:GO, chances are you won’t need a great amount of VRAM. On the other hand, if you play Shadow of the Tomb Raider or Red Dead Redemption 2, two extremely demanding games, you’re going to need a GPU that’s equipped with much more VRAM.
The latter of the two games is filled with dense scenery and advanced landscapes that require a lot of graphical power (including VRAM) to run smoothly. The former two games are extremely basic and don’t require half as much GPU power to run at a high frame rate output.
How Gaming Graphics Affect VRAM
As we mentioned above, we already know that the overall graphics quality plays a major role in how much VRAM you ultimately need. What we didn’t mention, however, was how the gaming graphics you decided to use might affect your VRAM requirements.
Basically, if you plan on running your games in high settings and resolutions, you’re going to put more demand and pressure on your GPU. Each frame that your GPU renders in higher settings is going to utilize more VRAM than in lower settings.
Whilst this isn’t the only factor that goes into the FPS your GPU puts out, it is definitely something to consider before your next GPU purchase.
If you are experiencing poor frame rate output, simply lower the game settings until you reach a point where frame rates stabilize.
So, how much VRAM do you actually need? Well, I suppose that all comes down to what you plan on using your PC for. As we’ve already mentioned, certain scenarios naturally require more VRAM than others. You can’t simply put a figure on how much VRAM you’ll need, not unless you have all the necessary information.
That in mind, below we’ve put some general guidelines down for game settings and how much VRAM they require:
- 720p: 2GB VRAM
- 1080p: 2GB-4GB VRAM
- 1440p: 4GB-8GB VRAM
- 4K: 8GB+
Whilst these are just general guidelines for game settings and the VRAM they require, these should give you a rough idea of how much VRAM is required by individual in-game resolutions.
As we’ve already stated though, certain games will require more or less VRAM depending on how graphically demanding they are.
Furthermore, as your monitor’s resolution scales, so will the amount of VRAM you need in order to play the games at higher settings.
So, there you have it guys, our quick rundown on VRAM, and how much you need for certain gaming scenarios. Hopefully, this guide has shed a little light on a subject matter that is sometimes considered a little confusing and foreign to some of the lesser technical readers out there.
Ultimately, it’s really difficult to put a concrete figure on how much VRAM you actually need for gaming. It all comes down to the games you’re actually playing. That being said, we can guestimate how much VRAM you’ll need based on generic settings and resolutions used by the games.
You can certainly use the above chart as a rough guide to your next GPU purchase – just remember to consider what games you’re planning on playing and checking how demanding they are.
Leave us a comment in the section below if you have any questions regarding VRAM. Better still, why not head on over to our community hub where you can discuss everything graphics related with like-minded individuals.