Video Memory or VRAM is a high-speed DRAM (Dynamic RAM) used in discrete graphics cards or video cards. This is a buffer memory, just like your normal computer RAM but it is very fast compared to it. VRAM is a very fast and high bandwidth memory on graphics cards that is used to store textures, graphics information & data (shadows, lightning info, frame buffer) for GPU processing and for rendering in games. VRAM is one of the most important factors that come into play when buying a graphics card for gaming. However, it is not always true that a graphics card with higher video memory is also big on performance because for most of the part the performance of a graphics card is dependent more on GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).
The most type common video memory used in graphics cards is GDDR5 where G stands for Graphics and DDR for Double Data RAM. DDR3 was used in previous generations entry level graphics cards but nowadays even entry level budget graphics cards do come with GDDR5 memory only. GDDR5 is a high-speed memory that offers great performance and bandwidth in gaming and in other graphics intensive tasks. It is used in entry level, mid-range and high-end graphics cards. An improved version of GDDR5 memory is GDDR5X that offers up to twice as performance of GDDR5 and is used in flagship or top of the line high-end graphics cards. The successor of GDDR5 and GDDR5X memory is GDDR6 memory that offers much higher speed, bandwidth and has lower power consumption.
Another video memory type that is used in high-end graphics card is HBM or HBM2, which is a High Bandwidth Memory having much higher performance compared to GDDR5 memory. It is a stacked memory type that uses less space on graphics card PCB and also consumes less power. This is the preferred memory for use in Virtual Reality (VR) and for top-end workstation graphics cards. You can check out the comparison between different graphics card video memories by going to the article link given below.
Factors Affecting Video Memory Usage
Here are the most important factors that can affect video memory requirements in a game.
Resolution – Higher is your in-game resolution, the greater amount of video memory you would require. For example, you will need more video memory for game running at 1440p compared to running at 1080p resolution. This is because extra pixels increase the texture size and thus require more video memory for its storage and for rendering purposes.
Anti-Aliasing (AA) – If you have enabled Anti-aliasing (AA) setting then the video memory consumption is bound to be higher. Anti-aliasing is a graphics technology to eliminate or smoothen out jagged edges of objects in a game. It requires extra pixels for that and thus video memory consumption increases when this setting is enabled. Sometimes it is also known as oversampling. Some of the most popular types of anti-aliasing techniques include Supersample anti-aliasing (SSAA), Multisample anti-aliasing (MSAA), Fast approximate anti-aliasing (FXAA), Coverage sampling anti-aliasing (CSAA) and Temporal Anti-Aliasing (TXAA).
Game – Some games require more video memory than others. This applies mostly to the latest AAA games and the games that are not optimized and are just bad PC ports. So game optimization and game graphics also plays an important role in VRAM consumption.
Game Mods – Third party game mods or addons do push the video memory usage to higher amounts because some mods contain high resolution textures and graphics that can eat up your video memory like a cake.
Must Read: How much RAM do you need for Gaming
Low Video Memory Problems
Here are the various problems or issues that you can face due to low VRAM in games.
Texture Issues – If your video memory is low in game then you may face texture issues that includes texture popping, distort images, frame delay or frame skipping, or may be screen tearing. You can also face some other graphical issues too due low video memory.
Stuttering – You may also face stuttering in games due to low VRAM in your games. It is one of the most annoying problem and really destroys the whole gaming experience.
Low Performance – The most common problem that can occur due to low video memory is low performance in games. If video memory is too low than required then you may face serious performance issues that includes very low frame rates in games.
Check out: How to increase frame rate (FPS) in games
Tips on Choosing Video Memory for Graphics Card
Higher video memory does not always translate into higher performance in games because if you put more video memory on an entry level graphics card with low end GPU then it is of no use because the GPU of entry level graphics card is not powerful enough to run demanding games on higher resolutions and graphics settings with AA, e.g. if you have 4GB video memory on graphics card such as GeForce GT 710 then it will not make any sense and even 2GB of video memory is too much for cards like GT 710. On the other hand, if a high-end GPU like GTX 1070 has only 2GB of memory then it is also absurd because the GPU is powerful enough to run games at 1440p & 4K but low video memory in this case will degrade the gaming performance. So, here I have listed down video memory requirements for different range of GPUs starting from entry level to high-end ones.
For Entry-level GPUs –> up to 2GB only
For Mid-range GPUs –> 3GB to 6GB
For High-end GPUs –> 8GB and more
Video Memory Requirements for Gaming
Here are the approximate video memory requirements for gaming at different resolutions. It must be noted that in-game graphics settings and Anti-aliasing also impact video memory consumption. Also, different games may have different video memory requirements at same resolution because each one of them is optimized differently and has different graphics engine and graphics details.
For 720p & 900p Gaming [1GB to 2GB]
Well if you game at 720p or 900p settings at medium to high graphics settings with no AA then you will require 1GB to 2GB video memory.
Check out: Best Budget Graphics Cards for Gaming
For 1080p Gaming [2GB to 3GB]
For gaming at 1080p at high to very graphics settings with AA turned on, you will need 2GB to 3GB video memory.
Check out: Best 2GB Graphics Cards for Gaming
For 1440p Gaming [4GB to 6GB]
For gaming at 1440p at very high to ultra graphics settings with AA, you need around 4GB to 6GB of video memory.
Check out: Best 4GB Graphics Cards for Gaming
For 4K Gaming [8GB or higher]
For 4K Gaming at Ultra Graphics Settings with everything turned on, you should go for graphics card with 8GB or higher video memory.
Check out: Best 8GB Graphics Cards for 4K Gaming
How Fix Low Video Memory Issues in Games
To fix low video memory issues in games you can do the following things:
Lower your Game Resolution – The first step to lower your game video memory usage is by lowering your in-game resolution e.g. if you are gaming at 1080p but your video memory consumption is higher than your video card’s memory then you can reduce it by lowering your game resolution to 720p or 900p. It may reduce your graphics quality depending upon how low you go but you will get better frame rates and smoother gameplay. You can check your game system requirements using can i run it tools.
Disable Anti-aliasing & Lower Texture Quality – You can also disable Anti-aliasing (AA) and other in-game advanced settings like render distance, tessellation, ambient occlusion and lower texture quality in games.
Upgrade Graphics Card – Well if everything fails then you have to upgrade graphics card with better GPU and having higher amount of video memory on it. You can check your current graphics card video memory by using graphics card information tools.
Important Note: Multi-GPU setups like Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFire (or mGPU) does not double the amount of video memory for games and other applications. This means if you are using two 4GB graphics cards in multi-GPU mode (SLI/CrossFire), then the available video memory for games or other applications will still be 4GB only and not 8GB.
At the end I would like to say that video memory does play an important part in gaming but it is not the deciding factor for evaluating graphics card performance. For budget or entry-level graphics card video memory is not as important as it is with the mid-range or high-end graphics cards. However, I would strongly suggest that for modern day AAA games you should always get a graphics card with 4GB or higher VRAM. If you have any questions or doubts regarding video memory or graphics cards, then you can ask me by leaving a comment below.