Importance of VRAM and Different VRAM Levels

From realistic lighting effects to post-processing effects and fluid simulations, the graphics processing unit of your PC plays an important role in overall performance and the gaming experience as a whole. With every new graphics card comes the age-old question of how much VRAM is enough to enjoy a decent gaming experience. VRAM is similar to the RAM your CPU uses to power its operations, except that it feeds your GPU relevant information to help it render the images you see on your screen. Understanding VRAM can be daunting, but we are here to help.

What is VRAM?

VRAM is an abbreviation for video random access memory and it is used to store graphics data. VRAM is generally located on the video card of your PC unless you have a computer with an integrated video chip. The more VRAM a computer has, the more 2D and 3D images it can display at one time. Additional VRAM requires advanced buffering to maintain faster frame rates than rigs with limited VRAM. Unlike the system RAM of a CPU, this pool of temporary memory is simpler to understand and holds four distinct types of image data:

  1. Shading: Small programs that run on the video card to calculate vertex positions and pixel colors.
  2. Vertex Buffering: Otherwise known as a vertex buffer object (VBO), this type of image data represents the floating data that vertex shaders use as input for non-immediate-mode rendering.
  3. Index Buffering: Array of unsigned integers that specify how vertex buffers are linked together to form the triangles that make up the 3D scene.
  4. Textures: Compressed or uncompressed bitmap image data or the digital representation of object surfaces that fragment shaders use as input.

Why is VRAM Important?

VRAM plays a significant role in loading times and image quality. When the resolution of an image is high, it takes more VRAM to render the image successfully. Otherwise, the textures and images you’re attempting to render can overload your VRAM and cause the GPU to overflow onto the system’s RAM. When your GPU floods data onto the RAM, gaming performance is impacted in a negative way.

What Are the Different VRAM Levels?

Every system has its own set of requirements to maintain daily operations. Developers have designed several types of VRAM throughout the last several decades to meet consumer demand. If the games you play most often require a specific amount of VRAM, it is important to know what VRAM level is best for your system.

  • Extended Data Out DRAM (EDO DRAM): Modified form of fast page mode (FPM) memory that allows timing overlap between each new data access cycle.
  • Multibank dynamic RAM (MDRAM): Designed to use small banks of dynamic RAM (DRAM) so that they can be accessed individually.
  • Synchronous Graphics RAM (SGRAM): Clock-synchronized RAM that uses masked write to modify data in a single operation rather than a sequence of read, update, and write operations.
  • Windows RAM (WRAM): Dual-ported video RAM that has more bandwidth and is used to read data for use in block fills or text drawing.

There are monitoring tools you can use to determine how much video memory you’re using while you play, but GPU drivers ultimately decide how VRAM is used in Direct3D games and more. With this information, you can confidently choose your next graphics card with enough memory to serve you well.