In 2022, graphics cards with less than 4 GB of dedicated VRAM will be considered underpowered.
However, nowadays 8 GB is the minimum for most GPUs, so if you want a future-proof graphics card and/or a 1440p or 4K monitor, that’s what you should shoot for.
The graphics processing unit’s (GPU’s) video random access memory (VRAM) is its specialized storage for and access to visual information. How much of it do you really need in 2022, when it is one of the most crucial features of any graphics card?
In this manual, we’ll give you a short and sweet explanation for that.
What Is VRAM?
First things first: what exactly is VRAM, and how does it differ from the system RAM used by most computers?
To put it simply, VRAM is used for the same purpose as system RAM; both are used to store data that the central processing unit (CPU) frequently accesses. The GPU’s video memory serves a similar purpose by stowing away visual information.
Currently, GDDR SDRAM is the most widely used form of virtual memory. There are a number of ways in which it differs from DDR SDRAM (the type of RAM typically used in most PCs), but ultimately, its primary function is to support graphics-intensive applications.
Recently released mainstream GPUs typically employ GDDR6 memory. While some GPUs do make use of HBM memory, this is currently more common among high-end workstation GPUs due to its high manufacturing cost and lack of noticeable benefits for gaming.
How VRAM Works
The Video Random Access Memory (VRAM) is a type of computer RAM that interacts with the GPU. The graphics processing unit (GPU) memory is a dedicated chip on the computer’s video card. It is the part of a computer that is in charge of showing visual content.
The RAM stores data used by the GPU, such as lightning effects, game textures, etc. The graphics processing unit (GPU) can therefore quickly retrieve this information and render the video.
VRAM vs RAM
VRAM is a form of random-access memory (RAM), as was previously mentioned. RAM is shorthand for random access memory, which is the main storage medium for digital information. Therefore, only graphical operations are processed by VRAM.
It’s the repository for any visual information displayed on the screen. Additionally, this facilitates unproblematic operation on the screen. A larger amount of VRAM allows for faster data processing at higher resolutions.
Virtual RAM can be read and written to at the same time because it has two ports. As opposed to multi-ported RAM found in laptops and tablets, RAM found in computers can only be accessed through one port.
In most cases, video RAM can outpace main memory. These days, DDR4 RAM sticks are the norm, and their speeds range from 3000 to 3600 MHz. Most modern VRAMs employ GDDR6, which operates at clock speeds of 14,000 to 16,000. Compared to DDR4 memory found in some other recent computers, this is lightning fast.
RAM, or random access memory, is a component that can sometimes be changed out for more powerful versions. Memory slots for laptops are known as SO-DIMMs, while those for desktop PCs are known as DIMMs. Only if your computer doesn’t have soldered RAM can you swap it out for faster sticks.
How to Check your VRAM
As a preliminary matter, the ability to upgrade your video RAM (VRAM) is device-specific. As things stand, you can’t do this at all on a Mac because of how few options you have. The situation is a little different on Windows.
The quantity of available VRAM can be determined on either system. Here’s how it’s done on Windows:
- Launch “System Settings” and then “Display.”
- Learn more about the “Advanced display settings” by clicking the aforementioned link.
- Follow the instructions to access the display adapter settings.
- In the dialogue box, select the Adapter tab. To find it, select “Dedicated Video Memory” here. What you see here is the sum of all of your video memory slots.
Be aware that the above technique may only reveal the amount of regular RAM dedicated to your iGPU if your laptop has a dedicated GPU. You should use a program like HWiNFO64 to check the VRAM on your dedicated GPU.
Your Mac’s VRAM numbers can be found in the “System Information” panel under “Hardware -> Graphics/Displays.”
While there is no official way to increase VRAM, there are a few workarounds that can help. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep your expectations in check.
- Create the illusion of more VRAM by editing the registry.
- Boost the amount of RAM used for Virtual Memory in the BIOS.
Graphics Settings VRAM Usage
Now that we have that settled, we can examine which graphics options consume the most memory.
While it’s true that increasing the game’s resolution will require more VRAM, in practice, the most resource-intensive aspect of the game is the resolution itself. For example, going from 1080p to 1440p causes a noticeable increase in VRAM usage, and going from 1440p to 4K significantly increases it.
As modern graphics cards typically feature 8 GB of GDDR6 RAM, gamers almost never need to reduce a specific graphics setting to free up VRAM.
The texture resolution is the second most VRAM-hungry setting after the rendering resolution if you’re using an older GPU or a budget model with less VRAM. In this case, decreasing the texture quality is a good way to reduce the amount of VRAM being used and thus increase performance if your graphics card is low on memory.
Moreover, the LOD distance may be significant in free-roaming games. Other options, like SSAO and some forms of anti-aliasing, use less VRAM, but are typically more demanding on the GPU.
How to Increase VRAM
Before adding more video RAM (VRAM), make sure your computer actually needs it. If that’s the case, more powerful graphics cards can be added. Increasing the VRAM in the BIOS is simple; just follow these instructions.
- Select System in the Settings menu.
- To access the more advanced settings, select the corresponding option.
- Choose the Graphics Settings, Video Settings, or VGA Share Memory Size option from the list.
You’ll be able to modify the GPU memory allocation. The memory size is variable between 128MB and 512MB. The act of modifying a value;
- Launching Regedit from the start menu.
- Click HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.
- To access the program, double-click the Intel icon.
- Select DWORD (32-bit value) under New.
It’s up to you to give the folder a name and a number between zero and 512. Stop what you’re doing and restart the machine.
Trick Your PC into Thinking You Have More VRAM
If your computer doesn’t have enough video memory (or VRAM), you might have trouble running certain games or programs. The designers don’t want their games to run poorly on underpowered PCs because that would lead to player complaints. Some games may be playable if you use a registry hack to make them believe you have more video RAM than you actually do.
Following are the measures to take:
- Enter “regedit” when prompted to do so.
- In the Registry Editor, navigate to “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareIntel.”
- To access this folder, right-click, enter a new key, and name it “GMM” (without the quotes).
- Choose “New -> DWORD (32-bit) Value” from the context menu that appears when you right-click the right panel.
- Give it the name “DedicatedSegmentSize,” and set its value to a Decimal between 1 and 512.
Now that you think you’ve isolated the cause of the problem, try restarting your computer to see if the game loads or the program opens successfully.
Games, video editing, and other graphically intensive tasks rely heavily on video random access memory (VRAM). You can’t actually increase the amount of VRAM because it’s already physically attached to your GPU, but following our instructions above to make it seem like you have more available might help.
How Much VRAM Do I Need?
If resolution is the primary concern in 2022, then how much VRAM will you actually need?
As we’ve already established, modern graphics cards typically ship with 8 GB of VRAM, so if you’re looking for a future-proof GPU or you want to upgrade to a 1440p monitor soon, that’s what you should shoot for.
Meanwhile, 4 GB will hardly be enough for gaming at higher resolutions, and in 2022, the only reason to get a 4-GB graphics card would be if you were really trying to save money and/or didn’t care about going beyond 1080p.
However, one should also consider the alternatives. Some high-end models, like the GTX 1080 Ti and the RTX 2080 Ti, have as much as 11 GB of VRAM, while others, like the GTX 1660 Super, only have 6.
Obviously, though, the VRAM isn’t the only factor in the performance differences. Memory and GPU processing power contributions can be hard to disentangle.
If you’re looking at 1440p performance, the 6-GB GTX 1660 Super is preferable to the 8-GB RX 5500 XT. Despite having an extra 2 GB of memory, AMD’s low-end GPU doesn’t perform any better. These instances show that VRAM by itself isn’t the most accurate predictor of expected performance.
Overall, in 2022, 4 GB will be the bare minimum for 1080p gaming, with 6-8 GB being the goal for most people who want to run games in 1440p or 4K, or just those who want something more future-proof.
These are, however, only broad strokes. Selecting the best graphics card is much more dependent on the GPU’s processing power.
But if you’re in the market for a new GPU, you should definitely check out our recommendations for the top graphics cards of 2023.