What is VRAM (Video RAM)? Types, Uses & More

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What is VRAM (Video RAM)

What is VRAM (Video RAM)?

VRAM or Video RAM, in simple words, refers to the RAM for the GPU. In principle, VRAM refers to the texture memory.

Technically, it is a special type of Random Access Memory that is specially designed to store data related to images to ensure better, faster and smoother graphics execution.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The graphics cards usually come with VRAM in varying amounts. The higher it is the better because more data related to images can be stored in it.
  • The benefits offered by  this RAM include stable frame rates and faster loading of textures, higher performance with fewer graphical pop-ins and faster inputs.
  • There are different types of Video RAMs available such as Multibank DRAM, Synchronous Graphics RAM, Rambus RAM, and more where each of them has different features and functionalities.
  • Modern graphics cards come with GDDR6 RAM which is a specific version of SGRAM.

Understanding VRAM (Video RAM)

What is VRAM (Video RAM)

VRAM was invented by Daniel Ling, Frederick Dill, and Richard Matick in 1980 at the IBM Research Center.

It was patented after five years and was used as the commercial video memory for the first time in 1986 in a graphics adapter of high resolution for the RT PC system of IBM.

The cost of dual port memory reduced remarkably after the launch of this PC and more and more people started using VRAM.

The primary reason behind it is that the VRAM could successfully enhance the frame buffer output overall.

This specific feature of VRAM helped people, or the GPU to be precise, to produce high resolution, less expensive, and high speed color graphics.

Typically, the data sent by the main non-video RAM in some form is read by the processors and is then written to the VRAM.

From here, the same data is sent as digital signals to the display of the computer through a video port which can be a digital video interface or an HDMI, a short for High Definition Multimedia Interface.

The image can be seen directly on a modern, flat, LED or Light Emitting Diode display.

However, things will not happen immediately if the display is a Cathode Ray Tube or CRT monitor or even a modern display connected to the video card with an older Video Graphics Array or VGA connector.

In such situations, the video signal will be converted into analog signals first by a RAM digital-to-analog converter and will then be sent to the display.

The high performance forms of VRAM in the past had a dual port design. This was the main difference between a VRAM and a system RAM in the 1980s and till the 1990s.

Due to this specific design, the display could read the data from the VRAM so that it could refresh the current display content while the processor writes a new image to the VRAM.

Usually, the graphics cards come with varying amounts of VRAM in them and the higher the amount of VRAM, the more image data can be stored and processed or displayed faster.

Sometimes, superior VRAM capacities can power enhanced frame rates, common emulation of physics and renderings across different technologies based on video or graphics.

If you are not very tech savvy then you will be better off understanding that a VRAM is a specific type of RAM or a portion of it.

This is not related to the general memory of the computer but is especially dedicated to processing tasks related to graphics.

Therefore, VRAM, simply put, is the RAM for a GPU and is the same thing as the system RAM of the CPU, at least in principle.

VRAM is also referred to as texture memory quite often. This actually means the texture data wrapped in the polygonal 3D models.

However, modern graphics comprise a lot more than just textures and wireframe models.

Therefore, the modern GPUs need a lot of information from the CPU as well in order to render images smoothly.

This includes the positions of objects determined by physics and animation algorithms carried out by the CPU.

Generally, whatever data is required by the GPU in order to display the final image on the computer screen is in the VRAM.

When it comes to gaming, the VRAM plays a vital role in ensuring that the graphics performance is at its best possible level during the entire gaming session.

Therefore, if the available amount of VRAM is not adequate, the system will have to switch to RAM which will in turn affect the performance of the game adversely.

Some of the most notable issues that you may experience as a result of low VRAM are:

  • Unstable frame rates
  • Lower performance and rates
  • Frequent graphical pop-ins
  • Delayed inputs
  • Unloaded textures and lots more.

If your system comes with a low amount of VRAM, you will need to increase it in order to prevent these issues from happening and have a superb gaming experience.

It is easy and can be completed in a few steps as mentioned below.

First, you will need to know whether or not your Windows PC needs more VRAM. For this you will need to follow these steps:

  • Go to Windows search bar
  • Type ‘Display Settings’
  • Select ‘Advanced Display Settings’ and
  • Click on ‘Display adapter properties for display.’

The amount of VRAM available in your system will be displayed in the pop-up tab.

The simplest way to increase the amount of VRAM in your system is to upgrade the graphics card with a better one.

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For example, if your system comes with an integrated graphics card, change it with a dedicated one which will provide a notable increase in the graphics performance.

However, upgrading the graphics card may not always be an available option in all systems. In such cases you will have to follow other ways to increase the VRAM.

One useful way to increase the VRAM in such situations is through the BIOS or Basic Input/output System. To do this, follow these steps:

  • Go to ‘Settings’
  • Select ‘System’
  • Click on the ‘Advanced Features’ or ‘Advanced Chipset Features’ menu and
  • Select the menu option that is next to ‘Video Settings,’ ‘Graphics Settings,’ or ‘VGA Share Memory Size.’

This will offer you numerous options to adjust the amount of memory and to allocate it to the GPU. The amount can range anywhere between 128 MB and 512 MB.

There is also another way to do it, which is by changing the Registry value.

This refers to the Dedicated Video Memory value of the integrated graphics especially, which is actually a dummy value.

This is the value that the games ‘see’ when it checks the amount of VRAM available in the system.

This value can be changed so that it appears larger to the game when it checks it out. For changing this value, the steps you need to follow include:

  • Going to the Start Menu
  • Typing ‘regedit’ in the search bar to open the Registry Editor window
  • Selecting the ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE’ option
  • Opening ‘Software file’
  • Right-clicking on the ‘Intel’ option
  • Going to ‘New’ and
  • Selecting ‘DWORD (32-bit) Value.’

You can name the new folder and give a minimum value of 0 and a maximum value of 512. When you have set the value, reboot the computer.

Remember, this process will not increase the value of VRAM in reality. It will only make it seem that there is a larger amount of  VRAM available to the system.

Whatever it is, the VRAM plays a crucial role while the GPU sends the images to the computer display.

Types of VRAM

There are different types of VRAM available in the market and each has different features and functionalities.

Multibank DRAM:

Commonly referred to as an MDRAM, the Multibank DRAM is developed by MoSys and is considered to be a high performance RAM.

The memory in it is split into several parts of 32 KB, which are also called the banks, and can be accessed separately.

This is different from the conventional VRAM which is monolithic where the whole frame buffer can be accessed at one time.

The good thing about having separate memory parts is that it allows concurrent accessibility which, in turn, increases the overall performance of the system.

The MDRAM is a cheaper option as compared with other types of VRAM. This is because the cards can be made with just the exact quantity of RAM in them for a specific resolution potential.

This means that there is no need to manufacture them in multiples of MBs.

Rambus DRAM:

This refers to a particular type of Video RAM that is developed by Rambus and comes with a proprietary bus.

This bus increases the speed of the flow of data between the frame buffer and the VRAM.

Synchronous Graphics RAM:

Most commonly known as SGRAM, this specific video RAM is a clock-synchronized DRAM.

This is a comparatively low cost video memory that comes with a single port but can perform just like a dual-ported memory.

It can open two memory pages rather than just one at the same time.

Window RAM:

Also referred to as WRAM, the Window RAM is an exceptionally high performing video memory.

However, do not get confused with the name because Window RAM is in no way related to Microsoft Windows.

This VRAM comes with two ports and is powered by at least 25% more bandwidth as compared to any standard VRAM but costs significantly less.

This particular video memory comes with useful features that help it in reading data more efficiently that are to be used for text drawing and block fills.

You can use this specific video memory for very high resolution graphics rendering, 1600 x 1200 pixels for example, by using true color.

What is VRAM Used for?

VRAM is typically used to facilitate graphics performance of the GPU by holding the necessary image data in it.

Most modern graphics cards typically use GDDR6, which is a specific version of SGRAM, and stands for Graphics Double Data Rate 6.

This video memory is pretty much the same as the DDR4 or DDR5 system RAM that you will find typically in all modern computers.

The GDDR6 memory is the successor to GDDR5. It is powered with increased bandwidth and capacity along with more improved features as compared to its preceding version.

It is specifically designed for using in graphics cards and stacked chip structures as well as in high-performance computers and gaming consoles.

Ideally, a VRAM is used for more intricate data processing functions by the graphics card of a computer without having to rely too much on the system RAM for a seamless and better video display.

In addition to that, a video RAM can also be used as a particular type of alternative memory for EOSIO, which is a blockchain protocol that is based on the EOS cryptocurrency.

This open source, smart contract blockchain platform is used by the developers to build blockchain dApps or Decentralized Applications.

The use of VRAM for gaming needs specific mention since it plays a significant role in enhancing the graphics performance and gaming experience.

It not only helps the GPU to improve the quality of the images but also helps in reducing load times.

A few specific levels of VRAM are also required to play modern games at different resolutions such as 1080p, 4K, and others.

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Higher the resolution, the more graphical memory is required in order to render the images successfully at a high resolution.

Otherwise, the images and textures needed to render will overload the video memory and flood data to the RAM by the GPU.

This will result in a significant drop in the performance of the graphics cards.

Is VRAM the Same as a Graphics Card?

Since VRAM stands for video RAM, most people think that VRAM and the graphics card are the same. However, the short answer is, no.

The VRAM refers to the memory modules that are usually found on the PCB or the Printed Circuit Board of the graphics card. And, a graphics card is a component that you attach to the motherboard of the computer.

VRAM is a form of volatile memory of the graphics cards which is measured in gigabytes and is listed in the specs of the graphics card. This shows the amount of VRAM available in the specific graphics card.

Therefore, VRAM and graphics cards are surely related to each other but are not the same thing for sure.

The difference between them is quite huge. The integrated or shared graphics comes with the CPU which can handle a few light graphical processing tasks.

If the specs list of your computer says that it comes with 2 GB of integrated graphics, this certainly does not mean that it comes with that much amount of VRAM in it to handle the graphics processing needs.

On the other hand, a dedicated graphics processing card will be more powerful than a shared graphics card and will also come with a dedicated VRAM to handle all the graphics processing needs and complex calculations.

This embedded VRAM stores more graphical data and sends it to the graphics card much faster than a DRAM for processing.

This reduces the time taken to draw the graphical pixels as requested on the screen.

Moreover, if your system has 1 GB of shared graphics and 2 GB of dedicated graphics, it does not equate to 3 GB in total.

This is because it entirely depends on the operating system as to which one to use to handle the given graphics processing tasks.

If the task is not exceptionally graphics intensive, it will leave the job to the CPU to deal with but if it is graphically more intensive, it will be allotted to the dedicated graphics card automatically.

However, in a computer that has a dedicated graphics card, the monitor or the output unit will be connected to it directly and in such cases anything that is to be displayed on the monitor will be dealt by the dedicated graphics card.

Therefore, a system will use the graphics card to which the monitor is connected to and the VRAM will play its part as intended.

Is 4GB VRAM Enough for Gaming?

Yes, 4 GB of VRAM may be enough for most of the games if played at 1080p resolution. However, it will largely depend on the type of game you are playing and the needs.

If you want to play a game at higher resolutions, it may limit your ability.

In that case you will experience a notable drop in performance as well as in the quality level of the images that will impact your overall gaming experience adversely.

Moreover, if the 4 GB of VRAM is a GDDR4 or any other aging type of VRAM below that, the drop in performance will be all the more noticeable.

However, 4 GB of VRAM is considered to be comparatively low if you use your system for video editing and high-end gaming.

If you use this amount of VRAM especially for video editing, it will be too low for editing files with resolutions as low as 720p or 1080p even.

Ideally, the amount of VRAM required for gaming depends on the following resolution levels:

  • 4 GB for 1080p
  • 6 GB for 1440p or light UHD
  • 8 GB for medium UHD and
  • 12 GB or more for UHD.

Higher amount of VRAM will be required when the textures are set to maximum while playing a very graphics intensive game.

And, please do keep in mind that these numbers are not dependent on the VRAM entirely.

You can experience an increase or decrease in performance if you modify other settings.

In other words, a bare minimum of 4 GB of VRAM is required for gaming but anything between 6 GB and 8 GB would be just adequate.

This is because most of the games will utilize more than 4 GB of VRAM when it is available to ensure better rendering of images and offer a higher gaming experience.

Since VRAM plays a significant role in image quality and loading times, higher VRAM will increase the efficiency and allow playing a game in any resolution properly.

This will eliminate the chances of overwhelming the Video RAM with textures and images so much that the GPU has to allocate the data to the system RAM and cause performance issues.

To be on the safe side, go for 8 GB of VRAM, if you cannot afford a 12 GB that is. This will allow playing games at 1080p, 1440p or even at 4K resolutions.

You can even edit videos at 720p or 1080p and even tweak 4K files easily and quickly.

Therefore, to conclude in simple words, though it is obvious that the amount of VRAM required will largely depend on the type and needs of the game and its settings, it is important to push it higher anyway.

How Much VRAM Do You Need for 4K?

The resolution of the monitor will have a significant impact on the VRAM. In simple words it means that the higher the resolution of the monitor, the larger amount of VRAM will be needed to process one single frame.

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In technical terms, one single 1920 x 1080 or 1080p frame will take up less space as compared to one single 2560 x 1440 or 1440p frame, one single 2560 x 1440 frame will take up less space in comparison to one single 3840 x 2160 or 4K frame and so on.

Therefore, if you play a game on a 4K monitor, it will use more VRAM than if you played the game on a 1080p monitor.

If you want to play modern games at 4K resolution, you should have at least 8 GB of VRAM in the GPU. And, if you want to edit 4K video files, you will typically need 16 GB for 4K files.

However, most of the modern AAA games often consume large amounts of VRAM.

Therefore, it is wise to go for a higher amount of VRAM in your system for playing games at 4K. This will make your system future ready and play games at ultra high presets at 4K.

However, if you want to edit video files at 4K, you will have to go for an even higher amount of VRAM for that matter, 32 GB or even 64 GB for example.

Does More VRAM Increase FPS?

Simply, no! It does not necessarily mean that when you increase the amount of VRAM it will better the FPS or Frame Rate per Second or the performance.

In fact, in some cases, such an increase in VRAM may have a serious impact on the overall performance and decrease the frame rate severely.

Therefore, in this aspect, ‘more is the better’ is certainly not the concept to follow.

If the GPU in your system has 4 GB VRAM and you are playing a game that you know is using only 2 GB, then it will be unwise to upgrade your graphics card with 8 GB VRAM.

At this point, there are a few other things that you should also be aware of in order to upgrade your VRAM for fruitful results.

First, you should know that you can only increase the VRAM assigned to the integrated GPU.

This is because in the discrete or dedicated GPUs this VRAM is built in and cannot be increased. You will have to replace the entire card in order to upgrade VRAM.

Secondly, you should also know that the VRAM in the integrated graphics chip is actually not VRAM. It is simply the same system RAM that is used by the CPU.

Thirdly, an integrated graphics card is relatively slow as compared to a dedicated graphics card.

Therefore, increasing its VRAM will be a waste of the RAM because the GPU cannot handle resources such as very big textures.

And finally, you should know that whether or not increasing the amount of VRAM will increase the FPS will not only depend on the graphics and the game.

It will also depend on the current allocation of VRAM so that it can hold enough resources that will keep the GPU busy.

Considering all these factors, generally speaking, increasing VRAM will help in different ways such as:

  • It will allow faster data transfer between the GPU and itself
  • It will improve the quality of images being processed
  • It will increase the memory bandwidth and
  • It will improve the overall graphics performance.

As a result, the gaming performance will improve with some additional FPS.

Therefore, it can be concluded that increasing the amount of VRAM will help the GPU to render images much faster, but if you only had too little of it in the first place.

This is because there will be a larger space available to store all relevant and necessary image data within the memory of the graphics card.

It will not have to offload it to the system memory which will be much slower and difficult for the GPU to access.

This is due to the distance of the system memory from the graphics processor and the several smaller buses and connections it has to traverse in order to access the data.

This not only slows down the process but also causes instability.

Therefore, increasing the amount of VRAM will surely increase the performance of the overall system by preventing such scenarios.

This is especially helpful when you play a game at super high resolution in excess of 1080p and have other settings cranked up too high.

Otherwise, increasing your VRAM will not help much in increasing the FPS or make the integrated graphics perform faster.

What it will actually do is that it will allow using more intricate shader programs and running high quality textures for a few specific types of games.

It will certainly not help in boosting the performance directly.

Ideally, the best way to better the frame rate is to upgrade the GPU, and sometimes even the CPU, depending on the type you are currently using.

Conclusion

Therefore, after going through all these facts, you can now understand that VRAM enhances the graphics performance and there are different types of it.

Sometimes, increasing it may enhance the performance. However, everything depends on the games you play.

About Dominic Chooper

AvatarDominic Chooper, an alumnus of Texas Tech University (TTU), possesses a profound expertise in the realm of computer hardware. Since his early childhood, Dominic has been singularly passionate about delving deep into the intricate details and inner workings of various computer systems. His journey in this field is marked by over 12 years of dedicated experience, which includes specialized skills in writing comprehensive reviews, conducting thorough testing of computer components, and engaging in extensive research related to computer technology. Despite his professional engagement with technology, Dominic maintains a distinctive disinterest in social media platforms, preferring to focus his energies on his primary passion of understanding and exploring the complexities of computer hardware.

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Dominic Chooper
Dominic Chooper, an alumnus of Texas Tech University (TTU), possesses a profound expertise in the realm of computer hardware. Since his early childhood, Dominic has been singularly passionate about delving deep into the intricate details and inner workings of various computer systems. His journey in this field is marked by over 12 years of dedicated experience, which includes specialized skills in writing comprehensive reviews, conducting thorough testing of computer components, and engaging in extensive research related to computer technology. Despite his professional engagement with technology, Dominic maintains a distinctive disinterest in social media platforms, preferring to focus his energies on his primary passion of understanding and exploring the complexities of computer hardware.
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