A working computer is composed of a lot of different components. Still, though, there’s a number of similarities between those components—one of these similarities is memory, which is an essential part of many different computer components.
That’s not to say that all memory is the same, though. Take HDD/SSDs and RAM, for example. Despite both of them being memory, they perform vastly different tasks: RAM is accessed directly by the CPU to store data necessary for the system to run.
On the flipside, long-term storage like HDDs and SSDs cannot be accessed by the CPU, and are much slower than RAM. Even motherboards use memory to store their BIOS.
Graphics Cards (GPUs) are no exception to this. Hidden under the card’s cooling shroud are VRAM modules. As with regular RAM, VRAM periodically receives newer iterations—most recently, the standard VRAM has changed, moving from GDDR5 to GDDR6.
As such, this begs the question: What’s the difference?
What Does GDDR Stand For?
GDDR stands for Graphics Double Data Rate. As the name suggests, it’s used almost exclusively in GPUs, acting as a bank of sorts. Images are stored as data in VRAM, which processes display functions—in simple terms, VRAM compiles images and displays them on-screen.
Moving from GDDR5 to GDDR6 doesn’t change this functionality, but GDDR6 is an upgrade to GDDR5 in nearly every relevant metric.
GDDR6 vs GDDR5
The biggest of these improvements is in regards to the transfer speeds of the two different memory types. GDDR5 transfers data at a rate of 8GB per second, while GDDR6 transfers data at a rate of 14-16GB per second—nearly double that of GDDR5.
While the exact benefits of this increase in transfer speeds is hard to quantify (due to new GDDR iterations typically being synced with new-generation GPU releases), there’s no doubt that it plays a role in the performance gap between GDDR5 and GDDR6.
GDDR6 also boasts higher capacity per module than GDDR5. While a GPU actively makes use of as much VRAM as possible, that VRAM is split into different modules. GDDR5 comes in 5 different sizes: 512 MB, 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB.
In comparison, GDDR6 only offers two different sizes: 8GB and 16GB. In spite of these two factors, GDDR6 also consumes noticeably less power than GDDR5- 1.35v, as opposed to GDDR5’s 1.5.
What About GDDR5X?
There’s also a generational “half-step” between GDDR5 and GDDR6—GDDR5X, which has a transfer speed of 10-14 GB/s, and comes in denominations of 4GB, 6GB, 8GB, 12GB, and 16GB.
Do You Need GDDR6?
Reading this, you might be looking at your own GPU and wondering which iteration of GDDR it has installed on it—and whether you’re missing out on any extra performance. Unfortunately, VRAM is soldered onto GPUs, rendering it impossible for the average user to replace on their own.
Even if you were able to, installing a different version of VRAM (or additional VRAM) would render the card unusable, as the onboard software is meant to work only with the included hardware.
And while, yes, GDDR6 remains a direct upgrade to GDDR5, there’s a number of other factors that go into deciding the performance of a GPU: For example, despite having GDDR5X memory onboard, a GTX 1080 Ti performs similarly to an RTX 3060 Ti, which has 8GB of GDDR6.
In any case, there’s not much point in stressing over which memory type your graphics card has. While it certainly is a benefit, there’s far more engineering that goes into dictating the performance of a graphics card.