One question that a lot of PC gamers have when choosing a graphics card, is, “how much VRAM do I need?” The reality is that there is no one right answer to how much VRAM one might need.
The amount of VRAM (Video Random Access Memory) you need will vary depending on a few different factors. And, in this guide, we’re going to break down what those factors are, as well as explain what VRAM is, and we’ll give you a rough estimate of how much you’ll need based on the games, resolution, and settings you are playing at.
What is VRAM?
Just like the RAM in your PC offers your CPU quick access to the important data it needs to carry out processes, VRAM works essentially the same, as it offers your GPU quick access to the data it needs to carry out graphics-related processes.
Because VRAM is built onto your graphics card, it is much quicker for your GPU to access the data that it holds, rather than if your GPU were to access that same data from your system’s memory or the SSD/HDD in your computer.
Unlike RAM, however, you can’t install more VRAM in your system or on your graphics card. Again, VRAM is built directly onto the graphics card. So, the amount of VRAM that your graphics card has is the amount of VRAM your GPU and system will have to use until you upgrade your graphics card.
What Factors Impact/Utilize VRAM?
The more VRAM you have, the more important graphics-related data your GPU will have quick access to, which, in turn, will help it send frames at a higher rate to your monitor.
But, depending on how you are using your computer, your system might require more or less VRAM. These are the most common factors that have the biggest impact on how much VRAM you will need:
- Your Monitor’s Resolution
- The Games You Are Playing
- The Settings You Are Playing Your Games At
Let’s go over those three factors really quickly:
How Monitor Resolution Impact’s VRAM
In the simplest of terms, the higher the resolution a monitor has, the more VRAM will be used to process a single frame.
A single 1920 x 1080 (1080P) frame will take up less space than a single 2560 x 1440 (1440P) frame. And, a single 2560 x 1440 frame will take less space than a single 3840 x 2160 (4K) frame.
Therefore, more VRAM will be used to game on a 4K monitor than will be used to game on a 1080P monitor.
How the Games You Are Playing Will Impact VRAM
Just like how the higher the resolution of a monitor, the more VRAM it will utilize, the more detailed and graphics-intensive a game is, the more VRAM it will utilize.
So, for instance, games like Team Fortress 2 and Minecraft won’t utilize as much VRAM as games like Middle Earth: Shadow of War, or Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. The former games aren’t games that are known for the graphics quality and details, while the latter games offer much more advanced scenery and graphics details.
And, really, since better graphics really just means more data, that means that a single frame in a more graphics-demanding game will have more data to process than will a single frame in a less demanding game.
So, while games like Minecraft don’t have a ton of detail and, as a result, won’t utilize very much VRAM—even at higher resolutions—other games, like Shadow of War will use a lot more VRAM.
How Your Game’s Settings Will Impact VRAM
From the above, we know that the overall graphics quality of a game will determine how much VRAM your GPU uses when running that game.
However, the settings you run your game at will also dictate how much VRAM will be used by your GPU when rendering frames for that game.
The higher the settings you run your games at, the more data each frame will require in order to be rendered, and, thus the more VRAM will be utilized.
The reverse is true as well. You can reduce the amount of VRAM your game is utilizing by turning down its graphics settings. And, this is what a lot of gamers who have aging systems have to do with newer games in order to run them at a playable framerate.
How Much VRAM Do You Need: A General Overview By Use Case
Now we know that your monitor’s resolution, the games you are playing, and the settings you are playing your games at, all will impact how much VRAM you will need in order to achieve a playable framerate in those games.
So, now let’s take a look at a general rundown of the amount of VRAM you’ll need at various monitor resolutions:
- @720P: 2GB of VRAM
- @1080P: 2GB-6GB of VRAM
- @1440P: 4-8GB of VRAM
- @4K: 8GB+ VRAM
Again, this is a general rundown. The games you are playing and the settings you are running them at will also come into play.
For instance, at 1080P, you can run less demanding games like TF2, League of Legends, Dota 2, Minecraft, etc. without utilizing much more than 2GB of VRAM. Running more demanding games (like Middle Earth: Shadow of War, PUBG, Quantum Break, etc.) at maximum settings on a 1080P monitor, however, will likely utilize more than 4GB of your GPU’s VRAM.
And, then as your monitor’s resolution scales, so, too, will the amount of VRAM you need in order to play your favorite games at higher settings with acceptable framerates.
The Bottom Line: The Right Amount of VRAM for You Will Depend on the Games You Play and the Resolution You Play them At
If you’re in the market for a new graphics card, the bullet-point list above will give you a general idea of how much VRAM the graphics card you choose should have. If you play more demanding games, you should try and stick to the higher range of VRAM that the list above mentions.
If you play less demanding games, you can get away by choosing a graphics card with less VRAM. However, if you ever decide to get a more demanding game in the future, you may have to play it at lower settings due to your graphics card’s lower capacity of VRAM.
In my opinion, at the time of writing this guide, it’s probably a good idea to choose a GPU with at least 4GB of VRAM as long as your budget permits it. The budget-friendly graphics cards with 2GB of VRAM that are currently available are still viable for entry-level 1080P gaming. However, they will struggle to play today’s (and tomorrow’s) top games at max settings. So, they should only be viewed as temporary solutions, or as options for gamers who only play less demanding titles.
Ultimately, though, the information above should help you find the right amount of VRAM for your needs. If you need help choosing a graphics card, let us know your questions below!