VRAM and RAM – Main Differences

Building a PC can often be quite confusing especially when there are similar-sounding terms such as VRAM and RAM. You’ve probably figured that they serve a similar purpose, but don’t know exactly how they differ. Without knowing their purposes, and their differences, it can result in you making the wrong purchases.

In this guide, we’re going to go over what exactly RAM and VRAM are, and what type of memory is most important for specific purposes such as gaming. Additionally, we’ll discuss what scenarios cause you to need more VRAM and RAM. By the end of the post, you’ll know exactly when you’ll need VRAM and RAM.

Answer: You’ll often hear that gaming requires both VRAM and RAM, but don’t know how much exactly they need. Also, it can be quite confusing if someone recommends a specific amount of RAM, and you don’t know exactly what type of RAM they’re referring to. Well, VRAM is basically the memory used by the GPU, and RAM is the memory used by the CPU.

What Is RAM And Why Is It Important?

RAM (Random Access Memory) is a type of short-term/volatile memory that handles all the active tasks on the computer, it has to work extremely fast as it’s constantly storing data that is currently being run on the computer. The term volatile means once the computer switches off, the data stored on the RAM is deleted as opposed to the non-volatile nature of SSDs and HDDs.

RAM is typically found on the motherboard of the computer, and it is used by the processor to store and receive data. The RAM is much faster than even the fastest SSDs, but they usually come in smaller capacities, you can find RAM Kits ranging from 8-128GB whereas SSDs can be as large as 4TB.

The RAM on your computer works very closely to the CPU, and the data stored on the RAM can be accessed almost instantly by the CPU no matter where it is stored. The more RAM you have, the easier the CPU can process information, and the less it relies on permanent storage such as HDD and SSDs.

The less RAM you have the slower your computer will perform this is because your CPU will start searching in slower places such as the permanent storage. This is why you need a sufficient amount of RAM for gaming because if not, it can cause stutters and instability which can eventually lead to crashes.

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What Is VRAM And Why Is It Important?

The graphics card on your computer specifically dedicated GPUs come with VRAM (Video Random Access Memory) which is volatile just like standard RAM is. The graphics card works just like the CPU meaning it also needs RAM to handle data, it’s just a different type of data. The data VRAM usually handles are terrain, texture, and geometry data.

When gaming, VRAM is extremely important and you’ll often find graphics cards that come with 4-12GB of VRAM. Just like the CPU, the more VRAM your graphics card has access to, the easier the graphics card can work, this is why gamers typically need a large amount of VRAM for stability. Higher resolution textures tend to take up a lot of VRAM.

The speed of the VRAM also affects how effective the graphics card is at processing graphical informaiton. Faster VRAM is able to send and receive graphical information with the GPU core resulting in smoother gameplay and often a slight FPS increase.

Unlike the RAM which is installed on your motherboard, the VRAM comes soldiered to the graphics card PCB, this means you have little flexibility over the capacity of the VRAM. If you happen to need more VRAM, well you’ll need to purchase a whole new graphics card with more VRAM, because you can’t just buy more VRAM.

Even with SLI, many will think if you purchase two graphics cards with 6GB of VRAM and run them in SLI will result in double the amount of VRAM. This unfortunately isn’t the case, you’ll only have 6GB of effective VRAM, not 12GB, so NVLINK, SLI, and Crossfire aren’t helpful in this case.

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Does Gaming Use More RAM Or VRAM

In most cases, when gaming, you’ll require more RAM than VRAM this is because most games nowadays need at least 16GB of RAM to run smoothly. But this isn’t to say VRAM isn’t important, sometimes you may require more VRAM depending on the scenario.

Most gamers tend to game at 1440P which doesn’t require a large amount of VRAM, typically at least 6-8GB to game comfortably. More graphical data being processed such as high textures and complex terrain and geometry data will result in you needing more VRAM, but most of the time, you’ll need more VRAM for higher resolutions.

If gaming at 4K, then you’ll need 8-10GB of VRAM to game comfortably, and usually only the high-end graphics cards come with this much VRAM, so you’ll be spending quite a bit of money to game at 4K.

But the biggest impact on VRAM is the game you’re playing, if you’re playing games that do not render high-quality textures such as Minecraft, then you won’t need a lot of VRAM. On the contrary, if you’re playing games such as Battlefield and Far Cry, then you’ll need more VRAM, this is because these are extremely detailed games that produce massive amounts of texture data.

Playing with the game settings such as playing a game at Ultra-high quality will result in an increase in VRAM usage. A massive hit to VRAM would be the Anti Aliasing setting which consumes a massive amount of VRAM depending on what setting is being used. This is because the pixels are being smoothened, higher AA settings smoothen more pixels which causes a VRAM usage increase. To keep the VRAM usage low, just play on low settings.

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In conclusion, we’ve learned that VRAM and RAM play different roles but fundamentally work the same way. For example, the RAM works closely with the CPU, and the more RAM you have, the easier the CPU will work.

On the other hand, we’ve learned that VRAM works closely with the graphics card, and it processes different information compared to the RAM. The VRAM primarily reads and stores terrain and other graphical data to be processed by the GPU.

You cannot increase VRAM the same way you can increase RAM. The VRAM is soldiered to the PCB of the graphics card, and the only way to increase VRAM is to purchase a new graphics card. Techniques such as SLI, NVLINK and Crossfire do not double the capacity of the VRAM.