What is VRAM? | What does VRAM do? | What is VRAM used for?

PC games rely on several different factors to perform well and deliver the best gameplay possible. The main one of these systems is memory, or rather the ability to extract information inside the system at any given time. If a game suffers from framerate or stuttering issues, there’s a good chance the PC being used will need a specific type of memory called VRAM.

VRAM is essential when it comes to graphics performance. It is also essential for general functions, such as switching between different open applications. This article will explain what VRAM is, how it works in a PC, and how the system uses it.

What is VRAM?

Image via Nvidia

VRAM stands for Video RAM. Its specific function is to act as a buffer between the CPU and the display for the rendered images. It is most prevalent in graphics intensive programs such as video games or 3D graphic design programs.

There are different types of VRAM: Multibank DRAM (MDRAM), Rambus DRAM, Synchronous Graphics RAM (SGRAM) and Window RAM (WRAM). While everyone has a unique way of transferring data from the processor to the display, it doesn’t necessarily matter what type of VRAM is used.

Difference between VRAM and RAM

Although they have similar names, VRAM and RAM do not work the same. RAM is general system memory that programs and other operating system tasks require to function. VRAM, however, works explicitly to process graphics in computer programs such as video games.

Think of VRAM as the database of graphical information on a PC. If VRAM cannot process the amount of information fast enough, the system uses RAM to make up the difference at the expense of performance. This loss of performance is due to the fact that while the memory stored in RAM can still process graphics, it is not equivalent to the dedicated processing of VRAM.

The usefulness of RAM is to perform complex data functions. More RAM in a system can make the PC run faster when opening different applications and flow smoother when multitasking.

More RAM doesn’t always equate to better performance

A common misconception is that more physical RAM will result in better performance in games. While more memory is a good thing, it is wasted if the PC cannot access this memory quickly. More RAM can improve the overall performance of the PC, but games require speed rather than quantity.

Variable speeds are the reason why a graphics card with 4 GB of GDDR3 performs worse than a card with GDDR4 or newer with the same amount of RAM. This principle also applies to RAM keys. One RAM stick with a faster speed can work more efficiently than two with more RAM.

How VRAM Works

Image via Nvidia

When an image or graphic is called by the system to be displayed, VRAM will process this function and display it on the screen. Depending on the type of display, the output signal of the VRAM will be either analog or digital. Older monitors or those connected with a VGA cable use an analog signal to function while displays connected using a display port or HDMI cable use a digital signal.

The other function of VRAM acts as a buffer between the CPU and the display. This is called dual port, where the screen reads VRAM to know what to display on the screen, and VRAM records what information to display. A faster recording speed reduces the risk of stuttering or slow speeds when opening an app.

What does VRAM do

In terms of gaming, VRAM is vital to ensuring the best possible performance during a session. If a system doesn’t have a lot of VRAM available, switching to RAM will worsen game performance. Problems associated with low VRAM include low or unstable frame rates, graphic pop-ins, and more.

An example of this was prevalent in the early days of PUBG, where randomly appearing buildings, delayed entries, and unloaded textures were commonplace. Back then, the game used almost every available bit of VRAM and RAM. To solve the problem, players had to increase the amount of system VRAM.

How to increase VRAM

Image via Nvidia

Increasing the amount of VRAM in a system is not as easy as buying more RAM keys. While the first and easiest is to buy a dedicated graphics card or upgrade to a better one, it’s a bit more complicated than a direct increase. GPUs come with a varying amount of VRAM inside in addition to RAM. New GPUs enable ray tracing, volumetric fog, and other graphics techniques, thanks to increased allocated VRAM and faster transfer speeds.

The other ways to increase VRAM require a bit of technical know-how. One option is to go to BIOS settings and increase the amount of VRAM distributed to the GPU. Another is to change the dedicated video memory of the graphics processor built into the registry editor to a higher number. Doing this will only make the system believe that there is more VRAM without adding more.

VRAM is system memory used for graphically intense software applications that store new data for display at the same time as it displays its current data. This is one of the main, but not the only, reasons why games can perform well, and having too little can lead to performance issues.

Ultimately, the amount of VRAM needed for a game depends on the game itself. Some will use almost every drop of VRAM available, while others won’t even use two gigabytes. Make sure to check the recommended amount of VRAM for use with a game and test what resolution the PC can run it effectively.

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