What does Video Card RAM Do?

The amount of RAM featured on a certain GPU is typically the first spec listed when naming the card – 4GB GeForce GTX 970, 2GB GeForce GTX 750Ti for example – but what does video RAM (or vRAM) actually do? Is a card with 4GB of vRAM twice as powerful as one with 2GB? Does vRAM have real world applications to gaming? Workstation renderings?

Basically, the more vRAM a card has, the more complex textures or 3D meshes it can load. The higher the resolution of the image you’re attempting to render, the more vRAM required. If the texture and images you’re attempting to run overload your GPU’s vRAM, the overflow goes to system RAM, significantly impacting performance in a negative way. Basically, the video will still render, but frame rates will take a plunge. For this reason, higher vRAM is ESSENTIAL to high-level 4K gaming.

So twice the vRAM means twice the performance, right? Not exactly. While more vRAM is better than less, you will not see a direct performance boost from the additional spec unless you are already maxing out the vRAM that’s available, usually from gaming at high resolutions with the visual options like anti-aliasing, FXAA, and texture quality turned up. If you game at moderate resolutions without the eye candy anyway, more vRAM will most likely not translate to better frame rates for you.

In a similar way that vRAM positively impacts gaming performance, so it also does with workstation applications. More vRAM means the GPU can hold and ultimately render more complex images and textures on the graphics chip, resulting in faster performance. Again though, if you’re not working with highly sophisticated 3D objects at extreme resolutions, you won’t max out your GPU’s vRAM and therefore won’t see the performance benefits.

So while vRAM is an important GPU spec, it’s one of many. Make sure when you choose a new video card that you’re taking all relevant specs into consideration in relation to your specific needs. As always, if you need assistance or advice, our sales and tech support teams are here to help.

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Josh Covington

Josh has been with Velocity Micro since 2007 in various Marketing, PR, and Sales related roles. As the Director of Sales & Marketing, he is responsible for all Direct and Retail sales as well as Marketing activities. He enjoys Seinfeld reruns, the Atlanta Braves, and Beatles songs written by John, Paul, or George. Sorry, Ringo.

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14 thoughts on “What does Video Card RAM Do?”

  1. Hey man,

    Great article! I’m about to buy a new GPU (GTX 960) and would like the 4GB version over the 2GB.

    However, does having more VRAM mean a higher TDP or I’ll need a bigger PSU?

    My PSU is only 360w but a good one (SeaSonic G-360W 80Plus Gold), do I need to use a 8pin connector? Would you recommend one?



    1. Will,

      More VRAM will not have a significant impact on the power draw of the GPU, so you don’t need to upgrade your PSU when going 2GB to 4GB. As for the 8 pin connector, check with the manufacturer of the card you’ve chosen to see what they require. I believe that EVGA uses a 6-pin connector for their 4GB GTX 960 but yours could be different.

    1. Hassan,

      We’re probably still a few years away from games requiring 4GB of VRAM at a minimum, although that day will come.

    1. Generally, yes although it depends on the specific game. For the most part though, higher VRAM = higher FPS

      1. well thanks for the feedback because me and my brother are debating about this he says that PC graphics are not better than console graphics I have a 1050 TI but to be honest to me the graphics look good what do you think

        1. That depends on the specs of the PC. Any PC mid-level GPU (like the GTX 1050 Ti) and above will be more horsepower than current gen consoles, allowing the system to generate more complex graphics at higher frame rates.

  2. Hi the only thing installed ram on my computer are DDr3’s now the Gpu I’m looking at is a AMD RADEON PRO WX 2100 2GB GDDR5, So I’m wondering is would the gpu only have access to running the 2gb GDDR5 that comes with it or will my ram type conflict with its ram type.

    1. Daniel,

      GPU RAM and system RAM don’t need to be the same generation. In almost all cases, they won’t be since GPU RAM is 1-2 iterations ahead of system RAM.

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