What is VRAM: The Memory Power Behind Real-time Ray-Tracing

| Last Updated: November 29, 2021

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There are several types of VRAM in GPU releases right now, and each device has its own benefits for different kinds of games and projects. To give yourself the best experience possible, it's important to know exactly what VRAM is and how it works with RTX series graphics cards.

In this blog, we’ll get to know all things VRAM: its significance, main types, features, and other related terms to help you understand this amazing memory power behind the exceptional real-time ray tracing. If you want to check out this great technology, make sure to read more!

What is VRAM in graphics cards?

VRAM or video random access memory is a data storage component of a computer or graphics card that saves and processes images that are displayed on different video outputs such as desktop monitors, LED screens, and VR headsets. For graphics-intensive games or 3D modeling works, a high VRAM capacity is recommended.

NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti Graphics Card

History and Background

VRAM stands for Video Random Access Memory, a type of computer memory that started the innovation of enhancing video games and program user interfaces by adding color to the graphics being displayed on monitors or screens.  

In 1980, IBM introduced the concept VRAM. Six years later, the first graphics adapter for PC was launched to the global market. Now, video RAM is found in almost all processors having a display screen such as laptops, smartphones, video game machines, and more.

How does a VRAM run?

The main function of a VRAM in a graphics card is to execute graphics displays smoothly. Images having complex textures and 3D model structures that are most commonly seen in modern video games and graphic design software require a reliable memory for successful graphics rendering.  

Serving as a temporary image data storage in between a PC processor and display, the VRAM is also referred to as the frame buffer. Images that are about to be displayed on-screen are first interpreted by the computer system’s processor before they are sent to the VRAM.   

The image data contained in the VRAM are then converted into digital signals that are delivered to the video ports wherein connections such as DisplayPort and HDMI allow the signals to be shown on monitors, LED screens, or VR displays.

VRAM vs. RAM: What’s the Difference?

VRAM pertains to video RAM, which is one type of random access memory solely utilized for temporarily storing image data. It is in charge of processing graphics data, turning them into digital signals. The signals are then driven to video outputs through HDMI and DisplayPort connectors.  

On the other hand, RAM is a computer system memory that is accessed only through the motherboard. It executes several functions including saving or overriding graphics data permanently depending on the command received via an application or program.

Types of VRAM 

Each type of VRAM has a unique way of storing and processing image data. 

To know more about this component, we have garnered here the four basic types of VRAM as additional information:

  • Multibank DRAM (MDRAM)
  • Rambus DRAM
  • Synchronous Graphics RAM (SGRAM)
  • Window RAM (WRAM)

Multibank DRAM (MDRAM)

Designed by MoSys, Multibank Dynamic Random Access Memory (MDRAM) is composed of a number of memory banks wherein each part has a 32 KB space. Apart from a conventional VRAM in which the frame buffer is always tapped as a whole, MDRAM’s memory parts are accessed one by one. 

This unique process allows for more efficiency and cheaper production since the size of RAM is easier to manage rather than the traditional memory banks that are manufactured based on megabytes. 

Rambus DRAM

Named after its developer, the Rambus DRAM stands for Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory. This VRAM is equipped with its very own memory bus that is built to accelerate the delivery of image data that occurs in between the frame buffer and video RAM.

Synchronous Graphics RAM (SGRAM)

The Synchronous Graphics RAM (SGRAM) is basically a single-ported memory, which is able to execute two memory pages simultaneously, similar to a dual-ported memory component. This VRAM is clock-synced and is relatively budget-friendly compared to other DRAMs. 

Window RAM (WRAM)

Another dual-ported memory component, the Window RAM (WRAM) is an excellent VRAM that has 25% more data transfer speeds than a conventional memory bank. Its price falls within the economical range, and it offers great performance for high-resolution displays in true color.

Despite its name, the WRAM has nothing to do with the popular OS company Microsoft Windows. 

Image Data Types

VRAMs save graphics data and other related information in an effective way for easier, faster, and continuous access. 

In this section, the basic image data types that comprise the 2D and 3D graphics in a GPU memory are enumerated and briefly described.    

The image data types that are being stored in a GPU are the following:

  • Shading
  • Vertex Buffering
  • Index Buffering
  • Textures
Primitive 3D modeling shapes


Shading is the most important step in creating 3D graphics, without this image data type, no one would be able to see what the user is trying to visualize or model.

The image data type is a small program that operates within a GPU, computing pixel colors and vertex positions to produce various shapes and solids in 3D space. 

Vertex Buffering

In the graphics world, there are many different types of data that can be found. One such type is vertex buffering, also called vertex buffer object (VBO) which basically symbolizes an image point floating in a 3D space.

VBOs are the essential data inputs for non-immediate mode rendering that are utilized by vertex shaders.

Index Buffering

Index buffering is a way to store image data in a more efficient manner so it can be accessed quickly. 

This type of graphics data works by creating arrays of unsigned integers that specify how vertex buffers are connected with each other in order to form triangles that are the building blocks of a 3D surface or scene.


The texture is the digital representation of an object's surface and it is used to give an image its color and depth.

Moreover, it is described as compressed or uncompressed bitmap images that are used as input for fragment shaders and surfaces on which realistic lighting effects are simulated. 

Significance of VRAM in Graphics Cards 

VRAM is an important component of gaming system performance. When the resolution and level detail in your graphics card's memory cannot meet the memory demand, the computer system begins using up resources on device RAM, which is slower and limited in bandwidth.

If you're not careful with how much VRAM capacity each individual game requires may cause overheating which could ultimately lead to desktop PC crashes or a complete shutdown.

Minimum Recommended VRAM for Typical Workloads

VRAM is one of the most important aspects to consider when purchasing a new graphics card. It has quite an impact on performance for games and professional applications when used for rendering lifelike images and scenes at optimized levels.

So what type of VRAM should you be looking for when buying your next GPU? Let's take a look at our list of some common workflows and find out which workloads can benefit from more or less VRAM.

  • Gaming
  • Graphics Design
  • Video Editing
  • 3D Modeling 


Modern titles are typically designed for 1080p, 1440p, and 4K pixel resolution displays. Some of the popular RTX-enabled games are Resident Evil Village, ICARUS, Far Cry 6, Lego Builder’s Journey, and DOOM Eternal. 

For the aforementioned most commonly used screen displays, here are the minimum advised memory size and type: 

  • 1080p: 4 GB - GDDR6, GDDR5X, or GDDR5 
  • 1440p : 6 GB - GDDR6, GDDR5X, or GDDR5 
  • 4K: 8 GB - GDDR6X or GDDR6 
Gameplay with RTX On

Graphics Design

Examples of graphics design deliverables are logos and branding, software application user interface, product packaging, art illustration, and the likes. 

For graphics design in general, your computer’s VRAM must have at least 4 GB of either a GDDR6, GDDR5X, or GDDR5 memory.

Graphics design samples

Video Editing

In video editing, several frames of images are modified, tweaked, and optimized in order to produce an intended motion picture, video playback, or movie presentation.   

Creative activities that involve compositing and motion design are also included in the main tasks under video editing works. These are the recommended VRAM starter for video editing works:

  • Compositing and Motion Design: 8 GB - GDDR6
  • General Video Editing: 6 GB - GDDR6, GDDR5X, or GDDR5
  • Video Editing with heavy GPU usage: 8 GB - GDDR6
Professional video editing setup

3D Modeling 

The 3D modeling and visualization works have various applications for different fields such as in arts and entertainment, medical imaging, architecture and engineering, molecular studies, and space and scientific research.

3D modeling for scientific research

Here are the primary tasks that are done under 3D Modeling along with their corresponding minimum VRAM:

  • GPU Rendering: 8 GB - GDDR6, GDDR6X
  • CPU Rendering: 6 GB - GDDR6, GDDR6X
  • Animation and Modeling : 8 GB - GDDR6, GDDR6X
3D Modeling for arts and entertainment

What happens if VRAM is insufficient?

If your computer’s VRAM runs out, the system would have difficulty in maintaining the photorealistic attribute of the images or frames of the software you are playing with or working on.

The video would stutter and the graphics quality would be compromised. Also, there is a possibility of a sudden stop or crash.  

In some cases to compensate for the lack of VRAM capacity, the computer system would prompt you to try using RAM, which has lower bandwidth because it is limited by its PCIe connection data transfer speeds.

Game crash error

Types of GPU

The graphics processing unit is a processor that is set aside only for crunching massive mathematical numbers and computing simulations that in turn result in the pixels, images, and frame rates displayed on-screen.

The primary function of a video card that focuses on running all graphics-heavy operations is crucial to the entire computer system as it reduces the myriad of tasks that are assigned to the CPU for processing at any given time.

There are two primary types of graphics cards:

  • Integrated Graphics
  • Discrete Graphics

Integrated Graphics

Integrated Graphics is a built-in video card that is manufactured attached to a computer system’s processor. Unlike a GPU that has its own VRAM, the included hardware shares the memory available in the CPU. 

While integrated graphics have always been discussed in a negative light for quite some time, the component has undergone a noteworthy upgrade in the last 5 years. 

The specialized video card has shown a vast improvement since its capacity is now more than enough to handle video playback in 4K, casual gaming, and general computing. However, it still encounters trouble in managing the most demanding modern gaming and software titles.  

Discrete Graphics

Discrete graphics is a GPU that has its own dedicated memory, which means it doesn't have any access to the processor's resources. 

While the sole memory allocation is a good solution for a more efficient operation, it leads to higher power consumption and a hotter chipset. This is the reason why most video cards require cooling fans and accessories for overall thermal control.

Since the latest releases of this type of graphics card are quite large in size, it occupies 2 or more slots in a standard-sized CPU case. So this GPU is most commonly seen as a part of a desktop computer build. 

The RTX 30 series graphics cards family is an example of such a GPU type.

VRAM Capacity Upgrade

An important part of any gaming computer is its video memory or VRAM which cannot be removed nor upgraded since it's integrated onto the GPU’s circuit board. 

Without the option to upgrade their existing graphics card, the best decision for gamers is to buy a new VRAM that meets their minimum requirements.

For those who are wondering about rendering performance, VRAM is only crucial if the gamer or professional is maximizing the overall display settings such as playing RTX-enabled multiple displays at 4K, 8K, and Ultra HD resolutions.

In achieving the best performance possible, memory type is more important than its size. Memory types differ in bandwidth or data transfer speeds. For better execution, it is preferable to get the right memory type with a fairly good capacity rather than vice versa.  

People Also Ask

Is VRAM a graphics card?

No, a VRAM or video RAM is a graphics data storage component that is installed in a graphics card or a computer build.

On the other hand, a graphics card calculates massive mathematical operations resulting in every final pixel that is presented on-screen.

Both the VRAM and the graphics card must meet the required minimum specifications as set by the gaming or professional software to optimize their features and functionalities.

Is 10 GB of VRAM enough for 4K and Ultra Settings?

Right now, the answer is yes since there are no problems encountered while processing the modern title games using the latest RTX 3080 and above graphics card versions.

The most recent and demanding modern game titles such as Cyberpunk 2077, Call of Duty Warzone, and Watch Dogs Legion with RTX On utilize over 9 GB of VRAM and did not show any struggle during rendering graphics and scenes even at 4K and Ultra Settings.

While the high-end RTX video cards have shown great reliability in rendering the latest titles, we’re not sure of what challenges the future gaming and professional software might bring so let’s just wait and see.   

Is 1 GB VRAM enough for video editing?

No, 1 GB of VRAM is not advisable for creative works such as video editing because it might not be enough for the several tasks that come with creating and compositing motion pictures.

The recommendation is to get a GPU with at least 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM or better in order to handle this type of workload. 

Can I use RAM instead of VRAM?

Yes, it is possible to use system RAM if the VRAM capacity is not enough to manage a program.

However, the computer RAM is quite slow and can cause a lot of lags compared to a VRAM that is solely dedicated to graphics data. Moreover, RAM’s PCIe bandwidth is expected to limit the overall performance affecting the entire game or software processing negatively.  

Can I add VRAM to the GPU?

No, a graphics card’s VRAM can’t be removed, replaced, or upgraded since it is integrated into the printed circuit board. 

Graphics rendering and processing performance don’t really rely on VRAM unless you are planning to max out the modern gaming or software’s settings such as playing with RTX On and using multiple displays with a high pixel resolution at 4K and Ultra HD. 

Another consideration if you want to ensure optimal performance is the memory type because it has varying data transfer speeds or bandwidth. For instance, a 4-GB GDDR6 provides better execution than an 8-GB DDR3.  

Does VRAM increase fps?

No, VRAM size does not necessarily speed up frame rates or fps (frames per second). 

The VRAM capacity would only significantly affect overall performance if the settings are maximized such as displaying the games or software on two or more screens having 4K, Ultra HD, or 8K pixel resolution.

As long as the memory size is enough and doesn’t dip your games and software around 10 fps or more, then your current VRAM works well.

Is 8GB GDDR6 future-proof?

Yes. As of writing, a desktop computer or a GPU having a GDDR6 memory with 8 GB VRAM capacity can be considered a future-proof component. 

However, with the continuous upgrade of gaming, creative, and professional software, memory sizes are expected to keep on rising in the near future. 

This is why a GDDR6 or better model would always be a good purchasing decision in anticipation of these graphics demanding programs.

What happens when VRAM is full?

With insufficient VRAM size, the computer system would struggle in displaying or sustaining the quality of the graphics or scenes that are being rendered. The frame rates would be lessened, slowing the game or video that is being played up to a point of stopping or crashing down. 

Does VRAM matter for gaming?

Yes. VRAM is an essential aspect of a computer build if you want to enjoy the latest RTX compatible modern gaming, creative, and professional software.

For gameplays that are displayed on 1080p resolution screens, a 4- to 6-GB of VRAM is advisable. 

In addition, for higher pixel resolution displays in 1440p, 4K, and 8K, a video memory capacity of 7 GB and greater is recommended. 


When it comes to choosing a GPU, you have a lot of options. It's an important decision because the VRAM of the graphics card would determine how well real-time ray-tracing gameplay and professional rendering would be possible.

With all the tackled information above, we hope that this article has been helpful in answering any questions you might have about VRAM and how it affects your gaming experience. Now, you can pick the GPU with a VRAM that's right for you. 

Check out our best NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 series review to help make your next investment decision easier!


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