TL;DR: How much VRAM do I need for gaming?
In 2020 we recommend a minimum of 4GB VRAM for non 4k gaming and 8Gb VRAM for 4K gaming. This should be enough VRAM for most PC games in 2020 for the average gamer.
What is VRAM?
Video random access memory (VRAM) is a type of high-speed DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) responsible for storing video and image data in computers. VRAM is essentially a buffer working between the graphics card and the processor of a computer. In the initial stages of computing, VRAM served as a high-resolution graphics adapter – the higher the memory, the more the capacity of the computer system to process complex graphics. With the onset of modern graphics cards, VRAM became an essential aspect of the graphics-processing unit.
Note: Do not confuse VRAM with RAM, which also important for gaming see our best Gaming RAM review here.
It Is Not All About VRAM
When it comes to gaming, VRAM is an essential specification that determines performance. You will need certain levels of VRAM to be able to run games at different resolutions. Rendering a game at 1080p and 4K resolutions is not the same thing; the latter will demand more graphics memory. The higher the resolution, the more VRAM your system will demand. Factor in things like anti-aliasing and your games will require even more VRAM to run smoothly.
However, these facts do not necessarily mean that VRAM has to be the biggest value possible. Other aspects come into play and affect performance at a given resolution such as anti-aliasing and the potency of the chips you are using. In this regard, you need to consider the model of the graphics card that you are going for, even if you know 8GB should work for your 4K display. Most people agree that it is possible to run 1080p games with just 4GB of VRAM and 8GB during 4K gaming. With that in mind, here is a breakdown of how much VRAM some popular game titles demand at different resolutions.
How Much VRAM Do I Need for 1080p?
While system requirements for Far Cry 4, which performs quite well at 1080p. This game will take up around 3GB of VRAM if you play with AA enabled at 1080p. Without AA, the same game will utilize 2.5GB of VRAM. The Witcher 3 does not demand too much VRAM and 3GB is enough, even with AA turned on. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor requires a lot more than the other mentioned titles. The game takes up as much as 4.7GB if you enable AA. With AA off, the game uses 3.3GB of VRAM. And if you’re looking to play Shadow or Mordor with AA cranked, you’ll need one of the best graphics cards with 6GB VRAM.
GTA V System requirements eat up 3.7GB VRAM without AA. The demand does not change at all if you turn on AA in this game. Tomb Raider uses a total of 1.5GB of the memory with AA on and consumes slightly less if you turn this feature off at the 1080p resolution. Another game, Metro: Last Light System Requirements, demands 1.3GB VRAM with A, and it requires about 30 percent less when antialiasing is off. Battlefield 4 will take up slightly over 1.5GB of VRAM if you play without AA. Turning on AA will see the game go a notch higher by consuming slightly over 2GB of VRAM.
Checkout our review of the best RAM for gaming, reviewing the best DDR4 memory kits.
How Much VRAM Do I Need for 1440p?
VRAM starts to take a serious hit if you play at this resolution. Far Cry 4 will begin with 3.7GB of VRAM if you play with AA. Again, The Witcher 3 system requirements goes fairly easy on VRAM at this resolution, and working with 3GB of VRAM will be enough to play it, even with AA applied. Battlefield 5 system requirements become a little bit more demanding than at 1080p by taking up to 2.2GB with AA on and 2GB without AA. Metro: Last Night still goes easy on the memory by demanding 1.4GB with AA turned on and 1.2GB if you decide to play without antialiasing.
Tomb Raider will push for about 1.9GB of VRAM with AA and 1.7GB if you turn this feature off at the 1440p resolution. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor still leads among the selected games in regards to VRAM usage. With AA applied, Shadow of Mordor will demand more than 5GB of VRAM for it to run smoothly. Turning off AA will see the same game render smoothly with 3.5GB of VRAM. GTA V will eat up 3.8GB and 4.5GB of VRAM with AA disabled and enabled respectively. This performance is a change from playing the same game at 1080p, where it demanded the same amount of VRAM regardless of whether we had AA enabled or disabled.
How Much VRAM Do I Need for 4K?
You need to have a substantial amount of VRAM at your disposal if you want to game at this resolution. Far Cry 4takes up a whopping 5.7GB of memory at this high resolution with AA enabled. Turning off the antialiasing feature will see the graphical memory usage drop to 3.7GB. The Witcher 3 starts taking up significant amounts of VRAM at the 4K resolution. With AA turned on, The Witcher 3 will consume around 3.2GB of VRAM and a slightly lesser amount of 3GB if you turn the feature off. Battlefield 4 hits a memory of 3GB with antialiasing on and around 2.3GB if you turn the edge-smoothening feature off. The demand for graphical memory in the other games also rises by huge figures. For this reason, it would be wise to go for a graphics card with at least 8GB worth of RAM if you intend to game at the 4K resolution.
How Much VRAM Do I Need for 8K?
Not so many titles are available for gaming at this resolution. However, the few that work with 8K demand lots of VRAM, whether you choose to play with anti-aliasing enabled or disabled. For instance, Battlefield 4 takes up a mammoth 7.5GB of VRAM with anti-aliasing enabled and slightly over 5GB with AA disabled. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor will bust VRAM of more than 8GB with AA disabled. Having a large VRAM, like 12GB, will be the best thing if you have games that render at this high resolution.
So, How Much VRAM Do I Need for Gaming in 2020?
In most games, you can work with 4-6GB of VRAM if you choose to have anti-aliasing disabled. However, if you like having AA on, some games may demand more than 6GB of video memory at higher resolutions. 8K, which should be the future of gaming, requires the most amount of VRAM. The resolution demands at least 8GB in most cases. For this reason, you should invest in cards with more VRAM if you want to continue enjoying your games for the next several years. The system used in testing out the different resolutions comes with a fifth-generation Intel Core i7 processor with 16GB RAM. The graphics card at play was NVidia’s Titan X, with 12GB VRAM running on a 64-bit Windows 7 operating system.