Finally! After a gazillion weeks spent carefully comparing specs it looks like you’ve finally found the perfect laptop! It has a powerful CPU, plenty of storage and it even comes with a dedicated graphics card. But hold on. What’s this? The graphics card only offers 2 Gbyte vRAM. Will that be enough to play all the new titles you’ve been eyeing on Steam? And how will it hold up to games in the future? We’ve been there. The quick answer is it depends. It’s un-nerving to think this one little spec is all that stands between you and gaming bliss.
What is vRAM?
A graphics card or GPU can be either dedicated or integrated. An integrated graphics card shares memory resources with other hardware in a laptop system. For graphically intense activities like gaming or 3D modeling, this results in slower graphics performance.
A dedicated graphics card has its own source of memory called vRAM, which is faster than sharing system RAM. Video Random Access Memory (vRAM) is a type of RAM that’s built onto the GPU. But unlike system memory, it’s used specifically in storing image and video data for a laptop’s display.
On a spec sheet, you’ll find vRAM referenced as GDDR5 (and most recently, GDDR6). System memory is designated as GDDR4.
The only difference between system RAM and vRAM is speed. GDDR5 is a double data rate RAM — another version of SGRAM. Think of vRAM as a mighty shield between the CPU and display. For playing this role, it’s also known as the frame buffer.
How Does vRAM work?
Images sent to the display for textures, geometry, and other visual information are first read by the CPU as data, then written to vRAM.
For applications that display complex image textures like high-end video games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider or for rendering polygon-based 3D structures with graphics processing applications like Adobe Photoshop, the more vRAM you have the better.
How Much vRAM Do You Need?
For activities like gaming, vRAM is an essential specification that has an enormous effect on performance as far as how much detail can be rendered on a display.
vRAM is all about image resolution quality:
The higher the resolution you want to play a game in, the greater quantity of vRAM you’ll need. Said another way, the amount of vRAM you need depends on the resolution you want to work with – Rendering a game at 4K versus 1080p, for instance, requires more graphics memory to run smoothly.
The amount of vRAM you need also depends on what you’re doing. For example, playing games or doing rendering work in 1080p will likely need more vRAM. Running a multi-monitor setup also often requires more vRAM.
Should the program or the activity you’re doing run out of vRAM. Your laptop will use the slower system memory, which results in FPS (frames per second) drops and mixed textures.
Generally, running the latest games at high settings requires:
- 2GB of vRAM to push 720p resolution.
- 4GB of vRAM to push 1080p resolution.
- 6 to 8GB of vRAM to push 1440p resolution.
- 8 to 12GB of vRAM to push 2160p resolution.
But the amount of vRAM a GPU has is just one aspect of an entire computing system that will affect image performance. So, what else should you be considering? The potency of the CPU and the graphics card.
What if you’re on a budget? 4GB of vRAM will do it for most current games (even in 4K). If you want to future-proof your laptop so you can enjoy AAA titles for the next several years, invest in graphics cards that offer more vRAM.
Ah, but what about 2GB of vRAM?
What Does 2 Gbytes vRAM Mean for a Graphics Card?
To get every morsel of delicious graphical detail and panoramic scenes dripping with scintillating beauty in games like Anthem requires a dedicated graphics card.
A graphics card that’s said to have a 2 Gbyte vRAM is a reference to the amount of RAM on the GPU. The amount of RAM on the GPU affects how much detail can be rendered. This affects other visual elements like texture and anti-aliasing (we’ll touch more on anti-aliasing).
An NVIDIA GTX 1050 graphics card with 2GB of vRAM pales in comparison to a GTX 1080 card offering the same 2GB of vRAM. And the amount of vRAM you have won’t mean a lick if the GPU and CPU in your machine is from several generations ago; the GPU and CPU need to be current enough to keep up with the latest technology.
What About 2 Gbyte vRAM for Video Editing?
This job requires a lot of RAM.
More so depending on the sophistication of the software you’re using. But video editing largely depends on system RAM rather than vRAM; you’ll need 16GB of RAM and an i5 CPU or better for video editing. The graphics card just isn’t as much of a factor for the editing software to run smoothly.
But before you breathe a sigh of relief…
You Still Need a Dedicated Graphics Card with Plenty of vRAM.
How much vRAM depends on the work you’re editing. Most current laptops are fast enough that basic HD editing with a few transitions can be done smoothly without the need for a dedicated GPU.
The story changes, however, if you’re editing in 4K or with lots of GPU supported effects. In this case, go for a graphics card that offers at least 4 to 8GB of vRAM if you’re on a budget.
But again, none of this makes any difference if the graphics card itself isn’t up to par. For instance, if it’s a couple of generations old, performance will be affected regardless of the amount of vRAM supporting it.
If you’re looking for suggestions (as we would be at this point), an NVIDIA GTX 1060 card with 6GB of vRAM is quite powerful with plenty of memory for editing video.
Is a 2GB Graphics Card a Good Buy?
Playing games at 1080p is the prevailing standard for PC gaming for now. Although we all love playing games at the highest resolution possible, doing so at this time will cost you more than you’d likely want to spend.
And since 1080p is such a popular resolution, there’s a gang of graphics cards angling for the top spot in this category. But overall, 2GB of vRAM is sufficient for gaming in 1080p.
That said, newer games are requiring more vRAM, which is something to think about when shopping for a new laptop. As such, 4GB could be better for future-proofing your investment.
Well, if 4GB of vRAM is good, then 6GB or 8GB of vRAM will let me play new PC games well into the future, right?
For the time being more vRAM won’t improve 1080p performance by much. All things being equal, all you really need is a GPU with 3 to 4GB of vRAM if you want to future-proof your laptop.
The 2 GByte vRAM Price Range is Mercifully Inexpensive… Relatively
When it’s time to choose the best laptop or graphics card. Purchasing one with more pixel power than you need would be foolish. But buying one without enough power will be terribly frustrating.
Thankfully, most graphics cards that play games and render graphics at 1080p go for $150 to $300. Spending more will of course get the job done. But then you’re heading into the territory of diminishing returns, which is not what we’re about.
vRAM affects resolution and detail settings, right? So, it follows that the overall power of the GPU – that is the overall power of an NVIDIA GTX 1050, 1060, and 1080 card for example – will also play a part in how well you can run a game at certain settings.
(AA) is a feature that smooths jagged lines from the edges of in-game objects. It tends to be a demanding technology. If you’re the kind of gamer that likes to crank this feature up to the highest possible setting, you’ll want to spend near the higher end of this price range for a graphics card with 2 Gbyte vRAM.
NVIDIA and AMD both make things simple for you with strong offerings in the $150 to $300 price range — As long as you’re sticking to their latest gen cards, it’s almost impossible to pick a bad one. NVIDIA’s GTX 1050Ti, 1060 and 1660Ti are all great cards that offer 2 Gbyte vRAM within this price range.
It’s un-nerving to think you might choose a graphics card with the wrong amount of vRAM and need to start over with your laptop selection. Memory is an important aspect of a graphics card’s performance. The amount of vRAM you should get depends on what you want to do. You’ll be able to get away with 2 Gbytes of vRAM for most tasks. But activities like video editing will require more. Pushing 1080p is not the same as pushing 4K. While 4K isthe next big thing in gaming. For now, 1080p is the gold standard. 2 Gbytes of vRAM on a solid graphics card will get the job done.