Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

How much GPU memory do I need?

Just like your PC’s system memory, graphics cards and laptop GPUs have their own memory, called VRAM (video RAM). Just like RAM, not having enough VRAM can cause performance problems; Many of the latest games are demanding more and more, making it impossible for gamers to play their games at the highest settings. How much VRAM you have will depend on what GPU you have, and how much VRAM you need will depend on the applications you use.

But how much VRAM do you need, really? Let’s investigate.

How much VRAM do I need?

Nvidia GPU core.
Niels Broekhuijsen / Digital Trends

Graphics memory is mostly important for gaming, but there are productivity and professional workloads that benefit from masses of VRAM too. More is better for most graphically intensive tasks, but you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy the best graphics card with the most VRAM. In fact, some lower-end cards with lots of VRAM are still slower than higher-end cards with less.

Get your weekly teardown of the tech behind PC gaming
Check your inbox!

You can play most games, even most modern games, with 8GB of VRAM, so really that should be the lowest you go if buying a new graphics card. However, modern games that are built for the Xbox Series X/S and PS5, regularly exceed 8GB of VRAM even when playing at 1080p. That means that if you have a GPU with only 8GB of VRAM, there will be some new games you can’t play, even with a powerful graphics card from a recent generation like an Nvidia RTX 2080. Even the Nvidia RTX 3080 which was one of the fastest GPUs in the world just a couple of years ago is showing signs of struggling in some modern games because it has “only” 10GB of VRAM.

With that in mind, if you want to really future-proof your gaming PC, you want at least 12GB of VRAM. That should give you a few years before you start to run into issues with not having enough VRAM for future games. If you opt for more, like the 16GB or more found on the latest generation releases, you’ll be fine for years to come.

As for productivity, Nvidia recommends in its Professional Solution Guide that you need 8GB to 12GB of VRAM to meet minimum requirements. However, you can probably get away with less VRAM. Adobe Premiere Pro’s minimum requirement for VRAM is 2GB, and 4GB to 6GB is recommended. Autodesk AutoCAD’s “basic” spec calls for 1GB of VRAM but recommends 4GB.

It’s ideal to have more memory than you need, and this is especially important for GPUs since you can’t upgrade the VRAM. Based on recommendations from companies like Nvidia and Adobe, you’ll want at least 4GB for light work. If your job is to edit videos in Premiere Pro or to make models in Autodesk Maya, then you’re definitely going to want to spend more to get a GPU with at least 8GB of VRAM, even if it’s not current-gen.

RAM vs. VRAM — what’s the difference?

Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4 RAM inside a computer.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

System RAM and VRAM are very similar: They both come in relatively small capacities and they’re really fast. But they’re not quite the same, because system RAM is meant for CPUs and VRAM is meant for GPUs, and these two different processors have very different needs. System RAM has very low latency (which is good) but has comparatively low memory bandwidth. Meanwhile, VRAM has extremely high memory bandwidth with much higher latency. It just comes down to the fact that CPUs need low latency more than they need high bandwidth, and vice versa for GPUs.

Another key difference between system RAM and VRAM is upgradeability. It’s trivial to upgrade system RAMyou just plug in a new stick or replace an existing one. But VRAM is not user upgradeable (outside of extreme hardware modification with a soldering iron). This means whatever GPU you buy, you’re stuck with however much memory it has.

This isn’t some kind of design oversight or the case of GPU manufacturers wanting you to buy a whole new GPU each time. The real reason is that GPUs can only be paired with certain amounts of RAM, depending on memory bus width. CPUs can tolerate pretty crazy RAM configurations — especially with non-binary memory — but GPUs can’t.

Should I upgrade my graphics card for more VRAM?

If you want to play upcoming AAA releases from the big studios and your graphics card has less than 10GB of VRAM: Yes, you should probably upgrade. It will depend on the games you want to play, and they may have settings you can select which will allow you to play the game at smooth frame rates without having more VRAM, but that’s going to become increasingly rare in the years to come.

That said, don’t upgrade for VRAM alone. You could “upgrade” an RTX 3070 Ti with 8GB of VRAM to a lower-tier GPU like the RTX 3060 12GB and have more VRAM, but performance will still be worse because the GPU is less powerful. Make sure that any upgrade you do is going to improve performance across the board, not just unlock a few extra settings because it has more VRAM.

Matthew Connatser
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Matthew Connatser is a freelance writer who works on writing and updating PC guides at Digital Trends. He first got into PCs…
Everything you need to know about buying a GPU in 2024
RTX 4090.

The graphics card, also known as the GPU, is arguably one of the most exciting components in any PC build. Alongside the processor, your graphics card often has the greatest impact on the overall performance of your PC. That makes it a pretty high-stakes purchase, especially if you consider that GPUs can get pretty expensive.

The GPU market has a lot to offer, and that's regardless of your needs and your budget. Whether you're aiming for something super cheap to support some light browsing or a behemoth to handle the most GPU-intensive games, you have lots of options. In this guide, we'll show you what to look out for so that you can pick the best GPU that fits your budget and needs.
Nvidia, AMD, or Intel?
Consumer graphics cards are generally split into two categories -- integrated and discrete graphics. Since you're here, you're most likely looking for a discrete (or dedicated) GPU, and that's what we're going to focus on in this article.

Read more
I’ve reviewed every AMD and Nvidia GPU this generation — here’s how the two companies stack up
Three graphics cards on a gray background.

Nvidia and AMD make the best graphics cards you can buy, but choosing between them isn't easy. Unlike previous generations, AMD and Nvidia trade blows point-for-point in 2024, and picking a brand to go with isn't as easy as counting the dollars in your wallet.

I've reviewed every graphics card AMD and Nvidia have released this generation, comparing not only raw performance, but also features like DLSS and FSR, ray tracing performance, and how VRAM works in modern games. After dozens of graphics card reviews, here's how AMD and Nvidia stack up against each other in 2024.
Nvidia vs. AMD in 2024

Read more
How much RAM do you need for a laptop, gaming PC, or tablet?
ram prices are increasing until third quarter 2017 corsair vengeance led ddr4 memory

Random access memory, usually shortened to RAM or simply “memory,” is one of the most important parts of any computing device. Modern PCs, tablets, and phones typically have from 2GB up to 32GB, though some have even more. But how much RAM do you need, exactly?

Adding more RAM to your computer won't make it run faster if you already have enough, though, and wastes money you could spend elsewhere on upgrading your PC. Games that require 16GB of RAM won't necessarily run faster if you have 32GB -- although making sure background tasks have enough memory is a good way to improve performance in demanding applications.

Read more