How much graphic memory makes sense?

How much memory does a video card require and how much graphics memory is useful for specific applications?

Dedicated Graphics Cards

Dedicated graphics chip
Modern graphics cards produce a lot of heat and consume a lot of electricity.

If modern games should run smoothly, you'll require a discrete graphics card with dedicated memory. While 128 or 256 MB VRAM no longer suffice graphically demanding titles, mid-range graphics cards should feature a minimum of 512 MB and high-end graphics cards at least 1024 MB VRAM. However, two or three GB VRAM are not required (yet) and only bring a slight advantage. Meanwhile, the type of memory and the memory interface are just as important as the capacity. A 128 bit interface is the minimum requirement today while a 256 bit interface is recommended if only DDR3 VRAM is used.

Furthermore, you should always consider that a big VRAM capacity alone does not make a decent graphics card. Architecture, shader count and clock rates are important aspects too. E.g., the Radeon HD 4670 with 512 MByte VRAM is faster than a GeForce GT 330M with 1024 MByte VRAM, as the first features a better specification. Further information about the performance of graphics cards are available in our comparison of mobile graphics cards, the benchmarks of the graphics cards or our detailed gaming list. The following figures provide users interested in games with a further overview:

Be careful, if you read TurboCache (Nvidia) or HyperMemory (AMD/ATI). Here a part of the RAM is used as video memory. Meanwhile, only the dedicated VRAM capacity is important for gamers.

Integrated Graphics Cards

Integrated graphics chip
Many processors feature a small GPU.

If you do not want to run current computer games on your notebook but only graphically undemanding applications, like office, internet, or videos, a GPU integrated in the mainboard (e.g ATI Radeon HD 4200) or CPU (e.g. Intel GMA HD) without dedicated memory should be sufficient. On-board models should also be able to run the one or other older game.

Verdict

Users who want to run multimedia applications and games should definitely buy a system with a dedicated graphics card with 512 or 1024 MB video RAM. But, an on-board GPU without dedicated memory will suffice pure Office use.

Mobile graphics cards

Further information about mobile graphics cards are available in our comparison of mobile graphics cards. A list of all graphics cards covered in detail:

Class 1
GeForce GTX 590
GeForce GTX 760
GeForce GTX 580
Radeon HD 6970
GeForce GTX 750 Ti
GeForce GTX 570
GeForce GTX 560 Ti
Radeon HD 6870
Radeon HD 5850
Radeon HD 7770
Radeon HD 7770
GeForce GTX 460 768MB
Radeon HD 6790
Radeon HD 5770
GeForce GTX 550 Ti
Class 2
GeForce GTS 450
Radeon HD 4850
Class 3
Radeon HD 5670
GeForce GT 240
GeForce GT 430
Radeon HD 5570
GeForce GT 220
Radeon HD 6450 GDDR5
Class 4
Radeon R3 (Mullins/Beema) *
Class 5
Radeon HD 4350
GeForce G 107M *
PowerVR G6400
Chrome9HD *
Class 6
unknown *

* Approximate position of the graphics adapter

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > FAQ / Tips / Technics > How much graphic memory makes sense?
Author: Klaus Hinum, 2006-12-16 (Update: 2013-03- 5)