If you’re considering a memory upgrade to boost the performance of your computer, understanding the different types of memory and their applications can help you pin down the right memory module for your requirements. 

VRAM and RAM are both types of random access memory but have completely different uses in your computer. While RAM is the workhorse for general tasks and speedy operations, VRAM is a special type of RAM that is only concerned with optimizing the performance of your graphics card for an outstanding visual display.

Want to know more? In this article, we’ll share the essentials of VRAM and RAM, how they compare, and tips for getting the best VRAM performance from your computer.

RAM vs. VRAM: A Side-by-Side Comparison

RAMVRAM
What is it?Memory chipMemory chip
Primary UseStorage of temporary system filesStorage of image data
Initial Release1940s1980s
Influential DevelopersFreddie Williams and Tom KilburnIBM Research
Technologies InfluencedDRAM, SRAM, RDRAM, DDR SDRAM, VRAMGDDR5, GDDR5X, HBM

What is VRAM?

Video RAM, or VRAM, is a type of dynamic RAM that is used to store data for the display of video and imaging. It is also called dual-ported video RAM.

This dedicated form of memory ensures that graphics are appropriately displayed. VRAM enhances the performance of applications that have complex graphics, such as 3D images, and high-resolution or textured images, like video games, computer-aided design (CAD), or 3D printing.

VRAM acts as a frame buffer, a monolithic memory buffer that contains all the pixels in a video frame. Images that are sent to a monitor are initially in a non-video RAM format, which is then converted to VRAM. The circuitry converts the VRAM bitmap into a digital video signal that can be sent to a monitor to render images in HDMI or converted into an analog signal for older, cathode ray tube displays.

The Development of VRAM

VRAM was developed at IBM Research in the 1980s. IBM introduced it as part of a high-resolution graphics adapter for the IBM RT PC. VRAM reduced the costs of dual-ported memory, enabling high-resolution bitmapped graphics to become more widespread. Powerful contemporary synchronous graphics VRAM have the massively increased capacity and bandwidth that can support modern, high-resolution imaging and gaming. 

Types of VRAM

There are several types of VRAM, including proprietary forms. The primary forms include:

  • Multibank DRAM (MDRAM): this advanced form of dynamic RAM divides the VRAM memory into subunit memory banks, increasing the overall memory performance when compared to generic, monolithic VRAM. Manufacturers can also produce this type of VRAM to match the resolution requirements of the display, saving costs and energy. 
  • Synchronous Graphics RAM (SGRAM): this is a cheaper, clock-synchronized version of dynamic RAM that is single-ported but can create two memory pages to perform like conventional double-ported VRAM.
  • Window VRAM: this form of VRAM has up to 25% more bandwidth than the standard version and is used for high-resolution, true color applications. It is unrelated to Microsoft. 

What is RAM?

Random Access Memory (RAM) is a computer memory format that can be read or changed in any order. In computing devices, the RAM is a semiconductor component that holds working data and programs such as the operating system and software programs. As the main form of memory in the computer, RAM is key to its speed and performance. It offers faster reading and writing than other storage components, like hard-disk drives (HDD), optical drives (OD), or solid-state drives (SSD).

A Quick History of RAM

The development of RAM has been key to advancements in computing; in particular, the transition from mechanical counters for memory functions to electronic circuits.

The earliest form of random access memory was the Williams–Kilburn tube (1947), a cathode ray tube that stored data as charged spots. Synchronization of ram with computer processors in the 1990s massively increased the speed at which computers could complete tasks.

Later, in the early 2000s, the evolution from single data rate RAM to double data rate RAM further enhanced processing speeds, reducing power consumption. 

A Short-Term Memory Store

RAM is volatile and only remains on the computer as long as it is switched on. It is all about holding data for immediate work and is equipped with data lines that connect to longer-term addressed storage. 

RAM is located in the motherboard of a computer, usually in Small Outline Dual In-line Memory Module (SO-DIMM) slots that are in close proximity to the CPU socket. Secured in this position, this essential module pulls hard drive data for the CPU and GPU to work with. When the temporary files are not needed or in use, the RAM is wiped.

Random access memory RAM
Your RAM type impacts the type of memory storage your computer is capable of, which is important for a variety of functions, from graphic design to gaming.

Key Types of RAM

The two main types of RAM are: 

  • Dynamic RAM (DRAM): this semiconductor technology uses memory cells to store individual bits of memory. It is reliant on continual power to maintain the presence or absence of charge in memory cell capacitors which determines the presence of memory.
  • Static RAM (SRAM): this form of RAM does not have the same power demands as dynamic RAM, using latching circuitry to store memory. 

What’s the Difference Between RAM and VRAM?

You can find these two types of random access memory in most PCs and laptops, but they are distinct in their form, function, and location. There are some key differences to note, such as these below.

  • System RAM connects to your PC or laptop via DIMM or SO-DIMM slots. VRAM is part of the computer’s graphics card.
  • RAM is single ported, but VRAM is dual-ported and capable of performing read and write functions simultaneously, making it much faster than standard RAM.
  • RAM is used to store the temporary system files your computer relies on to function. These include operating system processes and web browser content. VRAM focuses on storing the image data that is displayed by a computer or laptop. 
  • VRAM is significantly faster than system RAM. A system RAM stick using double data rate (DDR4) technology has a frequency of approximately 3,000 to 3,600 MHz, but VRAM with Graphics Double Data Rate 6 (GDDR6) technology can achieve frequencies of 14,000MHz to 16,000MHz.

Similarities and Differences

RAM and DRAM share some core similarities, but these hardware types have functional differences.

Similarities

  • Both RAM and VRAM are types of memory.
  • RAM and VRAM are both essential to the normal operation of a modern computer or laptop.
  • Enhancing the specifications of RAM and VRAM improves computer performance.

Differences

  • RAM is connected to the motherboard and VRAM is on a graphics card.
  • RAM is slower than VRAM.
  • RAM is single-port and VRAM is dual-port.
  • RAM stores temporary data and VRAM stores graphics data. 

What is VRAM Used For?

Video RAM (VRAM) stores all the data that is relevant to rendering images on a computer display, including lighting maps, textures models, and shading information. The use of VRAM separates this data from the system RAM. 

It works exclusively with the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). It is located close to the GPU on the graphics card, holding data the GPU assigns to it. 

The VRAM undertakes frame buffering, storing the images that GPU renders. The VRAM takes the images transferred and places them in the correct order with other rendered images for transfer to the display. The performance of VRAM is critical to applications like gaming, graphic design, animation, and 3D modeling.

Does VRAM Need to Be Upgraded?

VRAM cannot be individually upgraded as it is an integrated part of the graphics card. On some computers (Windows OS), you can check the amount of available VRAM in the “Advanced Display Settings.” If VRAM capacity is limited, demanding graphics and animated sequences won’t run.

You can only achieve an upgrade by connecting an external graphics card or buying a new computer with a high-specification graphics card. 

VRAM vs. RAM: 6 Must-Know Facts

  • VRAM stands for Video Random Access Memory.
  • RAM is used for short-term data storage.
  • VRAM is a graphics card component that is connected to the GPU.
  • VRAM enables computers to render high-resolution, high-speed color graphics.
  • VRAM uses dual port memory so that multiple reads and writes can occur at the same time.
  • VRAM loses all stored data if it loses power.

Final Thoughts

Both RAM and VRAM are essential non-volatile memory components that can enhance the speed of your computer.

But, if you are ‌specifically looking for GPU performance that can support advanced design and gaming applications, you need to take a closer look at the amount of VRAM you have onboard.

Adding RAM to your computer or laptop is as easy as adding modules to the RAM slot, but an upgrade of VRAM will require an entire graphics card.

Ultimately, your memory storage type depends on your specific needs, so identify what you use your computer for to decide if RAM or VRAM is for you.

VRAM vs. RAM: What’s the Difference? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Does more VRAM mean better GPU?

VRAM enhances GPU performance as it increases its capacity for holding and rendering images on the graphics card.

Are VRAM and graphics cards the same?

VRAM and graphics cards are not the same. VRAM is a component of a computer’s graphics processing unit (GPU). The GPU, including the VRAM, is part of a computer’s graphics card.

Do games use RAM or VRAM?

Video games use system RAM and VRAM. However, the gaming experience is affected by the amount of available VRAM and the resolution of the display you are using.

Why is my VRAM so low?

Low VRAM is usually because of consumption by a specific application or process. You can use the Task Manager to close programs that take up a lot of VRAM. If the problem is persistent, you may need to upgrade your graphics card.

How do I check my VRAM?

You can check the amount of VRAM you have on Windows computers using these simple steps: 

  1. Right-click on an empty area of your desktop and click on Display settings.
  2. Select Advanced Display Settings
  3. Click on Display Adapter Properties and the Adapter tab.

Look at Dedicated Video Memorythe VRAM is displayed on the right-hand side.

How much VRAM do I need?

The amount of VRAM you need depends on what you use your computer for. If you are doing graphic design, animation, modeling, or gaming, the software you use will have high VRAM requirements.

Computers used for these applications require at least 4 to 6GB of Graphics Double Data Rate 6 Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory (GDDR6). This is the latest version of VRAM, a synchronous RAM with high bandwidth to meet the demands of gaming and graphics-intensive applications.

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