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RAM for video

Posted on 2000-03-16
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Last Modified: 2013-11-10
I quote from another post: "...For graphics, consider getting bigtime ram for bigtime graphics card.  I hear that some new tools and games suffer with less than 32 MB while their 3D cards normaly do not slot half that high..."

My question - how do video cards use system RAM? If I add an 8MB video card to my 128MB Win98 system, will graphics-intensive apps (games) look to use some of that 128MB system RAM?
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Question by:rsorrent
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by:1cell
ID: 2624364
very basically, The card uses it's own RAM much like the system does.  And similarly, if the card runs out of free RAM, it looks elsewhere for room to work.  This would typically be system RAM unless the space is not available.

I would aim for something with more RAM than 8MB.  With the way things are these days, you wont be happy for very long with an 8MB card if you are trying to do 3D intensive work or gaming.
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jjeff1 earned 300 total points
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You are looking at two different things here. First is system RAM - When you load programs and whatnot it uses system RAM. If you try and load a large amount of data ( like editing a large picture with Photoshop ) you will use a lot of system memory. If you try to use more system memory than you have, the system will use hard drive space to simulate memory. This will really slow down your machine. If you find that your hard drive is being accessed all the time when opening and closing programs, you need more memory. In most cases, 128 MB is more than enough.

Video memory is used by your video card to display images on the screen. The more complex the image, the more memory you will use. For example, displaying your normal windows desktop at 800x600 with 256 color depth means you need
800 x 600 x 1 bytes of memory on your video card. 256 colors uses 1 byte of video memory. If you use a higher resolution, you need more memory. If you play a 3D game, like Quake3 or Unreal, you need gobs more memory to represent the 3rd dimension, plus various other amounts of memory used by the game for things like shadows. Plus you need memory for textures. The video card draws a shape, like a square for a wall, then applies an image (the texture) to the shape to produce the final image. That texture must be kept in memory. This applies to 3D games and applications only, which is why you need lots of video card memory to use those applications.

This means that the 2 memories are separate and both are important.

Now, to make life difficult, there is AGP. AGP allows your video card to use system memory when it needs it. Note that your video card must specifically try to use system memory. So even if you have an AGP video card, you may not actually use any system memory with it.
Since using system memory with an AGP video card is slower than using the video memory, most video cards don't even support it. In addition, you have to run out of video memory before the video card will attempt to use system memory.

An 8 MB video card is on the lower end now a days. If you try and play a modern game, you may find that the game will not let you use the highest resolutions, or enable all of the features. In any case, the processor on the video card probably is not fast enough to run at the highest resolutions either, so its a moot point.

So to try and answer your question in just 1 sentence: Maybe, it depends on the video card and the game, in any case the speed of the card is much more a limiting factor than the amount of memory on it.
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by:rsorrent
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by:rsorrent
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Much more info than I was hoping to get - thanks!
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