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If you're not playing games, how much video memory do you need?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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July 12, 2011 9:24:35 PM

Is the memory requirement in a video card for business PC use (Excel, Word, Web pages, Skype, e-mail) related to the resolution and color bit depth that you plan to use? I presume there is a formula to figure out how much video memory you need.

For a user who doesn't play any games, are there any memory size recommendations for a video card; is 128M enough for busines use? I *seem* to remember using 1024x768 at 16 or 32 bits on cards with 32 MB memory in the "old days" (Windows 2000 or XP), but I could be wrong. Nowadays, I run my 26" monitor at 1920x1200 with 32 bits, but I don't play games where framerate is a concern. Most users I support are at 1280x1024 or 1440x900 with 32 bits color.

What are the video card guidelines for this kind of use? (Video card makers obviously market to the gamers, but their ads seem to imply that EVERYONE plays WoW or Crysis.) :-)

Thanks.
a c 272 U Graphics card
July 12, 2011 9:32:39 PM

Nothing you have listed requires a lot of Vram, a current IGP would be fine for that kind of usage.
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July 12, 2011 10:02:09 PM

Of course you don't need a great graphic card to do these kind of thing but still you have to take this into account:

Let's say you use a monitor with a resolution of 1920x1200. It gives you 2.3 Million pixels to render 60 times/minutes in 32bits color depth, making it use at least 256 MB of video RAM. For years, every graphic card released for workstations or even for everyday professionnals had at least 512MB RAM on it oftentimes 1 full GB. Less than 256MB is far useless these days.

For a 1440x900 monitor, the minimum is 128MB video RAM (correct me if I'm wrong guys), but still it will be largely too old for anything serious nowadays.

Any new intergrated graphic is now using 256-512 MB RAM. Better have at least 512MB system RAM and you'll be fine for years (we all hope). If you're planning on using an intergrated graphic chipset, you're gonna need at least 256MB RAM reserved for the videocard so that will put the minimum system RAM to 512MB to be usable once windows is fully updated. Still 1GB of system RAM would allow 768 MB RAM for the system once you reserve 256MB to the graphic chip.

For example my Windows XP server has a total of 1GB of RAM, and I let 256MB reserved for graphic processing. So on the 768 MB that I now have installed in it, with Windows XP fully updated and some needed programs installed, I have less than 200 MB RAM free for my programs to use... it's not much and it lags some. Before I had a total 512MB on that same system (256MB IGP reserved so had 256MB system RAM usable only) and the computer was almost not usable. Right after it booted it had less than 70MB RAM free to use for me programs, and my firefox is always taking like 100MB RAM :-O

DDR RAM nowadays is pretty expensive to get so if I were you I'd get a discrete 256MB graphic card so that the system RAM is completely useable by the system.
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a c 214 U Graphics card
July 12, 2011 10:05:37 PM

^I agree.For regular everyday and buisness use the Intergreated Graphics(IGP) thats on the motherboard/processor should do fine.For an actual amouynt of VRAM I would reccomend around 128mb.Most IGP's already have 128mb-256mb so you don't need to worry.
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a c 106 U Graphics card
July 12, 2011 10:22:48 PM

Yes at 1920x1200 that's 2.3 million pixles with 32 bits of data so that about 73 million bytes of display data or about 70MB, not 256MB. So generally without 3d acceleration a 128MB card is more than enough. Anyway, any IGP will do. Of course, Vista an Win 7 use video acceleration for pretty effects but any modern card down to the cheap as chips GT 210 or Radeon 4350 will do. Modern cards and IGPs also generally offer flash acceleration and also seems to do the same for Microsoft silver light. This is important if the users are interacting with any programs or dashboards that use such technology.
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a c 106 U Graphics card
July 12, 2011 10:23:26 PM

Of course, the only things I've seen that use silverlight are a few dashboards and netflix. I never coded anything in sliverlight myself yet :p 
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July 20, 2011 3:27:18 AM

Thanks for the responses. I often add in a separate video card instead of using integrated video. I have done some limited testing and found that a separate video card improves the performance of system benchmarks. I'm not completely sure whether that translates to faster Excel file recalculating, or faster SQL Server response.

Besides, with Outlook e-mail, Word, Excel, Web browser pages open (sometimes using -- ugh -- Flash), and sometimes a local database to run something like Quickbooks or Act contact management, I don't want to steal local memory (especially from a 32-bit processor limited to about 3.5 GB anyway).

I appreciate the responses. There are a few 256M cards still around, but they are becoming scarce! I trust the 73 million byte number. Thanks.
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