How Much RAM Does Your Graphics Card Really Need?

Test System And Benchmarks

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Header Cell - Column 0 Graphic Test System
CPUIntel Core i7-920 (Nehalem), 2.67 GHz, QPI-2400, 8MB CacheOverclocked to 3.06 GHz @ 153 MHz Bclk
MotherboardASRock X58 Supercomputer Intel X58, BIOS P1.90
NetworkingOnboard Realtek Gigabit LAN controller
MemoryKingston PC3-10700 3 x 1,024MB, DDR3-1225, CL 9-9-9-22-1T
GraphicsThree Tested Cards
Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar WD50 00AAJS-00YFA, 500GB, 7200 RPM, 8 MB cache, SATA 3.0 GB/s
PowerThermaltake Toughpower 1200W1,200 W, ATX 12V 2.2, EPS 12v 2.91
Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit 6.0.6001, SP1
DirectX versionDirectX 10
Graphics DriversCatalyst 9.9
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Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
CrysisPatch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 64-bit executable, benchmark tool Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Very High Quality, No AA
Far Cry 2DirectX 10, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Very High Quality, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra High Quality, 4x AA
World In ConflictPatch 1009, DirectX 10, timedemo Test 1: Very High Details, No AA/No AF Test 2: Very High Details 4x AA/16x AF
Left 4 DeadVersion, custom THG benchmark Test Set 1: Highest Settings, No AA, No AF Test Set 2: Highest Settings, 4x AA, 16x AF
Grand Theft Auto IVPatch, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: Med, Med, Med, Med, High, 30,70,51,10 Test Set 2: High, Very High, Very High, Very High, High, 50,70,51,10
  • radiowars
    Great article guys. I've debated this many times with friends- good to see a definite result. Heh, GTX 275 w/ 896 works well @ 1680x1050 for me. I doubt I'd need anything higher than that for my resolution.
  • burnley14
    I really like the alternating images you use in these articles, they are very helpful and make it much easier to compare the various detail settings.

    Also, great article overall. Keep up the good work!
  • cleeve
    Thanks burnley, animated GIFs are a bit of a pain to make, but it's nice to know they're appreciated. :)
  • blueer03
    This was very interesting. But I would like to see the performance difference from a mid-stream (say a 4850) as compared to a high end video card. Would it have made sense to spring for the 1GB 4850, or would there be no difference because of the cards inherent limitations? And the same thing with the lower level cards. At what point in the hierarchy of video cards does springing for more than the reference memory levels make sense?
  • cleeve
    With lower end cards you'd see the same effect, but with the lower frame-rates that those cards would produce. The end result is the same: one they run out of RAM at a certain setting, the performance will suffer, but until then it's the same across the board.
  • knutjb
    How much ram will the 5870 eyefinity version need?
  • cleeve
    knutjbHow much ram will the 5870 eyefinity version need?
    Depends on the resolution and settings just like everything else. but it's a good question, if there's enough interest in this article I'll look into that in the future.
  • liquidsnake718
    Im surprised that Crysis doesnt utilize all the RAM(even for an older title) for distance similarly to titles like GTA. Im sure the new Crytek engine will make use of Ram so we can see even buildings and huge alien robots further in the distance with vivid details.

    We can only look forward to a more intense and visually stunning Crysis 2 as I can only imagine how the story would progress and end up being in space. I can imagine huge asteroids looking as real coming at the player using nvidias 3d vision and utilizing AA in order to make it apparent from a distance.

    Think Halo style world but with unrivaled graphics and a more realistic feel with DX11.
  • How about doing this same comparison with crossfire setups?
  • Arkz
    il tell ya whats a bitch, i have a 1920x1080 monitor, nice? yes. I have an 8800GT too.. nice? kinda.. its the 256MB version.. so.. if i wanna turn up the sexiness i get baaaad fps