Computer

Types of video memory: differences and performance

What is computer video memory used for, general characteristics and differences between the various types, GDDR and HBM

Types of video memories When we buy a new video card we usually only check the type of GPU present and the amount of dedicated video memory inside it, ignoring other fundamental parameters to be able to fully evaluate the power of a graphics card.

Among these parameters, the type of video memory certainly stands out, which in certain situations can make the difference between a game reproduced faithfully with a high number of details.

Between the various types of video memory available at the moment there are performance differences. The newer technologies obviously cost more, but we can find fast video memories integrated even in cheap video cards, just carefully check the product data sheet.

READ ALSO ->How to choose the video card for your PC graphics

1) General characteristics of video memory

Video memory is an important component of graphics cards (both integrated and dedicated), as it temporarily stores all the graphics information processed by the processor or waiting to be processed.

He behaves completely similar to RAM of the computer but it is much faster and is optimized for storing video information (from the graphics engine to the management of the polygons of each element present in a game).

It goes without saying that a greater amount of video memory translates into a greater number of storable details, but we must not underestimate the speed aspect: if the video memory is too slow, the GPU will slow down in turn, “waiting” for the memory becomes free or is ready to accommodate new video data.

Currently it is possible to find two types of video memory inside graphics cards: GDDR e HBM; Let’s see in detail what both technologies offer.

2) GDDR memory characteristics

GDDR is the most common acronym to identify video memories present on the same card where the GPU is present. Thanks to this technology we can manage large quantities of video data at the maximum possible speed.

Currently the versions of GDDR video memories available are:

  • GDDR5: the currently oldest version, used only on budget video cards (such as graphics card NVIDIA GTX 960).
  • GDDR6: the latest version of video memory, capable of offering an excellent compromise between capacity and data transfer speed. It is present on all new generation video cards, such as the MSI GeForce RTX 4060 VENTUS 2X BLACK 8G OC.
  • GDDR6X: the latest evolution in video memory, with much higher transfer speeds. This type of memory is reserved only for high-end video cards, such as the MSI GeForce RTX 4090 GAMING X TRIO 24G.

When we buy a new video card produced by NVIDIA, let’s make sure that one of these types of video memory is present, so as to always have maximum performance; instead, let’s avoid video cards with versions of GDDR4 or previous versions, also neglecting video cards with simple DDR memories (really very old).

3) HBM memory characteristics

A different type of memory is available for AMD video cards, sold as an exclusive product: memories HBM. They differ from GDDR because memory chips they are not in close proximity to the graphics processor (as seen in the previous image), but are present inside the GPU/CPU stacked in columns, thus sharing all the bandwidth, instructions and optimizations in terms of speed and energy saving.

However, being a niche product, it has had some difficulties in establishing itself on the market, despite the fact that they are clearly better than GDDR: this is because drivers and games must be optimized to take advantage of HBM otherwise you will not get any benefit from a performance point of view.

At the time of writing there are no new video cards that take advantage of these memories, but they have been presented in the past video cards with HBM and HBM2both with little commercial success.

The latest incarnation of this technology is the HBM3E versionwhich should debut on the market starting from 2024.

Conclusions

But in the end what is the best video memory? HBM technology is decidedly more advanced but GDDR is still very widespread and supported, plus the latest versions have such high performance that they compete on par with HBM in most gaming scenarios (also thanks to the greater optimization of NVIDIA video drivers).

If we want to save money, just focus on video cards with memories GDDR5, still adequate for those looking for a cheap video card; if instead we want a video card for playing games, make sure to use only memories GDDR6 o GDDR6Xso as to exclude video memory from a possible “bottleneck” of performance on new video cards.

If we don’t know what type of video memories we use on our video card, we recommend downloading the free program GPU-Z.

To choose a new video card, I refer you to reading our guide Best video cards for PC.

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