In this post, we compare the newest VRAM options available on the market: GDDR5 vs GDDR5X vs HBM vs HBM2 vs GDDR6...
GDDR5, GDDR5X, GDDR6, HBM, and HBM2 - what are all these acronyms about? If you’re as confused as any other person, you probably got lost just keeping up with all these acronyms. You’re not alone in this one, though. Video RAMs are more technical than your average computer hardware components, but they’re also very crucial to your gaming experience.
Still don’t understand what you just read? Read on below to understand what video RAM is and the differences between GDDR5, GDDR5X, GDDR6, HBM, and HBM2. By the end of this post, you’ll know how to choose which one will work best for you.
RAM and Video RAM
RAM, short for random-access memory, is a very important part of your computer whether you’re a gamer or not. Why? This is because your RAM is responsible for letting your CPU access data almost instantly. Of course, this comes with a trade-off because RAM stores data for the short term. The data that you need, when saved in RAM, may be gone the next day or when you turn off your computer.
The same concept applies to VRAM. VRAM is short for video random-access memory. It essentially does the same thing with RAM, except that it is solely for graphics like videos and images. It keeps data on texture, shadow maps, lighting information, and the like. The GDDR5, GDDR5X, GDDR6, HBM, and HBM2 are all different types of VRAM.
GDDR5, GDDR5X, and GDDR6
If you look at the acronyms, you might get an idea that the GDDR5, GDDR5X, and GDDR6 are the same, but they are of different iterations. Guess what? You’re right about that.
GDDR started off as GDDR SDRAM which is short for Graphics Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory. The double data rate means that there is double the data transfer in one cycle. When you compare it to a single data transfer (SDR), you’re bound to see the results that the GDDR SDRAM offers. Being a DDR type of VRAM, the GDDR SDRAM also means that it has high bandwidth capabilities making it an ideal VRAM for your gaming needs.
GDDR SDRAM is one of the most popular types of VRAM used in the market. This mouthful abbreviation was then shortened to GDDR which is now the basis for labeling different iterations of this particular VRAM.
There are three types of GDDR that are still available today, although GDDR5 being less available than the GDDR6. So what are their differences?
GDDR5 is probably the oldest GDDR that you’ll be able to use today. It was launched in 2007 and was mass-produced in 2008. It started with a 512 MB memory and gradually increased in the 10 years that it was being used. It’s maximum memory capacity now is 8 GB. Of course, for the GDD5, this is already a big improvement. Its transfer speed is also 40-64 Gb/s.
Compared to its predecessors, GDDR3 and GDDR4, the GDDR5 uses a lot less power for a higher transfer rate. This is why it was a great starter VRAM for budget-friendly builds.
When 2016 came, a new iteration to the GDDR5 was released. This was called the GDDR5X. However, in its first few years, it was only used by some of Nvidia’s Pascal-based GPUs. However, when more and more people started to notice its difference from the GDDR5, its sales started to increase.
The GDDR5X was different from the GDDR5 in terms of transfer speed and memory capacity. The transfer speed increased to 80-112 Gb/s and the memory increased to 16 GB. Nonetheless, it has chips that have memory capacities of 4, 6, and 8 GB.
Of course, the GDDR5X has a lower energy consumption compared to GDDR5. However, don’t expect too much because the changes will be marginal as more iterations add to the current GDDR lineup.
The newest version of the GDDR is the GDDR6. Needless to say, it’s also the one with the highest memory capacity and fastest transfer rate. The transfer rate is at 112-118 Gb/s. When you compare it to the GDDR5X, there’s not a lot of difference when it comes to the transfer rate. This is often the case the more a product improves on its predecessors.
Nonetheless, GDDR6 is the newest VRAM type which will also be the next most sought-after VRAM. It’s being used on Nvidia’s GTX 16 and RTX 20 series. As the GDDR5 slowly approaches obsolescence, you might want to get your hands on the fastest transfer rate in the GDDR series.
HBM and HBM2
Next up is HBM and HBM2. HBM stands for High Bandwidth Memory. Compared to the GDDR, this relatively sounds easier to understand. Based on the name itself, the HBM has high bandwidth. In fact, that’s probably their best selling point - more bandwidth. When you compare it to the GDDR, the GDDR doesn’t stand a chance.
Apart from the bandwidth, the HBM also looks different from the GDDR. Instead of a plane, the HBM is a cube where stacked memory chips form a cube-like structure. Because of its appearance, the HBM is often called stacked memory. Here, the more the stacks, the higher the bandwidth and memory. So far, there are two types of HBM that were launched to the public - HBM and HBM2.
The HBM’s memory bus starts at 1024 bits per stack. Even if this is HBM’s first iteration, it already exceeds GDDR’s memory bus which is only at 392 bits at most. Moreover, HBM’s memory bus can also increase the more you increase a stack. If you add another stack, you can get a total of 2048 bits, add another one and it becomes 4096 bits and so on.
As for the bandwidth, HBM starts at128 GB/s. This comes as no surprise because, after all, high bandwidth is what sets HBM apart from GDDR.
And then you have HBM2. Obviously, HBM2 is a better version of HBM. By how much? Twice.
HBM2 was released in 2016 and it started out with a transfer rate of 256Gb/s. This is twice as much as the HBM - literally taking the “2” iteration. This is why the HBM2 is normally used for more demanding games and graphics like VR gaming and AR gaming.
When it comes to power consumption, even if the HBM2 has twice the storage space and twice the transfer rate, it uses less power. Compared to HBM’s 1.35V power consumption, HBM2 only uses 1.2V.
What Should You Get?
Now that you have a fairly good idea of how each VRAM type differs from one another, the question is - what should you get? Doing a comparison of the five types mentioned here may be a bit difficult given that you’re comparing not just two, but five, types. The trick for deciding which one is to use a set of factors and know which VRAM type wins in those factors. You can easily eliminate the other options, too.
To help you out, here are five factors and the winners in each of them.
Of course, the most important factor you’re going to look for is performance. If you use a higher bandwidth, does it mean that you automatically get a higher performance? The answer is yes and no.
Yes, it does mean a change in performance if and only if the game requires higher bandwidth and you only have a lower-bandwidth VRAM. If you upgrade to a VRAM that has a higher bandwidth capacity, then you’ll definitely see the change, but if your game only uses a certain bandwidth and you get a much higher VRAM, then the excess VRAM won’t be used. Besides, changing from a GDDR5X to a GDDR6 won’t make such a huge difference on the in-game performance.
To add to that, the VRAM is not the most influential factor when it comes to game performance. The most influential one is the GPU architecture, so if you’re planning to increase your VRAM, make sure that you’ve also checked the bandwidth your games will use.
- Power Consumption
The ideal VRAM type is one that has a large storage capacity, high bandwidth, and low energy consumption. So far, the best available in the market is HBM2. Sure, the GDDR6 has a low power consumption, but it doesn’t come close to the amount of power HBM2 uses. In fact, GDDR6 uses less power than GDDR5 and GDDR5X, but it uses more power than HBM2.
One reason you might want to think about power consumption is the risk of overheating. Naturally, a VRAM that has a higher power consumption has a higher risk of overheating. Of course, that’s not the only reason, but if you want to ensure that your VRAM won’t heat up all the time, you would want the HBM2 over the GDDR version.
What are you using the VRAM for? Yes, it’s for gaming, but what games will you be playing? Knowing if you’ll be playing VR and AR games will help you determine if you need to buy an HBM2. Because HBM2 has the bandwidth and the capacity to match the needs of VR and AR, then that’s the only VRAM you should consider.
On the other hand, if you’re going to play ordinary combat games, getting the GDDR6 is better since it’s fast and relatively cheaper. Plus, you don’t have excess storage that will go unused. Even if you get the HBM2 at a discount, it’s still not worth it since you’re still not maximizing the capabilities of the HBM2.
Does this mean the HBM2 is useless? Not exactly. Even if not everyone plays VR and AR, HBM2 also has uses outside of the gaming industry. In fact, HBM memory can be helpful in graphics-intensive software. If you are a graphics designer or a video editor, you’ll find that the ideal VRAM for you is HBM2.
Another factor to consider is the price. If you’re just building your PC and you don’t want to spend so much on something, then you would want to go for the GDDR iterations, specifically, the GDDR5. The GDDR5 is a known mid-range VRAM which is actually good for the price.
However, if you don’t mind paying a bigger price for the VRAM, then you can choose the GDDR6 or the HBM. The only problem here is that HBM types are not as easily found in the market. If you’re going to look for it, that incurs cost, too.
- For Future Use
What do you mean by future use? It simply means knowing which VRAMs will still be available in the next few years. Obviously, the GDDR5 is out of the question as it has been available for some time and everyone’s moving their attention to either GDDR5X or GDDR6.
As of today, even HBM is not safe from obsolescence. Why? This is because it’s availability in the market is starting to dwindle, and no, it’s not because everyone’s using it. If you are looking for a VRAM that will last you for the next few years, your best bet is at GDDR5X, GDDR6, and HBM2.
Based on these factors, the clear winner in terms of storage and bandwidth is HBM or HBM2. When it comes to price and availability, it’s GDDR5X or GDDR6. It’s up to you now to decide which of these factors is more important to you. For some, they wouldn’t overthink picking a VRAM because, at the end of the day, your GPU is the one that does a lot of the work and a large VRAM is not a guarantee of great in-game performance.
Choosing among GDDR5, GDDR5X, GDDR6, HBM, and HBM2 feels like a hard task especially with all the technical terms you have to know, but once you know what you’re looking for, choosing one becomes a lot easier. They are different in their own way and they also have their own pros and cons. Don’t forget to compare based on the factors listed here so you can easily know what VRAM type you should get.