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I have a dual monitor setup with both monitors in the 1600x1200 range and am running Windows 7. I don't do PC gaming, but do non-professional video editing (and viewing single-monitor full-screen video).

I understand that memory on video cards is very important for games, but does Windows 7 Aero make use of video card RAM in the same way that a game does? Is there a way to calculate the optimal amount of video card memory? Is it a function of resolution?

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Keep in mind that rendering videos is usually taxing your CPU more so than your GPU. You may want a decent (but no where near highend) for the video playback. Does the software that you have support GPU processing for rendering videos? If so, then you'll want to go with a higher end card with a better GPU. Memory still wouldn't be a huge factor since the higher end cards are usually maxed out anyways. –  kobaltz Oct 1 '11 at 4:23
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I run 1920x1080x3 off of a 1GB card and any video editing that I do is not affected by too much or not enough GRam. I did through in 16GB of RAM which definitely makes the difference. More often than not, you'll be more concerned with Memory, CPU, and Hard Drive speeds before you'd be concerned with GPUs. –  kobaltz Oct 1 '11 at 4:25
    
As with any computer hardware, as much as you can afford! –  Moab Oct 1 '11 at 4:27
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

1600x1200 x 4 bytes (32-bit color depth) equals to roughly 8MB of RAM. Some graphic systems (OpenGL, DirectX) love to have a double buffer. So, 16MB of RAM for a single monitor. That's the lower end. From there on, you can find the "optimal" amount of RAM via:

(nr_of_monitors * price_single_lower_end) + (price_per_mb_ram * additional_ram)

It's not like more GPU RAM will hurt you system, lots of programs use GPU RAM to speed some things up nowadays (e.g. Internet Explorer 9 / Chrome might use the GPU to render parts of the webpage). Windows 7 / Aero is not using as much RAM as (let's say) Battlefield 3, but since several everyday apps tend to use the GPU now as well you would cause swapping / thrashing the GPU RAM if you have to little of it. Since you don't know in advance how big that shiny new website you will visit tomorrow is (or how much of it IE9/Chrome/Firefox will render on the GPU).

I see cards with 512MB of RAM for ~25€. Based upon that price and the scientific formula I think you invest too much time into the decision of how much RAM your GPU should have.

Grab as much as you can before it hurts you (price-wise).

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