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Skyrim VRAM usage @ 4K res

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Probably going to be in the 3-4gb range .. Assuming Skyrim SE which has the old Bethesda High Res Texture packs as its standard textures for the newer game, and you are then adding to those with more 4k textures .. 


The Vanilla game with its usual assortment of appropriately sized textures per object takes just a little over 2gb VRAM ..






Depends how many of the vanilla textures you wish to replace with 4k textures really. It also depends how often throughout the game those higher res textures are in use. Body mods for example only come into play when an NPC is nearby, and they are cached in VRAM and re-used for any other NPC in the vicinity, so really body textures are something you can have at 4k which are more likely to be looked at more closely but do not overuse your VRAM. Whereas Land textures are needed everywhere, and there are usually a bunch of them in your near vicinity which are being blended where they meet, plus all the ones being cached in case you wander in any particular direction = Having lots of 4k landscape textures can take a bigger wedge of VRAM


Best way to find out is install what you want to have in game, and run Skyrim Performance Monitor ..


Skyrim Performance Monitor - Oldrim


Skyrim Performance Monitor - SSE


On my screenshot, on the top graph you can see a dark green dotted line, thats the maximum amount of VRAM on your graphics card (my laptop Geforce 970m has 3gb)


The bright green line is how much VRAM is being used in the game


Ideally you should always have 10-15 percent VRAM free at all times for optimal use of your VRAM (allowing a little stepover space for swapping in / out textures into your VRAM) - So if your VRAM usage is way up against the VRAM max all the time .. You are using too much (also you will be getting a very hot graphics card and reducing its life expectancy).


Add higher res textures until you have clearance between the two lines of at least 10 percent of the maximum. That will be your ideal for performance. Run the line above that and you will have constant graphics bottleneck, which may or may not manifest as stuttering within the game - But the stuttering is not the worst that can happen, if you are constantly running your graphics card above its expected average temperature tolerances the solder on all the chip pins slowly start to melt away from their contacts, or crack, and one day the card becomes fried. This situation can be amplified by how much dust in your vents is decreasing the efficiency of your cooling.








One more thing to note on my graph, you can see where an in-game loading of the next city has occurred, because there is a loading spike, and quickly afterwards a bit of what is loaded is discarded (textures no longer required in the new area). This is the needed swap space you want to keep free. So in all cases find out your worst area for VRAM use (I find its usually Windhelm has the highest needs, followed close second by Whiterun), and so long as your biggest swap spike never touches the maximum VRAM dotted line .. Then you have achieved the best load of textures for your machine. If you want to add something else at 4k, you may have to compromise by reducing the resolution of another bunch of textures affecting the same area.


Having every texture at 4k is just a ridiculous waste of VRAM and will slow your machines performance down just by having such a hugely increased demand to feed loads of textures through your data busses - Why would you need a 4k hand texture for example, or normal (bump) maps the same size as diffuse maps, or a texture for a shoe at 4k .. Unnecessary. The only things you may desire to be 4k are the things you are likely to see up close and annoy you, but even a face texture does not need to be above 2k really .. Though they may be the ones you want to make an exception for and compensate by reducing something else to keep the balance for a smooth running game.


And when you get down to it, what do you need 4k for, screen archery to show off to the world you can install big textures, or is it actually something about the vanilla textures that can be improved to enhance your immersion within the game. Is a particular texture of a hi res sword going to get noticed when a foresworn is swinging it at your head in a fight "ooh shiny .." was the last thing you said before reloading the game :D


(That last paragraph is not directed at anyone specifically, just a thought provoker for anyone reading this, I like some 4k textures too, but practically I dont need all of them, and very much want to keep my laptop running cool as it does maximising its life expectancy).

Edited by alt3rn1ty
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Thank you for the detailed response. I currently have a pair of 980s and was considering whether to upgrade to a card with 8GB or the Ti with 12GB. It sounds like 8 will be plenty then? As far as cooling, I haven't had any difficulties keeping my 980s consistently under 70 C.


Using Skyrim Performance Monitor, I max out my VRAM at 4GB so I was unable to tell exactly how much more it would use if I had more. Then of course ENB will switch to system RAM and the stutters happen.


If you have enough VRAM though, does using large textures hypothetically not affect performance? You are right that you do not need 4K textures for small or insignificant things. But does your performance decrease the higher the VRAM usage even if you had say 12GB of VRAM?

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If you have enough VRAM though, does using large textures hypothetically not affect performance? You are right that you do not need 4K textures for small or insignificant things. But does your performance decrease the higher the VRAM usage even if you had say 12GB of VRAM?

I would say hypothetically that using excessive amounts of High Res textures does affect your performance, but thats subject to the throughput efficiency of your motherboards busses between chips / cards / different memory pools. Extra load = bigger demand on hardware = less performance overall no matter how advanced your system is. The more advanced the better, and the less likely you are to even notice any performance degradation, but if you have a machine thats powerful enough to shift the extra load without noticing any difference, and not melting your machine .. Why not :), its your machine and your money.

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