It’s been a turbulent few years finding new graphics cards for your gaming machine upgrades, but if you’re still planning on getting an AMD GPU, or you’ve recently upgraded your system, then there’s something you should know about a not-so-small feature called Smart Access Memory , sometimes abbreviated to SAM.
If you’ve been looking for ways to boost your gaming performance without overclocking too much, upgrading to an AMD card with Smart Access Memory is an easy way to do it. Here’s how the feature works and why it makes such a difference.
This is a memory technology that AMD officially introduced in 2020 with its RX 6000 series, although it’s based on resizable bar technology that’s been around for a while. Basically, it’s a new design that allows the CPU in a computer to access much more RAM on a GPU than was previously possible.
This means that Smart Access Memory can help fix slowdowns and other issues that stem from the CPU’s inability to handle all the operations that the GPU has thrown in its way. Essentially, with Smart Access Memory, a CPU can now use a much larger chunk of memory from the GPU when needed, which helps eliminate bottlenecks that might otherwise arise at particularly demanding settings.
Let’s look at some numbers. All GPUs require a certain amount of VRAM, dedicated memory, to help them perform tasks. CPUs have the ability to access this memory to communicate with the GPU, make sure they’re on the same graphical page, and do all the calculations needed to bring that sweet, smooth gameplay to your screen.
However, CPUs generally use 128MB to 256MB of VRAM by default. While gamers can push this a bit higher, it’s ridiculous compared to GPUs equipped with 6GB of VRAM or much more. CPU usage is so low that it can be difficult to handle more demanding games, especially as games continue to push the boundaries of what is possible.
AMD Smart Access Memory is the big solution to this problem and a must-have feature if you’re thinking about upgrading to a current GPU.
It’s time for more numbers! And these are even more exciting from a gameplay perspective, as Smart Access Memory shows truly significant results, similar to what you could get with overclocking, except without all the tweaking and monitoring that process requires.
According to AMD, a Radeon RX 6800 XT with a resolution of 1440p can play games like ForzaHorizon 4 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla saw up to 15% increase in performance. gears 5 recorded an increase of up to 8%. World of Warcraft: Shadowlands got up to 6% boost. For just one new feature, that’s not bad at all.
This is where it gets a little tricky. AMD Smart Access Memory requires proper compatibility with both GPU and CPU, and that’s somewhat limited at the moment. Originally, Smart Access Memory was only available with the Ryzen 5000 CPU series and above, and AMD added a BIOS update to allow Ryzen 3000 CPUs to benefit as well, but beyond that you need a CPU upgrade to get it benefit from it.
On the graphics card side, Radeon RX 6000 GPUs with RDNA 2 architecture support Smart Access Memory, so you’ll need one of those or later to enjoy the associated performance gains.
Smart Access Memory will no doubt become a standard feature on AMD cards, and now that it’s been a few years, buying a new AMD GPU (here are the best AMD graphics cards) should guarantee that it’s loaded with the technology .
Go to your Ryzen system BIOS and go to Progressive Menu. Look for two main features here – About 4G decoding and Re-Size BAR support. Both must be on to use Smart Access Memory.
Remember when we said AMD’s Smart Access Memory was based on an older technology called Resizable BAR? That is good news: Nvidia uses the same technology to add similar benefits to its GPUs starting in 2021 with the GeForce RTX 30 series – all of which now support Resizable BAR on desktop (check individual models if you have a laptop as this can still vary). Update your GeForce driver to ensure the support update is applied and you should be good to go. Resizable BAR is not available on other Nvidia GPUs like RTX 20, GTX 16 or earlier.
There’s a catch though: this Nvidia Resizable BAR technology requires a Ryzen 5000 CPU to function properly. Some Intel chips are supported, but not quite as many. 10th gen Intel i3, although i9 CPUs support it, as do 11th gen chips from i5 to i9, and while Nvidia doesn’t have much information on 12th gen chips, Intel has stated that they also support Resizable BAR are made. Nvidia is also adding support for the customizable bar to individual games, so you’ll need a game that supports it – newer games from 2021 onwards are your best bet, and support has also been introduced for titles like gears 5, borderland 3, Battlefield V, Horizon Zero Dawnetc.
This means your options for compatibility are somewhat limited at the moment, although the technology will expand to many more slots and titles over time.
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