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PC video memory confusion: Dedicated, shared, discrete, oh my!

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 11, 2008 3:29 AM PDT

Hi everyone. Sorry if this sounds like dumb question. I'm in process of buying a new desktop computer. When I'm looking at the specification on many desktop PCs I often get quite confused over the video memory aspect of these desktop. Some read 128MB dedicated video memory, some read integrated graphics with up to 128MB shared memory, and some read 256MB discrete video memory. Dedicated, shared, discreet? Talk about confusion! All I know in general is the more video memory the better. But can someone please explain what the difference are between these type of video specs, and what is best suited for what type of computer usage, so I can make a decent buying decision on a desktop without any future regrets. If this helps, my main goal for this new PC is for multimedia--the casual music listening/steaming, Internet surfing, e-mailing, watch videos online or DVDs, photos editing, casual gaming--nothing hard core. I don't want to limit myself to these as my interest may expand down the line. A little help in the confusing video memory area would be most appreciated!

Submitted by: Sheldon S.

Answer voted most helpful by the CNET Community newsletter readers:

Overview - Video memory

Shared Video Memory: Using part of main memory (RAM) for the display circuit's frame buffers, which temporarily hold the rendered content being sent to the screen. Shared memory is used in PCs that have the display circuit built into the motherboard rather than housed on a separate, more costly display adapter card.

Sharing main memory with the display function reduces the amount of memory available to applications, and main memory is not as fast as the specialized video memory on stand-alone cards.

On lower end systems, the video is integrated into the motherboard. The video controller uses a certain amount of 'shared RAM' for video memory. The shared ram is taken away from main system RAM. Thus, on a 512 Mb system, if the integrated controller uses '128 Mb shared video RAM', the main system only uses 384 Mb of RAM, and this is the number you'll see when checking for the memory.

When you go out to purchase a computer, some models specify that they have a certain amount of megabytes of memory, and they may have a video card that supports a certain amount of shared memory. This means that when the video card is in use, especially in higher display modes, it will take some of the memory normally dedicated to other computing activities and use it as its own. Thus, if you buy a computer with 512 Mb of memory and 128 Mb of shared memory and you frequently use a high display settings, you may actually only have 384 Mb of physical memory available left to your computer. In some advance systems, the use of Shared video memory can be changed dynamically while the system is running, that is, at one time it may be using only 64 Mb of memory out of 128 Mb shared and dynamically change it as the demand increases or decreases. While this may be fine for some people, if you have more money, you may want to go with a computer that has video memory dedicated to the video card, saving your physical memory for other uses. A computer with 512 Mb that uses 128 Mb of shared video memory will have a gorgeous display but run poorly because Windows Vista only has 384 Mb to use (minimum recommended memory for vista is 512 Mb and 128 Mb of Video memory).

Dedicated memory means that the video card uses its own memory, and doesn't share or take up the memory from your RAM. Other than that the dedicated video card would be good for graphic intense application (CAD) and video editing, games and will also help in running windows vista ( with Aero - the new Vista user interface) smoothly.

The Advantage of a video chip with shared memory is that it is cheaper, it won't be horrible, but it won't play games (lack of RAM, and I wouldn't suggest it, this excludes flash games), and video editing won't be great (but that may not apply to ripping).

I would never buy a machine with shared video memory because 20% performance loss is not worth the small price savings realized.

As far you?re requirement goes you don?t require a high level graphics card, as you said, you?ll be doing some casual gaming I?ll suggest get a lower to mid-range video card. Make sure you buy a card that matches your expansion slot type. 256MB of dedicated memory should be enough for you. You can find cards ranging from 128MB to 2GB of memory, depending on how much you want to spend. Nvidia GeForce 8400 GS/8500 GT or ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro are my preference for a mid-range budget. Make sure the card has a HDMI, Display Port, or a DVI output. This would also help you future proof your system.

You should see my answer to Joan?s question from last week, it may help you too.
( )

Hope this helps. Good luck with the purchase.

Submitted by Ankit B.

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future proof PC
by arnoldmau / April 11, 2008 10:56 AM PDT

Basically here are their key differences:

Shared Memory: This means that your system doesn't have a video card; rather, the CPU and your RAM are used to process the video. Obviously the advantage of this is the lower PC cost, since you did not bought a card. On the flip side, this means more work for a processor and more importantly, the video processing "shares" or uses some of your available RAM. So let's say you have 2GB of RAM installed and "Shared Video Memory" is set to 512MB, that means you have roughly 1.5GB left your your use.

Low amount of RAM available for your use always means lesser over-all performance.

Dedicated/Discreet: That is when your system has a video card installed, and your gains from this are the opposite of having shared video memory.

In short, if you want to do photo/video editing and gaming at a decent degree, you definitely need to invest at a video card.

The one you have to think about is how much you are willing to invest at a video card. On casual music/DVD, browsing and streaming, and even simple photo editing, you could get away with some of the cheapest video cards. But you can't expect to do gaming on them, even if you're not hardcore.

Do not buy a video card no lesser than a 8600GTS. You could check out the video cards priced at around $135 - $150. They are not as expensive as other cards but quite the performer.

Also note that certain video cards needs power direct from your power supply.

Hope I helped.

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future proof PC
by ksonk / April 18, 2008 4:49 PM PDT
In reply to: future proof PC

I learned the difference too after reading your post.
It would be usuful for the newbees if you included how to check spec too.

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future proof PC
by cadalot5 / April 19, 2008 11:17 PM PDT
In reply to: future proof PC

One of the confusing things on some brands is that they do have a graphics card but it takes all or part of it's memory from the ram.
"NVIDIA GeForce with up to 559MB video RAM"
it's the *up to* thats the clue in this example.

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A little insight from a Graphic Designer...
by dgeviper / April 11, 2008 10:56 AM PDT

Hello Joan. I am a graphic designer with 5 years of experience in the field. I also happen to be a bit of a tech geek. It would help to know which version of Adobe products you're using. If you are using CS3 products, your computer will need to be pretty powerful. While normally I only recommend Mac systems, I understand your budget situation. I have a Windows machine running XP with 4GB of RAM. I upgraded it from the factory 2GB. I must say, I have noticed absolutely no difference. My computer also has a "Pentium D" processor which came out before "Core 2 Duo" and it works just fine. I really do not see the need for more than 2 cores. Another thing that people will try to convince you to buy is a second monitor. I have dual monitors at work and NEVER use the secondary one. If you invest in 1 one really nice widescreen display you'll be golden. I recommend LG or Samsung. All through college I used a graphite iBook with a 12" screen at only 800x600 resolution. It was tough, but I did ALL of my work on it and did just fine. The more powerful computers on the market are a luxury, but unless you're doing heavy After Effects, Premiere Pro, and or Encore DVD, a less expensive machine will do just fine. I hope this helped! Good luck!

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dgeviper wrong discussion thread
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 18, 2008 7:07 AM PDT
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A little insight from a Graphic Designer
by ksonk / April 18, 2008 4:46 PM PDT

It was very usuful info for someone considering purchase.
score 10!

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by rafrica / April 19, 2008 3:24 AM PDT


XP supports up to 3 gig of memory only.

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Response to question for help
by beyondhk / April 11, 2008 11:32 AM PDT

It's no dumb question -- the difference catches lots of people. First, consider RAM in general. Suppose the computer you're going to obtain has 2GB of RAM total. Now, if you have integrated graphics that use 128MB of shared memory, this means that 128MB of your 2GB of RAM will be going to that video card. That leaves some 1.9GB left for your system. Then there are those discreet video cards. Whereas an integrated graphics chipset cannot be removed, a discreet video card is a separate device in your machine that can be removed at will. If it has 256MB of discreet memory, then those 2GB of RAM on your machine all go to the machine, and the 256MB of discreet memory on the graphics card is completely dedicated to graphics.

If you're just going to be using a PC as a multimedia device, then you probably won't need a machine with a discreet video graphics package. Although casual gaming is kind of a vague term, modern integrated graphics will probably be able to handle it and then some. But if you want to casually play newer and newer titles as they're released, you may want to consider discreet graphics, since those will keep kicking sufficiently for longer.

Hope this helps!

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Response to question for help
by ksonk / April 18, 2008 5:00 PM PDT

I just happen to read all of your replies and you were all my teachers tonight!

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Dedicated vs Shared Memory
by GEO2003 / April 11, 2008 11:38 AM PDT

Have you ever seen a video Card?
These individual graphic cards have everything built onto them what is necessary to process graphics, including the amount of memory, 128, 256 and 512 MegaBytes. This memory build onto the card is referred as DEDICATED OR DISCRETE MEMORY.
The more the video card has the better the graphics specially for games or graphic intensive applications such as PhotoShop which is used for picture manipulation (altering how the pictures look and other effects that can be applied to them.)
SHARE MEMORY is when the video card has say only 128MB built with the graphics chip and up to 256 shared means it will take 128MB from your computer RAM to bring it up to a total of 256MB.
This in turn means that if you buy a system with 2GIGABYTES of RAM, 128 MB will be allocated to your graphic processor and will not be usable for programs and the Operating System. This is not a big dent on system RAM but every little bit helps, specially with Vista.
If you are going with Vista, Buy a pc with at least 3GB of Ram, and a dedicated Graphics Card with 256MB or more of Dedicated Memory since you will be using it for DVD playback and Photo Editing. Even with 256MB of video memory, windows still allocates some memory from your system to the video card which is why I am suggesting 3GB of ram or 4 depending on your budget. Hope this helps.

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Dedicated vs Shared Memory
by ksonk / April 18, 2008 4:57 PM PDT

Your detailed info with ( ) was very helpful!!

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Answer for Sheldon, PC desktops, confusion over video memory
by mfcardio / April 11, 2008 11:42 AM PDT

When I decide to buy PC desktop it means that I am willing to have a strong computer which will suit all my needs for the longest period possible... So the perfect choice for me could be a PC that I won't need to update it's hardware soon and in the same time a PC that could be updated whenever necessary and of course without the need to buy new major competents which will cost a lot of money again!
For your question about the video memory, I can say that now in 2008 there is no real difference for the normal user between the Dedicated or the shared memory... and it is also clear that the shared memory is much cheaper... another advantage for the shared memory is that in most computers the amount of shared RAM can be changed according to your needs and this usually involves entering into the BIOS and changing settings there. This means that you can increase your video memory up to 512 (or even 1 GB in the new -and also cheap- AMD motherboards), all of that in a cheap, fast and easy way.
Few Years before, the shared memory were not suitable for hardcore gamers as it had many limitations... but now we are in another world with another story!!!
So think again, buying a 128 MB video card which might be good for now... or buying a memory that will increase whenever your needs increase.

But in case of buying a processor I can't say the same as I can't update it without paying too much money... so I buy what will suit me for at least two years... and this vary greatly from a user to the other but for normal user a dual-core processor will be pretty enough... but for the gamers who love to play the newest games with full graphics and full details, my advice buy the best thing you can afford.

Hope this helps. Good luck with the purchase.

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Video Memory Questions?
by jaytmoon / April 11, 2008 11:59 AM PDT

Hi Sheldon,
Shopping for a new pc is a dauting task these days with so many different configurations and component combinations. From your intended use of your new system, you should look for a PCI-e video card with as much on card memory as you can afford to allow in the system. Many video cards have 128Mb, 256Mb, 512Mb, 640Mb and more installed On the video card. Discrete memory refers to the memory built into the video card itself. Shared memory (as implied), utilizes some of the memory installed on the system board, drawing upon more or less as the task requires. Even for casual gamming, its not a waste of money to go with a bit better card with more ram. This will allow the system's processor to work on other processes more efficiently, delivering an overall faster performing pc.
You can find a detailed article here,125762-page,3-c,graphicsboards/article.html

As with most commercially built desktops, you may have some leeway when ordering the system build from a big name manufacturer. Except for the "very high end" video cards (only for avid gamers), upgrading from the basic model should be fairly cheap when dealing with the likes of HP, Dell etc. Look at a 256 or 512Mb card. This should deliver the performance you need.
Remember that the video card must work in conjunction with the CPU and mainboard chipset. You can find great deals including quad core systems with middle to higher end PCI-E video cards that will give you some future proofing (or at least a few more years of useful computing).
Good luck

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by pookiedacat / April 11, 2008 12:01 PM PDT

OK, here we go...sort of..

Definition: Video RAM - Memory contained on a video card for storing both frame and texture data for processing.

Definition: RAM - The volatile memory of a computer used by the CPU for temporary storage of information and programs.

Hope that helped.

I own two machines, both 64 Bit, one has 2 GB of RAM and 512 MB of Video RAM and a dual core cpu, it runs windows xp professional and still stumbles with streaming audio and video (demanding movies) and it still stumbles. The other machine is a single core 64 Bit machine, 128 MB of Video RAM and the same sound card as the windows machine ( Sound Blaster X-Fi Audio with a Creative Digital IO module, lets me plug a SPDIF cable into my receiver, no toy computer speakers here).

Take a look at your options, the prices and decide what is important to you. For me it was actually cheaper to build a machine than to purchase my Dell. The machine I built, which runs Ubuntu 7.01 (Gutsy Gibbon) rocks for video. By build, I picked out the components and had them assembled ( for motherboard, cpu and case) than to buy a solution from a mail order manufacturer.

Video under Linux is far less restrictive in terms of DRM and the way Linux handles memory, both video and cpu RAM. There is a great book on Linux Multimedia hacks, but VLC is really just about all you need for streaming. So my fast video box cost about $500 to make and my super duper XP machine cost over $1000. You make up your own mind.

Ubuntu Linux is the easiest distribution to use and update, and it is free. The best part is that all the packages work. anything MSFT costs....

My good video machine is my Linux Machine, they (windows and Linux)both run VLC, perhaps the greatest video player/streamer of all time. The windows machine is still not as smooth in spite of all it's advantages. The Linux machine has a far less sophisticated card, both are Nvidia, the Linux machine runs a PCI card, Nvidia GeoForce MX4000 with 128 MB of video RAM, the windows machine uses an Nvidia 8500 GT chipset and 512 MB of video RAM, yet the Linux machine is still smoother. Go figure.

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Let's talk about video memory and video requirement ......
by Watzman / April 11, 2008 12:07 PM PDT

Sheldon: As part of this answer, see my answer to Joan?s question from last week!

Dedicated video memory (also called discreet video memory) is memory that is on the video card (or the equivalent circuitry on the motherboard), and that is separate and distinct (e.g. using different memory chips) from the system memory.

Shared memory is when a portion of the system memory is ?stolen? from the system memory for use by the video chip as video memory. This memory is no longer available as system memory. So, for example [an extreme example], if you have 512 meg of system memory (e.g. one 512 meg memory module) and a video system with 128 meg of shared video memory, your available system memory would drop to 384 megabytes (which is below the 512MB minimum threshold for running Vista). Note that in modern systems, the use of Shared video memory can be changed dynamically while the system is running, so that at one moment it might only be using 32 megabytes, and a bit later, when you are doing something that demands more memory, it might dynamically increase to 128MB.

Share memory is definitely inferior to dedicated system memory, other things being equal. But, that said, modern systems have gotten so good that shared memory chipset video is ?good enough? for MOST (not all) users. Also note that many modern video systems use a combination of some dedicated memory and also have the ability to use shared memory to further increase video memory only when needed.

Another comment, note that in today?s world, the absolute MINIMUM video system that you should consider is one that has (or can have, given that shared memory can be dynamic) AT LEAST 128 Megabytes of video memory. Note that this might be a combination of some dedicated video memory plus some shared video memory.

If you are going to be running Vista, keep in mind that Aero (the new Vista user interface) has a MINIMUM video memory requirement of 128MB, and that Vista itself has a minimum SYSTEM memory requirement of 512MB (although it?s crazy to run Vista with less than one gigabyte, and bumping up to two gigabytes is almost always a wise thing to do).

Your requirements don?t really suggest the need for a high-end video solution (again, see my comments to Joan in last week?s question), although I might want to investigate exactly what games you do play and it might change my response ... all that I have to go by for now is ?casual gaming? and ?nothing hard core?. All of the other stuff you mentioned is actually 2-D video, so any video solution will suffice, and because of Vista and the Aero interface, all of the video systems being offered in new computers are powerful enough to meet the needs of pretty much any casual user who is not doing serious 3D gaming or using CAD or simulation software.

[Summary of what I told Joan last week: 3D video is when the video card CREATES the image to be displayed, as happens in games and CAD software. 2D video is where all of the pixels in the displayed image are simply supplied to the card. Both digital photography and digital video are 2D ... the JPEG or TIFF or MPEG or AVI or {whatever} file actually contains the pixels to be displayed, at most (for example in DVD MPEG playback) they only have to be decoded (which is trivial for today?s products), but they don?t have to be CREATED by the video card. In contrast, in games and CAD software, there is a mathematical model of some 3D world or objects (with textures and lighting), but the video card itself has to take that mathematical description and use it to actually create the pixels that you see on your monitor. This is complex and demanding, and it?s what really separates the ?men from the boys?, if you will. But in fact, people have a lot of misconceptions about this and when it?s required. The fact is that, except for serious gaming and 3D software, very few applications use 3D video graphics, and in particular, digital photography and digital video don?t use them, generally (one notable exception being fancy screen transitions in digital video editing).]

Hope this helps,
Barry Watzman

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Video memory
by JTHunter / April 11, 2008 12:47 PM PDT

Hi Sheldon,
The "shared" memory means that the integrated video uses the same RAM memory that all your other applications use. This means that you have less memory to run programs, and, even if you don't do gaming or something equally memory intensive, the video will be slower. The RAM you use MIGHT be the newer & faster DDR3, but you still have to pass the info back & forth on the motherboard. A dedicated card USUALLY has faster running memory as well as a shorter distance to go to produce the images. Even a video card with only 128 MB RAM would be as good, if not better, than twice as much "shared" RAM.
With recent talk of memory prices on the rise, now would probably the best time to "future-proof" your system and get the dedicated card and fairly large amount of RAM. Make like a Boy Scout and "be prepared."

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Video Confusion
by abigtat2 / April 11, 2008 12:51 PM PDT

Sheldon, I have been in your shoes before, and admittedly confused by the options. Dedicated 128MB video memory would mean the PC has a graphics card with it own onboard memory and will not be sacrificing computer speed to handle light to medium graphics (2D pictures simple games and such). 128MB shared memory means that processing graphics information is using only system memory (shared memory between computing info and processing graphics), this is not what you would want if you are going to be messing with multimedia. In my opinion you would be well served by a PC with a decent 256MB - 512MB PCI express video card, it doesn't have to be top end if your not a hardcore gamer, or dealing with video editing.Hopefully this information will help you to purchase a PC that will meet your needs and give you a little breathing room. Also at minimum if using Windows XP at least 1GB of RAM, If Windows Vista at least 2GB. This is my first post so please be nice to me.

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super box

Go to and put together a box you will love for about $1600.00, monitor not included.Faster than anything Dell or Gateway has for the price.Asus mother,AMD Black, 8 gig of mem, duel video, Raptor HD, Blueray CD and windows 64.

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Video Memory explained
by Nudist / April 11, 2008 1:02 PM PDT

When shopping for a video card, it's easy to be confused with the memory specifications in either the card or the motherboard. Here is a guide, in a nutshell.

Shared memory - The video chipset on the motherboard uses some of the system RAM for the video memory. Since you will likely have 1Gb of RAM (2Gb is strongly recommended), you will hardly notice that your programs have slightly less than 1Gb of system ram. Performance wise, this can hurt, especially if you are into 3D games. This configuration is common on motherboards with integrated video cards. If your motherboard has the built-in video chips, you may likely be able to turn off the video feature and plug in a video card with...

Dedicated memory. This is the case when the video card has its own RAM memory on the card itself. Your system RAM on the motherboard is not used for video, and since the video card may read and write to its own memory, it doesn't effect the programs reading and writing to the system RAM.

Dedicated memory is better, but if all you plan to do is eMail and web browsing, you won't notice the difference. If you plan to use gaming or high-end graphic programs, then go for the video card with its own memory.

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The grey area of graphics memory.
by 330Andy / April 11, 2008 1:16 PM PDT

New computer, exciting!

Dedicated video memory is like what the name says. There is always that set ammount of memory for graphics seperate from the ram.

Shared video memory is shared with the system ram and there always is a certain cunk of ram devoted to graphics. (generally slower, but can work)

Discreet video memory is also shared with ram but the ammount is dynamic depending on what the graphic intensity is. (Slowest in past expirence)

Generally the graphics on less expensive are intigrated (built into the motherboard, which is the case with Shared and Discreet) Dedicated can either be on a card or integrated.

DVD playback, photo editing, and casual gaming are usually the best with a card that has dedicated video memory, and remember, it doesent have to be an expensive one.

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1gb, 2gb, 3gb Oh My!!!!!!
by mhostottle / April 11, 2008 3:13 PM PDT

Hi Sheldon: My name is Jeff, I write a monthly newsletter for a sportsman club, when it came time for me to upgrade I went with the Dual Core. This is possibly the best option available for people like you and I. I have 2gb in my laptop and 3gb on my desktop. Both of these are Dual core's and I have no complaints, they both run great I wouldn't change them for anything. I've had 11 (eleven) windows open at the same time, the first one was just as fast as the last one. My network responds very well to dual core's to, I have 4 computers on my network and the dual core's run great by the way they are the fastest.

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Video Memory difference

Discrete=Separate video card=dedicated
Intergrated means the graphics card (GPU) cost less than $5 and is soldered onto the motherboard. Therefore these I-GPUs takes memory from your ram (shared) to help it fill the pixels on the screen.
There are two companies that make Discrete GPU right now, Nvidia and Ati. Depending on the size of your monitor a 256MB discrete video card such as the nvidia 8600 is decent for your needs right now. If you want to spend more money a 8800gtx ($400-$500 just for the GPU) is ample for heavy gaming. Some companies can customer build your pc so it can accept 2-3 video cards together. The more cards you have the more monitors you can support and the faster the game play gets. Each have 2 video output therefore you can display 2 monitors with one card. Also make sure your card is PCIe instead of the AGP to future proof.
BTW a GPU does not help in rendering home videos. A GPU sole purpose is to display the pictures and video on your monitor. Soon they will have rendering capabilities but for now it is the CPUs that does the rendering.
My email victor_thai"

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that depends!
by later1210 / April 11, 2008 3:31 PM PDT

You are so lucky that I have just verify the stew you are in!
I have just bought a notebook for nearly 3 months .And I deeply experienced the role of each part of the pc.
the video memory and the bandwidth both determine the capability of a graphic adapter.
the memory can determine how complicated games your ps can be capable of.
but the bandwidth can determine how fast you can surf the game.
so if you are not a game addiction on the big 3D games like crysis or NFS(need for speed) which will be a big challenge to your graphic adapter or even the whole pc,my suggestions is dubious that the 128M will fit you.
but if you want to play HDTV usually, you may considering on a 256 or more high ones.
the discrimination of the shared or discrete ones will also display when running the games.
so that all depends on your custom and need of the pc.
but there is one regulation that more software and movies are become the defiance of the random memory,video mamory and the cpu.
so be discreet on your discrete graphic adapter.
good luck!

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In a nutshell

Discrete and Dedicated Video memory are the same thing. Dedicated and Discrete video memory is a separate amount of memory that is only for the video card to use. Shared Video Memory is where the memory used by the video card comes from the main system memory. What this means is that if you have shared video memory then the actual amount of system memory available to you is your shared video memory subtracted from your total memory. Now for what you say you're going to be doing shared video memory is fine if you have about 128MB, and any amount of dedicated memory in about that amount would be great for your system. That is as long as none of those videos you're watching are HD.

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More is Better But also how matters.
by buddhak0n / April 11, 2008 5:57 PM PDT

What you want is a separate dedicated video .. especially in a desktop (sometimes in laptops you're limited)

Also in desktops you can always buy the one thats' on the Board so to speak and buy a separate card..

The best cards out there if you are playing games in the normal pricing ranges are the Nvidia and ATI 256 cards. It really depends on the system because there are some systems like the Apple MacBook Pro's where I don't think they are seperate cards per se but they are still nice pieces of hardware.

All that 'shared' , dedicated and discreet is just a means of saying where the card is .. Shared and dedicated I would guess are on the circuit board(usually not the best) .. discreet you would hope it's seperate card..

The idea of a seperate card is it actually has it's own "processor" of sorts to process complex graphics thereby releasing the load your main processor incurs at any given moment ...

When they are "shared" the system is normally slower.

Hope this helps.. but don't forget you can buy the shared now .. and as you get into the other stuff at least on a PC desktop add the better card... But me personally I try to buy the best available without getting crazy.. so I'd go for 256 on seperate channel ( it can still be on the board) preferable ATI or Nvidia ..

Hope this helps.

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Unlucky, bad guess!
by oli1149 / April 18, 2008 9:24 PM PDT

I hope it's clear by now to everybody that a discrete video card means a video card that is separate from the motherboard. The discrete card contains a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and memory for its own use. For this reason the memory on the card is said to be 'dedicated' since it is for the exclusive use of the graphics card.

Discrete memory means the memory is separate and, indeed, it has to be on the graphics card, where else?

At some stage in the evolution of PCs discrete video didn't necessarily imply wholly dedicated graphics memory: the whole idea of AGP was to be able to use as much system memory as necessary to supplement the memory on the card. I believe AGP is dead for discrete video now (replaced by PCIe) but still alive for integrated video (where it makes sense, indeed).

It is also not inconceivable that integrated video could have dedicated memory on the card although I don't think this exists at the moment. It would have the benefit of not using the same buses and the same address space. The address space separation would allow 32-bit systems to access more of the 4GB of RAM. But I digress. (It would be good to have a couple of extra slots for graphics memory on the motherboard, though, wouldn't it?)

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The memory depends on the video card.

Hi, i see you're kinda stuck here. Well, lets start with dedicated memory. Normally, deicaded memory means that there's a video card in the pc with it's own memory that's not shared by the PC. It will run faster since it's not using the RAM in your PC. Shared memory, normally, means there is a integrated graphics in your pc. The graphics card is built into the mother board and shares the memory with your motherboard. Normally, integrated graphics are just for e-mailing and basic computing, not a lot of gaming either. Discrete memory is about the same as dedicated memory.

Now for a PC. I'd personally go with a computer with atleast 1GB of RAM, 2gb's would be nice. Possibly an AMD processor if possible, they have dual or tri cores out which will make your Pc faster. The best way to go is to get a graphics card if the PC doesn't come with one. There's many sites to get cards like or at a local store. I hope this helps


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It's easier than it sounds
by 3rdalbum / April 11, 2008 10:43 PM PDT

Hi Sheldon. Your question is not uncommon, but in the end there's a rather simple answer!

Graphics accelerators need some memory to store textures and calculations. They can either use memory from the main part of the system ("shared"), or they can actually have their own memory ("dedicated" or "discreet").

If they use shared memory, then they will immediately claim 128 megabytes of RAM before Windows even starts to boot up. No programs can access this RAM. Since the graphics accelerator has to go all the way to main memory every time it needs to load any data, these integrated graphics processors run quite slowly. And it means less main memory to run your programs in.

A graphics card with its own memory can perform faster, as graphics card memory is designed for graphics work, and it's faster to access as it's on the same card.

I have had a computer with "integrated" graphics, which used "shared" memory, and the performance was terrible even for casual gaming. You would be much better off getting a cheap graphics *card* put into the computer with its own dedicated memory. It will add $60 to the price, and you will have the option of upgrading to a better model in the future.

I don't think you have any need to go for more than 256 megabytes of graphics memory - if you want better performance, get a faster card. I have a feeling that some other contributors to this answer might feel differently on the issue of graphics memory vs clock speed, but I hope my answer has helped you.

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Its very simple actually, once you know whats going on.
by CTJoyce / April 12, 2008 2:20 AM PDT

Ah yes the old video memory game (scam). OEMs tend to use lables like 256MB Intagraded, or discreat to mask the fact that you are getting a very poor graphics card. Intagraded means just that. The video chip is embedded on the motherboard, and it steals 256MB of RAM from your total system RAM. So if you buy a system with 2GB of memory, you only can use 1.75GB of that because the last quarter is being used for the graphics. This is fine for the normal email machine, but not for what you want. Discreat memory usually refers to a RAM stealing graphics card. What this means is that the card usually has about 128MB of RAM on it (most likely a GeForce 8400GS) and then steals 128MB of the system RAM. This is slightly better, but again the fact that its caching your system RAM for graphics isn't great. The 128MB of dedicated RAM is the best. It means that the graphics card has 128MB of RAM on it, and doesn't steal any of the system RAM. These are the best of all the cards, and any decent graphics card is going to have this.

When your buying, try to look past how much memory the GPU has, because its such a small factor in a good GPU. Ask the sales person what card specifically does the machine have. What type of graphics expansion slot does the PC have? Having a machine with a PCI-Express expansion slot is what you want. This way if your intrests change, and you want to start doing some hardcore gaming (maybe) you have the ability to upgrade to a high end GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).


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Keeping it simple
by aldavid4 / April 12, 2008 2:41 AM PDT

Stay away from the words integrated or shared if possible. I recommend a video card of at least 256mb or more. You want your video to work with your computer, not against it. Having a computer with a stand alone video card (It's own processor, hardward on the card) will help your computer operate much better. Thanks Allen

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