I recently got my hands in a bit of an oddity, the Yeston Radeon R7 350.
This particular AMD GPU was released on 2015 exclusively for Asia-Pacific territories to capitalize on the popularity of a number of MOBAs in areas such as China.
What caught my attention is that one of these can be imported to my side of the world (Europe) for about $100, or around €80, which is what I paid for my low-end Nvidia GT 1030.
What I am going to be using is the R7 350 distributed by Yeston, a Chinese brands that sell all sorts of Graphics Cards in the Asian giant.
The modern variant of the GPU comes with 4 Gb of VRAM. This is impressive considering that new GPUs on the same price range (such as the GT 1030) often have 2 GB of VRAM. Mid-range GPUs such as the GTX 1050 are also commonly sold with 2 GB.
If you are considering importing this GPU (or similar) when exactly will the extra VRAM be useful? Let's take a look at some games.
Grand Theft Auto V
This game released for PC in 2015 and remains one of the most popular open world games out there. The game's benchmarking tool is very extensive, taking the game through a variety of scenarios.
GTA V is known for uses large quantities of VRAM and RAM to store its extensive word, which is easily noticeable on the last scene of the benchmark (the car chase). Even on the lowest settings and a resolution of 1280x720, the game will quickly make use of more than 2 GB of VRAM, and if you are trying the game on an integrated GPU, it will quickly make use of more than 8 GB of RAM, as integrated GPUs use the standard RAM chips as a substitute for VRAM. This causes an unexpected drop in performance in most devices I tested with this game.
The R7 350, however, was the first GPU I have tested that showed more than 60FPS on lowest settings and 1080p during the whole benchmark.
I risked rising some of the texture and population density and the VRAM usage shoot to around 2.3 GB with the R7 350 happy maintaining a high level of performance.
Wolfstein 2: The New Colossus
Released in 2017 this game is an interesting test for several reasons. First, it is one of the few major releases to exclusively use Vulkan as its rendering API. Second, it is very GPU heavy, putting most GPUs I own through their paces even with shadows disabled (using the dev console) and lower resolutions.
What I had not noticed before is that part of its performance issues come from VRAM usage (the minimum requirements ask for at least 4GB of VRAM).
The game on an intense combat scene on the lowest settings, shadows disabled and 720p used about 2.5 GB of VRAM on the R7 350 and provided a stellar 45-50 FPS. This is the best result I have seen from all GPUs I have tried this game with so far.
Given China's fascination with this game, I was interested in seeing how it would do on the R7 350. PUBG is generally playable on 2 GB of VRAM but it can occasionally go over that amount in certain parts of a map, or when the inventory is opened with equipment preview enabled.
The R7 350 is able to manage between 30-40 fps on the game quite easily. Spikes in VRAM usage do not affect performance.
However, having more VRAM is not a silver bullet that will magically make every game perform better, especially when dealing with more problematic games with optimization issues that lay elsewhere.
Nier: Automata is a good example. When this Hack and Slack RPG hit the PC on 2017 it came with a series of performance issues. The FAR mod enables players to disable global illumination which makes the game playable on more budget oriented GPUs and the R7 350 is able to pull 30-40 but the extra VRAM is very underused.
Assassin's Creed Origins
Perhaps a better example is the latest entry in the Assassin's Creed series. The game includes a pretty complete benchmarking tool that we can use to compare graphic cards.
The R7 350 was unable to reach playable framerates on 1080p, and close to 28FPS average on 720p while the GT 1030 is able to reach an average of 28 in full 1080. Extra VRAM was not of any use in this game.
Another example was 2016's Quantum Break, another game that released with a number of performance issues that made it difficult to play on anything but the highest end graphic cards.
The R7 350 managed to maintain an average of more than 30 fps during combat on the lowest settings and supersampling enabled (which basically means the game is running at a lower internal resolution) with the extra VRAM underutilized. Not going be of much help here either.
The Bottom Line
So, if you are under the $100 budget what GPU deserves your hard earned money? A modern architecture with a faster Core Speed? Or 4GB of VRAM?
This will depend a lot on the game you want to play.
If you want to try certain large open world games like GTA V, large heavy games like PUBG or games with large VRAM minimum requirements like Wolfstein 2, importing the R7 350 might be an interesting choice.
If you want to have better performance in problematic games like Nier Automata, Assasin's Creed Origins or Quantum Break you might do better with something else.