SUMMARY: Explains the difference between graphics card onboard memory and a shared video memory paradigm.
When you go out to purchase a laptop or desktop, models specify that they have a certain amount of megabytes of memory (RAM). The video card may have onboard RAM as well, the computer might support a certain amount of *shared* video memory, or the graphics card may use a combination of onboard RAM and shared video memory.
This means that when the video card is in use (all the time!), especially in higher display modes, it will take some of the memory normally dedicated to other computing activities and use it for its own tasks. Thus the computer 'shares' its memory with the graphics card.
For example, if you buy a laptop or desktop with 512 megs of memory and 64 megs of shared video memory and you frequently use a high display pixel depth, a 32-bit color palette, or if you play graphics-intensive games, you may actually only have 448 megs (512-64) of physical memory left for your computer.
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.
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