AMD Smart Access Memory

What is AMD Smart Access Memory?

Smart Access Memory is a technology that allows you to get more gaming performance when both your CPU and GPU are AMD.

Admittedly, it takes a little more than a processor and graphics card from AMD, but basically, you get more performance for free if you choose your components wisely or buy the right gaming laptop.

How does Smart Access Memory (SAM) work?

You probably know that your graphics card has its own memory – VRAM (Video Random Access Memory). With a mobile graphics card like the Radeon RX 7600S, for example, that is 8 GB of GDDR6 memory. However, your system can only access a fraction of this memory at a time. This limits the performance of your games.

To circumvent this limitation, Smart Access Memory uses more bandwidth via PCI Express. This eliminates bottlenecks and you can fully exploit the potential of your GPU memory. But it should also be said that the exact way SAM works is a company secret from AMD. Accordingly, we only partially know how exactly this technology works.

How much does SAM bring in video games?

Answering this question is not easy because there is no general answer. SAM can provide a different performance boost in each game. What matters is how exactly the games manage their storage needs.

Games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla benefit from Smart Access Memory with up to 20% more FPS according to AMD. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, on the other hand, only gains about 6% performance with SAM, and Smart Access Memory doesn’t change the frame rate at all in Metro Exodus. So there is no general statement as to how high the performance increase with SAM is and whether it is even available.

For even more FPS, it makes sense to turn on Radeon Super Resolution (RSR) in addition to SAM. The latter is an upscaling function of Radeon graphics cards and works similarly to Nvidia DLSS. Together with SAM, you can increase your frame rates in many games by up to 25-30% without noticeably losing quality.

System requirements

In order to use SAM, your system must meet certain hardware and software requirements. Only if all parts of your system support SAM can you use it or activate it at all. When planning a new gaming PC, it can therefore be worth having SAM in the back of your mind right from the start. If you buy a gaming laptop with a modern AMD CPU and GPU, you don’t have to worry about that as much.

Let’s start with the minimum hardware requirements: You need a 500 series motherboard (e.g. B550 or X570), an AMD Radeon RX 5000 series GPU (or newer), and an AMD Ryzen 5000 processor series (or newer). SAM also works with some select models of the older AMD Ryzen 3000 series. However, only for the models based on the Zen 2 architecture.

For the software, on the other hand, you need the current AMD Radeon drivers (20.11.2 or newer), and your mainboard BIOS must also be up to date (AMD AGESA or newer). With both drivers and BIOS up to date, we can begin to enable SAM.

Enable Smart Access Memory

If all hardware and software requirements for SAM are met, you can enable it in your system’s BIOS. The BIOS is accessed slightly differently by each motherboard manufacturer. In most cases you have to press either <F2>, <F10> or the <DEL> or <ENT> key during the start process.

Alternatively, you can also enter “Advanced Start” in the Windows search bar and then select “Advanced Start” that your system should now restart. You will then be booted into a separate menu where you can finally select “Advanced options” under “Troubleshooting” or “Troubleshooting” and you will find “UEFI Firmware Settings” there, under which you then finally select “Restart”.

If you are in the BIOS, navigate to the “Advanced Settings” item. On some mainboards/systems, the item can also be called an “Extended menu”. In many cases, you still have to select “PCIe settings”. In the menu that opens, you must allow “Decode over 4G” and “BAR resizing”. If your mainboard system language is English, the items are called “Above 4G Decoding” and “Re-Size BAR Support”.

Both points must be activated or “Enabled” so that SAM is activated. That’s it already. Save your settings and restart your system.

SAM is always worthwhile

AMD has made an impressive transformation in recent years. Processors have progressed from affordable productivity machines (many cores for little money) to the point where they can easily compete with Intel. Our test of the Ryzen 7000 series recently showed this. That’s good. Every industry benefits from competition.

The graphics cards, on the other hand, did not look so good in the past. Nvidia’s lead was too big and the production capacities were also limited. So for a long time, there were only a few Radeon graphics cards to buy. They were installed even more rarely in gaming notebooks. But that too is changing.

Devices like the ASUS TUF A16 rely on an AMD double peak with Ryzen 7 7735HS and Radeon RX 7600S. So you can easily benefit from the increase in performance via SAM. All it takes is a few minutes in the BIOS and you’re good to go.

That’s exactly the point of Smart Access Memory – it’s free. You should keep your drivers and co. up to date anyway and if you have activated SAM, you will not suffer any disadvantage. In the worst case it does not increase the frame rate in your game (see Metro Exodus). In the best-case scenario, you’ll get 15-20% more FPS in one of your favorite games without having to invest a penny. Sounds like a real no-brainer to me.

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