The last couple of years have truly been phenomenal for AMD. While their processors are consistently beating those of Intel, their graphics cards have made huge strides against Nvidia’s RTX 3000 GPUs.
It means after many years, it finally makes sense to use AMD’s CPU and GPU inside the same machine. And to further incentivize you, there are many exclusive features you get with that combo, as Smart Access Memory, Infinity Cache, and Rage Mode.
Smart Access Memory is one of the latest features found in AMD’s RDNA2-based Radeon 6000 GPUs that offers 5-15% performance uplift depending on the games you play.
SAM achieves these results by offering better communication between your graphics card and the processor.
Under normal circumstances, a CPU can only access 256 MB space out of the graphics card’s VRAM at one time. While this may not feel bad at first, considering that many graphics cards come with 8GB+ VRAM these days, being able to access only 256 MB out of this huge memory create a bottleneck. Not to forget about the higher data transfer modern games demand.
SAM solves this issue by making all of the GPU’s VRAM available to your CPU at once. To be honest, this technology is being used in gaming consoles for quite some time, but only now we’re seeing its utility in the PC gaming market.
How to Enable Smart Access Memory
Since SAM is an AMD-exclusive feature you’ll need a Ryzen 3000/5000 CPU (Ryzen 3200G/3400G APUs are not supported), a Radeon 6000 graphics card, and an X570/B550 motherboard. On the software side, you’ll need Radeon software driver version 20.11.2 or later, along with the latest BIOS version (based on AMD AGESA 18.104.22.168 or newer).
Once you’ve ticked all these boxes, here’s how you can enable SAM:
- Go to your system BIOS. Different manufacturers have different shortcuts for this purpose but it’s one of F1, F2, F10, Delete, and Esc keys, usually.
- Navigate to ‘advanced settings’ sections.
- Enable ‘Above 4G decoding’.
- Enable ‘Re-size BAR support’.
- Save changes.
These settings are generic, which means you’ll have to do some research to know the exact steps for your particular motherboard manufacturer.
AMD SAM vs Nvidia Resizable BAR
Like stated above, SAM is just a new name by AMD for the “resizable Base Address Register (BAR)” – a feature that has been available since PCIe 3.0.
But after seeing how big of an improvement a single change like SAM can have, Nvidia has developed its alternative called Nvidia Resizable BAR.
Unlike SAM, Resizable BAR is available for both Intel (10th and 11th Gen) and AMD (Ryzen 5000) processors. For the motherboard, you can have Z490/590, H410/470, and B460 based options for Intel and A520, B550, and X570 motherboards for AMD processors.
As you can see, Nvidia Resizable BAR supports more hardware options, but very few games support this feature as of now.
Is SAM Worth it?
Considering all you need is changing your BIOS settings, Smart Access Memory is a nice bonus if you’re already into the AMD ecosystem. But we won’t recommend you buying AMD CPU, GPU, and motherboard just to activate this feature. It’s new technology and will take some time to mature.
Also, the performance uplift depends on the games you play. In titles like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Gears 5, there’s no improvement in the FPS you get; while Far Cry 5 and Assassin’s Creed: Origins got some performance boost.