nnorton44 wrote:Tom's Hardware has a Graphics Card Hierarchy Chart which also helps when picking a new card. Also provides a great resource for determining how much performance is to be expected and how it compares to other cards.
while this is correct and helps a lot, it isn't the best tool available. The best tool is KNOWLEDGE.
For nVidia cards, the first digit is the series of the card, the second digit is the "card quality" (the higher the better, for those that don't give a shit or don't understand) and the third digit injdicates if it's an upgrade of the original board or not (it's always 0 or 5. If it's 5 it's generally better)
For ATI/AMD cards, the first digit is the series of the card, the second is the "card name", which denotes de quality of the card, from 0 to 6 are low budget cards, 7 is for low profile gaming, 8 is for gamers and 9 is for EXTREME gamers (if you want to run anything in ultra settings @1080p in 3 simultaneous monitors you should get one or 2 of these), and the third and fourth digits the configuration of the card. IE: the radeon 4850 uses the R700 GPU architecture, it has 800 stream processors, 512 MB of GDDR3 memory with a 256 bit memory bandwith interface (aka bus), while the latter radeon 4870 is exactly the same card but it uses GDDR5 memory instead of GDDR3.
Note that this info only reflects the base specs for the cards, meaning that only original cards sold by ATI/AMD and nVidia have these specs, while special cards manufactured by other companies may have other specs and even other form factors and special editions, such as VAPOR-X for ATI/AMD cards made by Sapphire and Synergy Editions for nVidia cards manufactured by (the very, very shitty company called) Zotac.