A Guide to Graphics Card Model Numbers

Todays graphics cards (from ATI or nVidia) often have confusing model numbers, is a 3600 better than a 2800? It’s a tough choice. So here’s a quick guide.

Graphics card model numbers commonly consist of 4 digits then a series of letters afterwards.

The first digit is the generation

The second digit is the performance indicator

The third digit is a refined performance indicator

The forth digit is often just 0

So, a 4800 would be 4th-generation, 800 series. That means it’s better than a 4600.

The performance indicator (digits 2-4) can be translated into

1: Intergrated graphics product, very low performance

2: Low performance

4-3: Low-Mid performance

5-6: Midrange performance

7-8: High performance

9: Ultra High performance

So, whats the difference between a 3800 and 4800? Each generation is generally a bump up the table, so a 3800 is roughly equivalent to a 4600 in terms of performance. This is a very rough indicator however and it does vary hugely. If you have a choice, always get the latest generation card.

The lettering after the number is a further refinement. This can be GT, XT, XTX, GTX and so on.  The letter performance tends not to vary too much on the same card.

Some Graphics Cards are now dual-core, on AMD/ATI cards this is represented by X2. Note the difference between a dual-core graphics card and a dual-running graphics card. A dual-core graphics card has two graphics processors on one chip, while a dual-running graphics card can run in paralell with a similar graphics card. It’s best to get a dual-core card rather than two dual-running cards as the dual-card setups (ATI Crossfire and nVidia SLI) don’t always work too well.

8 Responses

  1. Thanks for the information, was needed!

  2. afrooz says:

    Thanks for the information.It’s so helpful.

  3. Rupert says:

    Dood, I’ve been wondering for years WTF those numbers mean. Thanks!

  4. steve says:

    Great! That’s just so helpful.

  5. David says:

    Me too Rupert. After over 4 years I always thought people just memorized all the card numbers because they always seemed to instantly know how good they were. Finally decided I should look it up.

    Very useful, thank you so much for posting this guide!

  6. Daniel says:

    Really useful information!!! Thanks so much!

  1. July 8, 2009

    […] GT, XT, XTX, GTX and so on. The letter performance tends not to vary too much on the same card. — Source So a 3800 can be better than a 4200, simply because of the 2nd #. […]

  2. July 8, 2009

    […] learn about graphics cards back when I was building. This website helps understand them a bit: — Source So a 3800 can be better than a 4200, simply because of the 2nd #. Edit: Way to sneak in there […]

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