(Reposted from the old blog, because it's really useful)
Updated: July 2014
Graphics cards. Hands up who understands the naming policies?
You at the back, put that hand down.
If there's one subject we've seen come up again and again, it's that of choosing the right graphics card. They come in all shapes and sizes and go from budget models all the way up to crazy cards which cost the same as an entire laptop.
Picking the right card for your budget isn't easy when they all have obtuse code numbers and every single one is marketed as being THE MOST POWERFUL CARD EVER. As HitFilm likes to have a decent GPU, I sat down with our resident tech expert Ady and asked him to explain to me the various graphics card naming policies, in an attempt to try to unravel them and make it easier for you guys when you're looking to get the best performance from HitFilm.
There are two big manufacturers of graphics cards - AMD and NVIDIA. Branded versions of their cards are sold by a myriad of other companies who will sometimes bundle them in with games and other goodies, so it's worth shopping around for a good deal even once you know what base model you want.
There's also Intel's HD integrated cards, included with many of their current processors. Integrated cards used to be bad news but Intel HD cards are surprisingly capable. You're not going to see top performance, but HitFilm will work on HD 4000 and above.
AMD usefully changed their entire naming policy in 2013. Presumably they thought that people were becoming too comfortable and decided to confuse everybody all over again.
Here's how it works, taking an older AMD card as an example, the AMD R9 280Y:
The letter R just means it's a Radeon card. In other words, it doesn't really mean anything.
The first number tells you where the card sits in the market. The higher the number, the more powerful the card. Therefore R7 cards are mainstream, while R9s are high powered.
Both R7 and R9 cards will work with HitFilm but, if your budget allows, aim for an R9.
The second number (the '2' in the example above) tells you the generation of card. So higher numbers are newer cards. Remember that newer doesn't necessarily mean more powerful.
The last two numbers tell you how powerful the card is within that particular generation. Therefore an AMD R9 290 is more powerful than an AMD R9 280.
Finally, the optional letter 'X' on the end denotes that the card is the most powerful card in that particular generation.
To summarise, you want a 2 generation or newer, with at least a power rating of 50. So the AMD R7 260X will run HitHlm nicely, while the AMD R9 280X or better will be entirely awesome.
Moving on to NVIDIA cards. The good thing here is that they've gone for the same naming system as AMD - oh, no, sorry, my mistake, they haven't. They've done something completely different. Of course they have, bless them.
So, there's a few things to look out for here. Firstly look for the letters GTS or GTX in the name. GTS cards are designed for gaming and GTX cards are NVIDIA's high end cards, so both are great for HitFilm.
After that you'll find three numbers. The first number represents the series. So the higher the number, the newer the card. You want to make sure you're getting a series 4 or newer card.
The last 2 numbers represent the power of the card, with higher numbers meaning more grunt. Therefore the GTX 690 is more powerful than the GTX 680.
In case the above was clarifying things a little too effectively, let's throw a wrench in it. If you see the letter 'M' included as part of the model name, be aware that you're looking at the mobile version of the graphics card. These are special versions created for use in laptops.
The 'M' version of cards can be surprisingly different. Due to the compromises made to keep heat and size compatible with the laptop's small form factor, 'M' cards are often far less powerful than their similarly-named desktop counterparts. Don't assume the same power and ability from an 'M' card, even if it has exactly the same model number as a non-'M'. card.
Hopefully this has helped clarify the arcane naming policies of the GPU manufacturers. Or it might have just given you a headache. Eiter way, let us know if you've got any questions.