Choosing nVidia Graphics Card
Whether you want a true gaming computer to play Battlefield 3 with maxed settings or working with 3D programs.
A GPU will be needed to in order to do these. A GPU is a "Graphic Processing Unit" also know as a graphic card or video card. If you never heard of the numbering scheme I think this'll help you understand it more and could make your purchases much more easier.
1,2,3,4 = Low End or low performance
(Examples: 6200, 5200, 7200, 8200, 9200)
(Mostly GT Series)
4,5,6,7 = Mainstream
(Examples: 6700, 5600, 7600, etc)
(GTX and some GT series cards only.)
6,7,8 = High End or high performance
(Examples: 9800GT, 8800GT, GTX 560 Ti, GTX 460, GTX 680, GTX 670)
9 = Enthusiastic
(Examples: GTX 690, GTX 590, GTX 690, HD Radeon 7990)
So let's do it this way, GTX 500 series, the 5 or just 500 is the generation, the red 0 is where the performance number will be. So lets say GTX 590 the 9 is the performance number. Which is an "Enthusiastic" card, this card will keep you future proof for newer games and giving you decent frame rates.
Some people are fooled by the generation's number. The generation's number is the card's generation and not it's performance number. A Nvidia 9500GT card is not necessarily faster than a Nvidia 7800GT just because it's generation's number is higher and because the card is newer, but a 9800GT is faster than the 7800GT.
Some more examples!
GTX 690 is faster than GTX 590
GTX 660 is faster than GTX 560Ti
GTX 680 is faster than GTX 580
GTX 690 is the fastest and the flagship graphic card
The generation adds new features and not it's actual performance which is the second number.
So the GTX 580 is a 500 series video card, it's Performance level is 8, which is a "high end" card. Same with HD Radeon 7950. Their both high end cards, I guarantee you that you'll be able to play the latest games maxed out with AA and AF. Yes, the HD Radeon 7970 is slightly faster than the 7950, however you can always overclock the 7950 to get its Performance to the 7970's level.
I don't recommend you to overclock it unless you have experience. Remember some games are more CPU reliant than GPU, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator X and mostly RTS.
Take a look at this graphic showing the card's performance levels and compare them and do not forget to look at the card's generation's number and performance number.
See that? The GTX 690's is all the way up there compared to the GTX 590. Look at the GTX 295 and compare it to the GTX 560 Ti's performance it is a little bit faster than it. Why? Because the GTX 295 is an "Enthusiastic card"
Here are the lists of replaces. Think of it as a improved revision.
GTX 470 replaced by GTX 560 - GTX 560 Ti
GTX 480 replaced by GTX 570
GTX 580 replaced by GTX 670
GTX 590 replaced by GTX 690
Also resolutions such as 1366x768 and 1920x1080 would effect the performance with some video cards in terms of FPS drops because the card would come with 1GB of RAM which would not be enough memory if you play a game at high resolutions, and when I say high resolutions I mean 1600x900 or higher. Specifically if you plan playing with two monitors or more, I recommend you purchase a video card with more than 1GB of RAM. 1.5GB of RAM could help but I'd recommend a 2GB to do so also.
Remember when buying a graphic card the CPU's clock speed can add a good boost in performance too.
When buying a game read the requirements to assure you have the right gear to run it.
Just because you are not getting 200 FPS during game play doesn't mean you cannot enjoy it. For me I do not care about the FPS. I care about how "smooth" the game is which is generally above 30FPS (for me when I experimented, everyone's eye is different).
I recommend however, to play the latest games today such as Battlefield 3 or Diablo III, get a GTX 560 Tior GTX 295 or higher. High end GTX 600 series is preferred. A 9800GT is pretty good for older games but not really today's hottest and latest titles!
So don't use a 9800GT to play Battlefield 3, chances are it will run the game, but bottle-necking and intense heating may occur including lag.
If the game is smooth, don't do more tweaking to get 200 FPS it is not going to make a very noticeable difference.
But I hope this little walkthrough helped with choosing an an nVidia graphics card! If you have some unanswered questions feel free to come ask them in our Hardware Forum.