I'm in need of advice for a new machine. I'm not interested in gaming performance but it's main purpose will be to run physical simulations which are part of research I'm doing for my DPhil. It will need to do 3d graphics well too as I depend on it for designing/debugging my experiments, but it's not priority. So what I'm looking for is an upgradeable budget system running Windows XP with current but not high-end parts (no SLI, 1gb of ram, soon to be discounted parts?). Something like the DIY-4.1Ghz Pentium D 805 in the THG article but without the need for water-cooling or DIY... Any tips on an affordable combination of motherboard, processor, memory and graphics card?
Or more precisely:
1) What's the best value-for-money socket/cpu option at the moment, still upgradable for a while?
2) Which mobo would you recommend, given point 1. Asrock e.g. offers mobos with 939 socket (cheaper combination of cpu and ram at the moment?) but can be upgraded to am2 socket and is less than £50.
3) What pci express 256mb ddr3 card would you recommend for as little money as possible?
I would definately go dual core. The socket 775 Intel dual cores are pretty cheap. I wouldnt go with the 805, if you overclock it your going to need a $50 cooling fan at the minimum. For a few more than the 805 and aftermarket fan you could get this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16819116238
The X2 would be better but still very pricy until Conroe arrives.
I dont really understand your second question. AM2 really isnt any more than 939 but you need good low latency DDR2-800 which is a little pricer than DDR400 but not that much. However it will be upgradeable to the new processors (65nm X2) when they arrive. 939 wont.
The best card for the money right now in PCIE is probably the 7600GT at about $150.