I'm looking to upgrade my computer in the next few months, and am researching the best hardware to use. However, most all conversations on this topic deal with gaming systems, while I will be doing some gaming, my primary focus will be development (Visual Studio, Macromedia Flash, Photoshop, 3DS, SQL Server, Zend Studio, etc). I typically have many of these applications opened at one time.
Is there something I should be looking for in my hardware that is good for these tasks that gamer systems wouldn't neccessarily have? I know the video card is the obvious difference, but wondered if there was more. I'll want hardware that does fast compiles (which I've heard the CPU cache is very important) and doesn't bog down when I have many intensive programs open (which I assume means lots of RAM)
To be honest u answered ur own question. Just about the only difference between gaming and what u want is the video card. The current hardware out at this time will do what u want perfectly. You can set your machine up the same way as any high powered game system and just leave the video card out of it.
The only other difference would possibly be a raid system. I think for anything you create you would want a backup for. So possible a Raid-1 would fit ur needs. This gives u a little redundancy for little works of art. Even if you want to splurge a little, a pair of raptors in Raid-0 can always do justice when loading and unloading several applications at once. Also rendering video and audio has alot to do with hardrive speed and capacity.
Im sure there are several variations of how u can setup ur system. Obviously, there are different chips that do different things better. Such as the Xeon and Opteron chips are for server and workstations. I remember back in the day the argument for AMD and Intel was actually a little easier. AMD worked awesome for games while Intel was a CPU that you would use for applications and office work. Nowadays its not such much the case anymore.
If you are looking to upgrade your computer today then Core 2 Duo is 100% the way to go. It will secure your future for atleast a few years. Although, Intel is kicking ass with its CPU's right now you need to make sure you try and stay on the highend. Alot of people purchased E6600 mostly becuz it was cheap and affordable and alot of folks could say "Yeah i own a C2D". But in actuallity these chips proly wont push them out as far as Core 2 Extremes or better. Soon quad cores will be out for both AMD and Intel which will be the next wave of the future.
My reccomendation is if you want to upgrade now then get the Core 2 whatever and set it up as a nice gaming system minus the extremely expensive video card. For vid rendering then possibly a quadtro or something may be in store for u. As for speed, the 975 and 965 chipsets are prolly the most compatible and fastest you can get right now for the Core 2. Of course the 590 boards just came out from Nvidia but Nforce based boards are mostly for gaming/enthusiast and becuz of that you will pay dearly for it. Pickup a 975 for a couple hundred and off you go. Ram is almost the same...DDR2800 of any brand will do you jsut fine.
Mostly what grimmysnr said. The thing is to figure out how intensive of CPU usuage you will need, and how multi threded the programs are (or are not). If your lookign at a very heavy load it may make sense to go with a dual Xeon system. FOr example running SQL Server for testing purposes doesn't create a heavy load at all for the most part...
I disagree with the advice to buy a EE processor, it is cheaper to buy a lower end e6600 and upgrade to Quad core in Q1 than to buy the x6800 now... (based on press rumors of the prices, you buy the e6600 for around $320 now and the Quad for $400 in Q1, still less than a EE processor now)... but thats just my opinion. Buying top of the line works if money is no option or if you don't want to upgrade later, I advise going quad core (or dual xeon) as it looks like you will actually be able to use the processing power.
Yes the obvious video card. But there are more things to consider:
Another difference is the RAM, on C2D expensive RAM is only worth it if youll be OCing. Wihout OCing, the difference is minimun so it isnt worth the price.
4MB of cache would be worth it in this case.
You might also want to consider a multiple monitor set up with 2 or more monitors. It's easy to do with the right video card and lcd monitors have become much more affordable lately. I think the sweet spot for monitors are the 19" versions. Check out the wide screen versions.
You might consider some of the workstation video cards from PNY and ATI who make gaming cards, but also more business oriented cards for financial, CAD, graphic apps and other technical uses. They have their own sites, so give them a look.
I'm not a Mac person, but many graphic artists and muscians use them very heavily. They've gotten somewhat less expensive and the new versions with Intel C2D processors can run the Mac OS and Windows.