I am a heavy gamer playing crysis, cod4, tf2, portal, css, and others. I play at 1440x900
What I would like your opinions on is would it be better to upgrade the CPU to a q6600 or upgrade my gpu to a 9800gtx? Both cost about the same and with the future nvidia price cuts it'll be even cheaper (the gtx 260 will be around 220, would that be better to wait?) I'm kind of leaning toward the q6600 at this point because I'd like to see increased performance in applications as well. I'm also thinking that at my current resolution, a new graphics card wouldn't be the best thing to purchase. Thanks for your opinions and suggestions, they're much appreciated.
While you can upgrade your 9600gt, which isnt that bad of a card, a q6600 is a big difference is computing power. Quad core at 2.4ghz vs a dual core at 1.8. The 600mhz will definately help you out. not to mention 2 more cores for heavy application crunching.
But if you've got $200 big ones to spend an ATI 4850 will not do you wrong at all. It does much better than a 9600gt. a 9800GTX is just a waste of extra money.
Actually you won't see much difference with quad core if you are a gamer. Just look at the benchmarks for gaming in quad vs dual core. Also it's not just the 600MHz that is more, there's more importantly the FSB. Which is why, it's better to OC the CPU (it's hell of a good oc'er) to 2.8-3Ghz with affordable cooling.
Then you upgrade to a 9800GTX. Note that if you only upgrade to 9800GTX without oc'ing the CPU or upgrading it, there won't be much difference in gaming performance. That's because the CPU will not be able to keep up with the GPU's power. I recommend at least a 2.4Ghz Core 2 8xxx to get the most out of this GPU. My old E6300 (1.8GHz, 1066MHz FSB) can't do justice to my 9800GTX which is giving me horrible frame rates on Crysis.
Thirdly, your PSU! Check that it's at least 24A rating on the 12V - check the label on the PSU. Otherwise, you'll get flickering and other problems since the GPU takes a lot of current.