Here are the specs on my new PC
Q9450 @ 3.2Ghz w/ Zalman 9700
4GB DDR2-1066 (Vista 32-bit sees 3.5GB)
WD Raptor X 150GB and WD 320GB
Corsair 750 watt power
Centurion 590 case
ASUS SATA DVDROM and Samsun 22X DVDRW
I game at 1280X1024 on a 19" LCD. Here are my choices:
1. Get an HD4850 now and another next year.
2. Get an HD4870 now and wait a year or two to replace it.
3. Get an HD4870 now and possibly a HD4850 to CF it with.
I really want to run two video cards, but if CF wont help @ 1280 then maybe I wont.
@1280x1024 a single 4870 will be ok. Anyway, in a year from now, a second card will possibly make sense.
As for you CF plans, a 4870 won't CF with a 4850 as in you alt. 3.
If you're looking for some savings, loose the raptor and buy a single 750Gb or 1Tb drive from Seagate.
4850 will be fine at that resolution. I agree (if it's not too late) to drop the raptor and go with the Western Digital 640gb drive. It's really fast, check out some reviews.
Something to consider: A 4870 now, then during Black Friday or Boxing Week sales, grab another 4870 AND a nice 22" LCD for 1680x1150 like the Samsung 2253, they're going for around $260 Canadian right now. During those crazy sales anything is possible so keep any eye out!
Also, if you haven't bought yet and won't be OCing past 3.2Ghz, you can save some $ by getting DDR2-800. It can take the Q9450 up to 3.2Ghz
I guess I didnt mention my system has been built for over a month, and I've had the raptor for a few months since my old build. I plan on selling the raptor to a friend when I build his system and get the WD 640 or a seagate with 32mb cache. I have a ROM and RW drive so I can rip from one right to the other.
My system is like blazing fast, I just havent been able to benchmark it since I dont have a real video card. If the 4870 drops in the next week I might get it, but it sounds like a 4850 for me now.
I'm off topic now, but is the WD 640 the new raptor? Is there anything better? I dont really need more than 200gb in a drive.
It's not a new raptor, but it does outperform some raptor setups!
It's based on their new 320gb (x2) platter design, and some of the reviews around the net will talk about why they didnt go with the 32mb cache like Seagate does (WD says it didnt increase performance enough for the cost or something like that).
In Canada, the WD 640gbs can be found on sale for around $80 so hopefully it's similar where you are. You'll have to considering how much a 200gb drive costs vs the 640gb, but for me I think it's worth it.
@ OP; If have no need to upgrade your monitor, then the HD4850 should fulfill your needs very well, but if you plan to use a larger display in the near future I would suggest either a HD4870 or GTX260 (all flame here) as either will drive a larger display with high IQ and obliterate everything elase at 1280x1024.