Option 2: A single graphics card that would run most high-end games graphics-wise and is better than an 8800GT (need recommendations)
MOBO: I've put some thought into this, and I'm really looking for the best value in MOBO here for the above CPU/GPU. I don't want to pay an extra $50 for a minor upgrade, if I'm paying more I want it to be worth the extra cash.
Remember that you need an Nvidia chipset for SLI. That being said, one big graphics card tends to be better than two smaller ones. Remember, SLI/Crossfire always gets you twice the slots hogged, twice the PSU requirements, twice the fan noise, and almost twice the heat. It very rarely will get you twice the power. Not to mention, with the exception of a few games, one card is enough anyhow. If I were you, I'd get a board with an Intel chipset, and a single ATI 4870. It's only a little more than two of those 8800GTs, but will hog less space in your case and should give similar performance, better if the app is not optimized for SLI.
CPU and RAM are good picks. For your PSU, the PC Power and Cooling Silencer 610w should get the job done if you do a single 4870. Great PSU, tough as nails, quiet, and a single large +12v makes connecting everything easy. If you stay with the two 8800GTs though, you'll probably want to step up to the 750w version. (See what I mean about 2 cards and PSUs?)
For the hard drive, do a single 500GB, but get the 7200.11 instead. It's only $5 more, and it's faster. For your heatsink, the box cooler will be fine if you aren't overclocking. Grab a Xigmatek HDT-S1283 if you want more cooling for peace of mind.
How would a Geforce 8800 GTS or 9600/9800 with 1G of video memory look like when compared to the ATI 4870 or the SLI 2x8800GT?
The 4870 will be a lot faster than both the 9600 and 8800GTS GeForce GPUs.
Don't even think of purchasing a 9600 unless you are on a really tight budget.
When it comes to the 4870 Vs. the 9800GTX, the 4870 will win.
The 9800GTX+, however, should be cheaper in your country (as it is in mine), delivers greater performance than the standard 9800, runs cooler and has more overhead for OC'ing, so is a big bang-for-buck.
Don't do dual 8800GTs - the performance isn't as great as a single 9800GX2, which is basically 2x 8800GTs on one board and will only use 1 PCI-e slot as opposed to dual 8800GTs.
Changing the graphics card isn't a huge issue later on, maybe a year or so down the road when newer models come out and the current ones are cheaper. I looked at the 4870 and I don't think I want to spend that much money on the graphics card, one of the reasons I was thinking of getting 2x 8800GSs is because a store near me is having a sale if you buy two of them, would have cost me only $220.
In the end, I think I might just stay with either an 8800 GS or GTS (also looking at the 4850), something below $170. I'm going to hold back on the SLI. Try to keep this build at around $1200.
Thanks very much for all the help with selecting the graphics card! I think I've settled on a build, I'll post it here shortly just incase I'm making a bad buy or any mistakes with the setup someone can point it out to me (heck, this thread has probably saved me about $300 in unnecessary components, thanks again!)