Upgrade Question(s)

Hi! I currently have a Dell Inspiron 530 with 3GB PC2-6400 RAM, Q6600 BSEL modded to 3GHz, an MSI 8800GT (OC'd), and an Antec 550W PSU. I would have built my own PC, but this is my first true personal computer (I always had to share my computer growing up). This whole experience has taught me the value of building your own custom PC, but I'm not quite ready to make that leap since I spent a good $1000 on this machine (and upgrades) ~6 months ago. So, on with the questions.

Since I plan on building my own PC down the road, I only purchase parts/components now that I feel I can use in my next machine. I'd like to order a new video card to bridge the gap between now and then. I have my eyes on an incredibly cheap $200 GTX 260 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127361). I read a forum saying someone got it to fit in their Inspiron 530, but it would be nice if someone could confirm that here. I was wondering, though, if it was worth waiting for the price of a GTX 280 to drop since the GTX 285 and 295 are launching in January. I would hope to get a GTX 280, or even a 285, and then SLI it in my future rig. The problem is finding something powerful for the future that I can actually squeeze into my Dell and still have enough juice to power it.

I have my mind set on the GTX series simply because I can't SLI anything in my Dell, a single 4870 seems too weak for future's sake, and I don't think I could power a 4870x2 with 550W.

Also, I'm well aware of the heat issue with Dells. I'm purchasing a fan controller and tinkering with extra fans/case mods. This PoS is going to be my test dummy :na:!

I guess I'm just here looking for input/advice/criticism/support. Talk to me!
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  1. I considered that, but: "650 Watt or greater power supply with one 2x3-pin PCIeR power connector and one 2x4-pin PCIeR power connector is required."

    And I couldn't find a whole lot of information about Crossfired 4850x2's, either, which would be the ultimate goal down the road if I bought it now.
  2. Well, I just read through a 4850x2 review and sometimes it beat the 4870x2, and when it didn't it was still quite competitive. Here's a comprehensive list of my opinions of potential cards:

    9800GX2: Seems to be the best bang for the buck right now, but something irks me about buying this thing now to SLI in a future machine. I'd much rather buy a single high end card to SLI later on. Are my worries unjustified here? Will the 9800GX2 maintain its high power when SLI'd, playing the demanding games of the future? Also, is an Antec 550W enough? I've read minimum requirements of 580-600W.

    4850/4870: Good cards for pretty low prices nowadays, but these just don't seem to be enough for a future rig, even if Crossfired. It's a good solution for my Dell, but a bad overall move down the road.

    4850x2: This card is surprisingly cheap for how well it can compete with the 4870x2, but little information can be found about it right now. I'd like to see more about it's scalability when Crossfired. If it's anything like the 4870x2, I might have to take this card.

    4870x2: N/A since my current PSU can't handle it.

    GTX 260/280: The 260 seems to be the better performer for its price, but I saw some benchmarks where the difference was quite noticeable between the two. I've seen some 280's for ~$350, so I have been giving the GTX 280 some heavy consideration. Realistically, I'll probably go with the 260 since I'm more confident in my PSU holding up with that card.

    What do you guys think? I'm liking the EVGA GTX 260/280, simply because I can always use the Step Up program a couple months down the road when I really figure out how I want to build my next rig. Also, keep in mind that I probably won't be buying a new card for another month or two, just because I made the mistake of buying my 8800GT right before the Radeon 4000 series came out, and I ultimately could have paid less money for a more powerful card if I had waited a little longer.

    I know I'm rambling a lot here, so I really appreciate any feedback.
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