3. Even later, think about getting a new MB and CPU. Something like Q6600/GA-EP45-UD3P or Phenom 9850/K9A2 Platinum, for example. Each combination is about $400. The speed is identical (each wins some benchmarks), The first combination overclocks better. The second combination does Crossfire better, without any PCI-E x8 bottlenecks. Either would be an improvement over what you have and future-proof i.e. allows Crossfire.
Read this to see what you can expect from various CPUs: http://www.legionhardware.com/document.php?id=770&p=5
4. Finally, when you can, add a second video card.
What resolution do you game in? I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the components you want to upgrade aren't the ones that are needed. If I were you i'd get a gigabyte UD3P mobo for $135 ($115 after MIR) and pair it with a E8400 ($179) and keep your other parts. Then in a few weeks by 2 X 2 gigs of ram for like $50. Then when you can save for a video card upgrade, you'll have the benefit of the future pricing and future cards.
Doing it this way will be the best of both worlds. An E8400 with at 8800 GTS is a great setup versus a AMD 4400+ with a 4870. You'll notice a huge performance upgrade with the first versus the latter.
An E8400 with at 8800 GTS is a great setup versus a AMD 4400+ with a 4870. You'll notice a huge performance upgrade with the first versus the latter.
I'd love to see you prove that one
This article shows the E8400 getting twice as many fps as the X2 4400+. I suspect you've seen benchmarks like that and that made you think of a CPU upgrade first. However, these results are with high-end video cards (HD 4870 X2 or GTX 280). http://www.legionhardware.com/document.php?id=770&p=2
Based on this, it's impossible to say if the weak CPU/good GPU is better or worse than the weak GPU/good CPU combination. I suggested the weak CPU/good GPU combo because the GPU is usually the most important part in gaming. I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm just saying I don't know for sure if you're right or wrong. I guess we need to do more research here...
What cpu socket do you have? If you have an AM2+ and if your mobo has a good bios update, you may be able to run the phenom II coming soon next year. I doubt that mobo will update that far, but i would stay in the AMD upgrade line long enough to see what happens with the phenom II and your bios updates. The phenom II is supposed to be out Q1 2009.
I'm not able to pull up those benchmarks, but what resolution are they tested at? He said he has a 19 inch acer, and i'm guessing he games at either 1280 X 1024 or 1600X1200. Based on the age of his system, the first is probably more likely. If we are basing his upgrades around that resolution, all those cards you mentioned are extreme overkill and the CPU is way more of a bottleneck. If you assuming he is gaming at 1080p resolution, then you are 100% correct the video card needs to be as powerful as possible.
Let me add one more thing. I have a 22 inch samsung and I game at 1680 X 1050. My old machine was a AMD 4000+ oc'd to 2.7 with a HD 4850. I transferred that card to my new rig, which is a Q9550 and my framerates more than doubled. Now, if I was gaming at 1080p or 1920 X 1200 or something higher. I would not have noticed nearly this improvements, but since I game at lower resolutions, the bottleneck is tied more to the CPU