I'm building a system for gaming (RTS games like Supreme Commander, Company of Heros, C&C) and experiments with virtual PCs. My monitor has a max resolution of 1400x900. I've added a few questions/notes after some of the items. In addition, I'd like some comments of the overall balance of the system. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
GTX 260 is about right for that res if you want to play everything with maxed settings, I use it on a 1440x900 monitor and with everything turned up in crysis and Far Cry 2 I get a little bit of slow down every once in a while, but its still playable.
Raidmax PSUs are crap. Choose a quality brand like Antec, Corsair, PC Power & Cooling, or Seasonic. For a single GPU, 650W should be enough.
If you get a DDR2 board, there's no need for DDR2-1066 RAM. Get DDR2-800 that will run at the JEDEC standard 1.8V. I prefer Mushkin, but there's some G.Skill that runs on 1.8V-1.9V that seems to be getting more popular around here. I just got some, but haven't tested it yet. I will say its heat sinks are extremely tall, so you'd want to make sure of placement and fit.
Consider Vista 64, or wait for Windows 7, but get a 64-bit version. Driver problems seem to be going away, you'll see all 4GB of your RAM, and you'll be more future-resistant. With your stated purpose of experimenting with virtual PCs, you may ultimately want even more RAM.
I think your balance looks pretty good, again considering your stated purposes. The P45 mobos are Crossfire- rather than SLI-capable, so you might consider a 4850 or 4830 instead (in which case get a 750W PSU if you think you might run two).
1) Those boards support crossfire, not SLi. You should consider getting a Radeon 4850 or 4870 instead since that will allow you to run crossfire latter
2) Go with DDR2. There isn't really much of an advantage going with DDR3 and due to the higher latency it may offer slightly lower performance in some instances with a P45 board. You could argue that you will be able to use that DDR3 in a future build, but by then it would be as attractive an option as using 2x1GB of DDR2 533 is now.
3) Get a better PSU. Friends don't let friends fry their systems with Raidmax PSUs. That PSU would probably be able to handle your build, but it would probably pose stability problems with overclocking and could fail if you add a second video card. Go with a good quality PSU from the likes of Antec, Corsair, or FSP instead.
If you are going to overclock your CPU you should also consider getting a good aftermarket cooler. Also the Hard Drive is kinda small. With newer games taking over 10GB of space that 250GB HD can feel small pretty quickly. For just a few bucks more you can pick up this Samsung drive with twice the space
Thanks to all for the advice! It led me to do some more research which steered me away from an SLI system. The reviews for SLI motherboards were less favorable than for their Cross Fire contemporaries. Obviously I'm a newbie so I could be wrong. However I am curious if others have reached the same conclusion?
I'm not planning to over clock initially. I'll do that down the road to get some extra return on the investment. Following your advice I think I've left room to 'grow' this system later by adding a second video card, more ram and an after market cooler. I'd appreciate any other thoughts. Thanks again.
Looks pretty good. I would get the cooler now though, because most good coolers require a backplate, which means you have to remove the mobo in order to install it. Save yourself some time and a headache later and just get it now.