I've been thinking of building a new system for 6 months or so and it was about that time that I stopped trolling the forums and let the idea sit. I've come back to see what has changed in the market now and get an idea of what I should be looking toward for my purposes for a new build.
I was going for around 1000 USD build and last fall had decided on a P5Q-E and was waiting for the Sonic Dual Edition 4870 from Palit that never has seemed to exist... anyone wanna shed light on that one? lol. I bought a few parts then, looking to buy the rest soon, details below.
Already own: monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, case, PSU
22" monitor at max 1680x1050
Antec 900 case
Antec TPQ-850 modular PSU (crossfire ready)
Main uses: (in order of priority) Gaming, surfin' the net, MS Office, if possible using a random 1024x768 vga monitor to work or be on the net while gaming simultaneously on the 22" at 1680x1050 with AA and AF (a dream of mine haha).
So I suppose I have two main issues: what do I need at this resolution/setup to last me the next 2 years and is i7 worth the money at this time? Will a P45 really be upgradable for the next year or two? Would I get more out of my machine for longer by going i7 now? Going P45 means now whenever I switch it's going to need new memory, board, and processor. That's a costly bundle. Is it worthwhile to gamble on that expense be less now or in the future? Is it worth investing in i7 if I don't plan on buying another monitor for ~3 years? How viable will a P45+E8400 or Q6600 (either overclocked) be with say Modern Warfare 2 or Mass Effect 2 or Diablo 3 (my planned purchases)? Would it be better to invest in an i7 now and not have to upgrade so much in the future? Or, buy DDR2/LG 775 socket CPU/board now for cheap and pay for an i7 down the road?
The issue has been bugging me for 6 months.
I bought the PSU in expectation of using Crossfire via buying a high end card now and buying a second duplicate card later on when I needed an upgrade and prices were less expensive, which I figured was a good plan (a great newegg deal on the case/psu combo didn't hurt either.)
I'd like to go cheaper than 1000 or so, but what I really care about is futureproofing and cost-effectiveness given my resolution etc. If I can really get away with a LGA 775 setup for the next two years I will. If I'm going to need an i7 in that time to play the latest games (at that time) at high FRs (1680x1050 AF.AA, etc) then I'll do that. It's all about whether or not a a particular option (i7 or not) 's costs (short run and long run) are justified.
Maybe I have a different view of "future-proofing", but I don't think much of it. I look at *whatever* I might buy today and ask myself "If two years from now I need to buy another machine, which pieces of this crap would I keep?"
The answer usually is not much. The case, maybe a psu, mouse & kb, optical drive, sure. Maybe today I'd add disk drive(s), but they are by this point 2 years old.
But when it comes to cpu, mobo, and graphics card . . . the new stuff is gonna look so interesting to me that the odds are good all 3 are going into "once used inventory", ebay, or a backup system.
So, buying today, with your screen, I'd buy the i7 920 and a mobo that will OC it and handle SLI/Crossfire. And I'd grab a vid card one or two steps down from the top (prolly 4870 or 275). The odds are two years from now all all I'd be buying is one or two vid cards, and a maybe new screen because I could now afford it.
You could save money with an E8400. Or go cheap, er, value. That's usually code for "AMD" these days. Go configure those systems - use Newegg Wishlists eg. See the price difference, and ask yourself:
"If two years from now I need to buy another machine, which pieces of this crap would I keep?"
Since you've already bought several of the components for your rig and you're interested in longevity i'd recommend the Intel i7, it just makes the most sense (to me) at this time. Another good choice would be a PhenomII x4 955. Since the LGA775 is at pretty much a dead end it wouldn't be my choice. One advantage of a 1366 mobo is you can get one that has both SLI and crossfire, although price/performance is somewhat in ATIs court right now, that might change in 6 months to a year or so. Here's a build that fits under your $1,000 cap (just barely) using Windows7 RC as an OS.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16829102019 - Creative X-Fi Titanium Fatality. EAX 5.0, all other features, very good sound quality, 64MB dedicated RAM. A good buy, but it can be dropped. Onboard sound of the Gigabyte board is already good, the Creative card is simply better, especially if you have quality speakers.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148225 - 2x Crucial DDR3-1333 CAS6-6-6-20 VRAM (2x2GB Modules). For a total of 8GB RAM with lifetime warranty and low latencies, you probably can't beat this. With 8GB 64-bit OS's will run like sh*t on greased lightening, or you can drop to 4GB if you will be sticking with XP Pro for a while.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103674 - Lastly, the Phenom II x4 955BE (3.2Ghz, 6MB cache, 4Ghz HT). This is a monster CPU. An i7 920 will beat it most of the time, but the total cost of putting together a similar i7 system is over $1000 and in my opinion not really worth it. This is the fastest AMD CPU available at a good price, and is quad core which some games are finally taking advantage of. If you aren't really in need of a quad core, drop down to a Phenom II x2 at 3.1Ghz w/6MB cache to save some green.