I need some opinions here (open the floodgates?). I'm replacing a few components: MB, RAM, CPU. I'm all set on the MB and RAM choices (see below), but the CPU has me torn, since they all seem to have draws. The majority of my time on my computer is spent playing games (Borderlands and Dragon Age: Origins right now). Can you help me narrow this down? Total, I'm looking at around $300.
MB - ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO
RAM - Crucial 4GB DDR3 (CT2KIT25664BA1339)
GPU - NVIDIA 8800 GTS 512
CPUs - Athlon II x3 435, Athlon II x4 620, Phenom II x3 710, and Phenom II x2 550 BE
As I understand it (which could be far from truth) is the Athlon II x3 has good clock speeds, but lacks L3 cache. Athlon II x4 has the fourth core for things that naturally support all cores, but has a lower clock. Both Phenoms have the L3 cache, but the 550 will be better at OCing. I am willing to do some OCing, but it would have to be based on the HSF provided with the CPU, since I'm not adding to my budget for a third party HSF.
EDIT: As noted in a later reply, I was able to increase my budget to figure in a better processor. I'm now looking at a Phenom II x4 955.
Most people would recommend the Phenom II x3 710. Personally, I would choose the Athlon IIx4 and overclock it at least to 3GHz. Games are becoming more multi-threaded so in the near future I think you would benefit more from the quad core. The athlon series lacks the L3 cache. In games the L3 cache will provide a better experience but not by enough for me to choose the phenom IIx3 over the Athlon IIx4. Where I am, the athlon IIx3 is way too close in price to the Athlon IIx4 to make it worth is over the x4. The 550 is good but being a dual core may not be as good in the future.
if u are gamer , your preferrence must be x2 550 black . why ? because games need clock speed more than core . but in the future this will not be so ( etc. GTA IV ) but with a board which has acc features , u can make it quad core luckily ..
As far as the CPU goes. Generally you're going to want higher clock speeds. Many current games will still run perfectly fine on a high clocked dual core. However, things are slowly progressing forward to a point where quad core processors will become of much more value.
Personally I would grab the 620, it's may have a slower clock speed but it is still more than powerful enough to run any game that isn't threaded well, and quads show strong advantages in games that can utilize them. You should also easily reach 3.0-3.2Ghz, possibly higher depending on your motherboards limits.
It turns out that I have more money to put into this upgrade, so I'm bumping up the CPU to the Phenom II x4 955. The 965 isn't much more, but too much considering the small speed increase per core. I'd like to consider going with a 6GB RAM kit, but the price is bit of a jump, since my budget is sitting at $370 right now. Also, I figure it will be easier to add another set of RAM later to get to 8GB. I'd rather do that than take up 3 slots now leaving only one open. Thoughts?
On the note of the video card, from the research I did when purchasing last year, the 8800GTS 512 cannot be compared to an 8800GTS 320 or 640. I don't remember exact details, but I know that the 512 was easily a better card and is slightly better than the 8800GT 512. Since it would take over $200 to notice any major improvement by upgrading the GPU, that is not being considered. Right now, I'm looking at just CPU, RAM, and MB.