APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: As soon as I figure out the best system to buy.
BUDGET RANGE: Around $1000, give or take a couple hundred
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Gaming, Internetting, watching movies
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Keyboard/Mouse (though I've been looking for a better set, like one where the keyboard keys are lit in the dark), Monitor (have a 22" 1680X1050, but would consider getting a new one with a higher resolution if it was a great deal), Speakers, OS (I have a copy of Vista Home Premium that I never used, was planning on upgrading to Windows 7 64 bit, but I have questions on whether I can just buy the cheaper upgrade version and use my unactivated Vista Key to activate the Windows 7, so please comment on this too please.)
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: tigerdirect.com
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
PARTS PREFERENCES: Always preferred Intel/Nvidia but never tried AMD/ATI, so I can't really say I'm not open to either
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Yes, will probably just get one card for now and add another when needed
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1680x1050, but would like to get a bigger resolution eventually, especially if 1680X1050 won't play true HD1080p stuff.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I basically want a system that will be able to play high end games and be upgradable for a few years, if needed, to stay able to play the latest games. I play CS:S and WoW, but would probably play a lot more if I had a system that could play high end games without dropping Frames Per Second below 60. I just want to be able to play games for a few years with no bottlenecking issues that lead to low Frames Per Second , and to have a system that I can upgrade instead of rebuilding an all new system every year or two to keep up with new tech. I originally felt like I would accomplish this if I went with a Core I5 or I7 with a X58 MOBO and SLI/Xfire. But I have heard that there is uncertainty as to whether Intel may change sockets yet again in the near future. While compiling this list today, it occured to me that it might be better to go with an AM3 platform and ATI HD5750 card, and possibly add another in a year or whenever needed, but I'm pretty new to all this and the endless options hurt my brain, so all the input I can get from you guys is greatly appreciated in advance.
That said (thanks for actually reading this all), here's what I've come up with so far. Please let me know what you all think.
RAM - Not sure, but I want at least 6GB, but would get up to 12GB if I found a good deal. Also, I'm not sure what type of RAM would work with that MOBO, like what would be the fastest stock speed of RAM would work or whatever. I'm a complete noob to overclocking, but wouldn't mind trying it because it looks like the case I have selected will keep everything plenty cool. I would be fine with 4GB of RAM if it won't be a bottleneck. My overall approach is to build a system that isn't bottlenecked at any one particular component, so advice would be appreciated in regards to this category. Also, I need more info about dual channel vs tri channel and if tri-channel is compatible with that MOBO.
Cooling - I may just stick with the stock CPU fan since the only options I've found are your typical $20 fan which is said to do a little better than the stock fan, or $100 cooler master fancy setups.
I was planning on getting something like a GT260, but I just found the above deal, and for being a 1GB card with DX11 compatibility, I think I like this one better. But I also planned on leaving the option open to later double up vid cards with Xfire or SLI, so I suppose since the MOBO I selected is geared towards SLI, I would select the very similar one that was Xfire enabled instead. But I noticed that there's not many specs on this ATI card, like stream processors and cores and stuff so I'm even more confused if this card is better. I seem to remember it benchmarking equally or better than 260 cards, but yeah, I guess I need advice or more time to weigh all these options.
I have a copy of Vista Home Premium that I never used, was planning on upgrading to Windows 7 64 bit, but I have questions on whether I can just buy the cheaper upgrade version and use my unactivated Vista Key to activate the Windows 7, so please comment on this too please.
I was in the same situation. I had a legit, unused license for Vista, I believe Ultimate x64. I got the upgrade version of 7 but didn't want to go through the trouble of installing Vista just to then do an upgrade to 7. I found this to be helpful: http://www.winsupersite.com/win7/clean_install_upgrade_...
I was able to successfully install Windows 7 Pro x64 on a new hard drive without ever digging up my Vista DVD by following the author's "Method #1".
The mobo you selected uses dual-channel RAM. You should be looking for a 4 GB kit or an 8 GB kit. 4 GB will be FINE for now, you can upgrade to 8 GB at a later date when you need to (and then the cost will be much cheaper).
Use a Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB, about $30 cheaper than the WD, and an excellent HDD.
The i5-750 architecture should be fine for gaming for the next 4 years, but will not have an upgrade path in the future. The AM3 upgrade path is still largely a mystery, but history has shown AMD to try and stretch their socket lifespans longer. That being said, the i5-750 will blow the Phenom II X4 straight out of the water (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i5-lynnfield,2379-6.html) and doesn't really cost that much more (maybe $50 or less all-told). For what you want, I would highly recommend an i5-750.
The 965 is faster at stock speeds, but the 955 has the same overclocking potential. So basically as you're paying extra (in regards to the CPU only) to have AMD overclock the 955 slightly.
As far as the differences in the two boards, the differences aren't real big.
The MSI takes more different speeds of RAM. The MSI has an extra PCIe 2.0 slot that can run at a full 16x, but the Gigabyte has an extra PCIe 1.0 slot. The Gigabyte has 2 more SATA inputs. The MSI has onboard video.
The Gigabyte is also cheaper, but is slightly lower quality (Newegg user reviews).
BTW, if you go tigerdirect, your spending $10 more on the mobo, $10 on the CPU and $5 on the video card over Newegg, not counting the potential for combos.