I'm putting together a new system and have decided on the Athlon II x4 630, as it can be had for $113 now, and it seems to be comparable to the Phenom II x3 720 in performance. I've read through all of the debates on that topic. I use the system primarily for web, office apps and watching videos and such. But every few months I get into gaming and like to have a system that doesn't disappoint me for this; I hate having to turn games down to low settings.
Anyway, I'm going for the x4 630, and since the price is about the same I want to go with DDR3-1333 for RAM - hopefully 4gb, although I might start out with 2gb.
So that leaves me with a motherboard and graphics to decide on. Since I plan on getting a graphics card, I don't need it onboard, so thinking of saving a bit of money here by going with a 770. Thoughts? So far I know I need an AM3, and would like it to support up to 16GB of RAM. I doubt I will be needing crossfire down the line, so can cut that out as well.
Graphics is the next big hurdle. Initially I was looking at the HD4670, based on the most recent Best Graphics Guide, as things seemed to get a bit murky until a big jump in price. I've heard people raving about the HD4850, but since their price has gone up, they don't sound like they are as good of a deal. Any recommendations?
For both the motherboard and GPU, I don't have a set budget, but since I don't end up actually doing that much gaming, I don't want to waste too much money unnecessarily. I'm going to also have to get a new case and probably a new PSU, as they haven't been upgraded for years.
Oh, one final question - sound cards. I'm probably dating myself, but I no longer see them mentioned. Is onboard sound the standard now, and I can stop thinking about that piece of the puzzle?
Onboard sound is generally decent. You can try onboard and always add a XiFi (or whatever) sound card later.
A 770 socket AM3 motherboard with DDR3 RAM is a great option.
Without knowing your monitor resolution and what games you generally play its hard to judge what graphics make sense. The 4670 is the low end of gaming cards and can only play well at low monitor resolutions or settings, but may suit your needs.
I have an old SB X-Fir card in my current setup I can use if necessary. My monitor is a Dell S2409W 24 inch Widescreen Flat Panel Monitor, that I generally use at 1920x1080.
In terms of games, I've dabbled with L4D and Crysis in the past few months, and will probably be playing some COD Modern Warfare 2 and the Wolfenstein. Other than older games, I usually only go for single-player FPS.
ASRock and ECS have a higher percent chance of a bad motherboard than ASUS and Gigabyte. You can always go for the cheap board and probably get one that isnt trash. With more reputable brands you are paying for higher quality components (capacitors, voltage regulators, PCB, etc) and better manufacturing quality control.
You might be surprised in a year how valuable USB3 has become (look hpw popular USB2 is now), or maybe not. Its a guess you have to make for yourself.
Next step up in graphics is the GTS 250, HD 4850 or HD 5750. All perform about the same. The 5750 may be a bit more expensive but has DX11 and is better as a home theater card. The 5770 is 50% faster and may not be much more expensive than those 3 for the performance increase it gives. It will play at 1920x1080 quite well, including crysis at medium settings.