BUDGET RANGE: ~$1500 (including shipping, without including mail in rebates)
System Usage: Digital illustration (Illustrator/Photoshop), A fair amount of 3D modeling/rendering (3D Studio Max, Alias, Rhinoceros 3D), Gaming (Bioshock, LFD2, and other steam games) with concerns of power and noise from the system.
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Monitors (20" LCDs), Keyboard and mouse, Speakers, Case
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: no
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I'm unsure about some of the parts listed below, namely the CPU, PSU, and MOBO. It's been about 4 years since I've built a computer.
The i7 920 is a bit more adept at workstation-class computing than the i5, so I would go with that. Your power supplies are exactly the same unit, except one has modular cables, which make the inside of your case easier to cable. Your choice on which one you want. I would rather spend less and have to deal with one or two more cables.
DDR3 1600 memory is a waste if you're not going to be overclocking - which, considering the impressive overclocking margins (combined with how easy it is to push the 920), I suggest you reconsider your position on it.
If you want USB 3.0 now, the Asus is an exceptional board, though expensive. If you don't use external drives and aren't shifting files around external components alot, you may be better off with a P6T or P6T deluxe.
There's meager differences between the professional version of Windows and the home premium version. If you want to save a little, go for the home premium.
Intel plus recent articles here at Tom's Hardware and other sites make it simple.
The Intel Core i7 920, socket 1336 cpu has the edge when it comes to gaming. There is absolutely no doubt about it. The majority of posters here are gamers and enthusiasts.
The Intel Core i7 860, socket 1156 cpu has the edge when it comes to mainstream applications, especially for graphics design, engineering design, professional digital imaging, and video processing. There is no doubt about that either.
The current sweet spot for the mainstream applications you will be using is DDR3 1600, low voltage, memory designed for use with with the new Intel cpu's.
The applications you will be using are cpu and memory intensive rather than video intensive.
Over a two month period I read every article I could find, poured over test results & benchmarks, and exchanged information with other verteran posters. At the bottom of this post is a list of components I selected for professional work. There was one exception where I strayed from the consensus of opion. I selected the Asus Sabertooth 55i motherboard because it is supposed to be a rugged, heavy duty board that will last for quite a while and there were no known compatibility issues. I'll be the first to admit the 55i does not have all of the features that other boards might have. The extra features are not anything that I will be using.
I wouldn't say there's no doubt about it - I've never seen any benchmark with a significant advantage toward either core. There's a lot of fluff in the mix due to OCing, turbo boost settings, yadda yadda, that really make the definitive proof skew.
You may also want to consider switching to an Nvidia-branded card for CUDA capability, though this depends on your applications' support of the feature. Just something to look into.
At any rate, the 860 and the 920 will both serve well, but, with either, I still suggest you take another look at overclocking. You can really crank out much more from the chips than what the stock speeds can produce.
1. The test platform for that article was an Intel Core i7 975 system. There is no mention in that article of an Intel Core i7 920 system or an Intel Core i7 860 system. The tests were designed to benchmark memory scaling. There are in fact articles comparing and benchmarking Core i7 860 and Core i7 920 with mainstream professional applications. The difference usually shows up during tedious rendering processes.
2. The test platform used 6GB of Corsair Dominator DDR3 1600, 1.65 volt, triple channel memory for all tests. Since the test platform was a Core i7 975 system , there was never any testing of DDR3 1600, 1.35 volt, dual channel memory for the Core i7 860.
3. I do understand that the results in that article were not overwhelming. There's no doubt about that. I did use the phrase "slight edge".
4. The article clearly stated that based on the test results the 1600 memory was not worth the higher price. The article was published last June and the information was correct at the time.
Currently the price at newegg.com for the specific 6GB used in the article is $219.99. That works out to $36.67 per GB.
The current price for 8GB of DDR3 1600, 1.35 volt memory I selected is $229.98. That works out to $28.75 per GB. I actually bought it for less two days before Christmas.
How does that compare to the current price of DDR3 1300 memory? I may need your help here matching the memory. The latency and timings tend to throw things out of whack. Newegg does not show any Corsair Dominator DDR3 1300 triple channel memory so I looked at the XMS series. I came closer to matching the G.Skill memory I selected.
Intel Core i7 920:
Corsair Dominator DDR3 1600 = $36.67 per GB
Corsair XMS DDR3 1300 = $32.50 per GB
Intel Core i7 860:
G.Skill ECO DDR3 1600 = $28.75 per GB
G.Skill ECO DDR3 1300 = $27.50 per GB
I had difficulty finding DDR3 1300 equivalents of the DDR 1600 so I may be off. In addition prices fluctuate. There may also be bargain sales or special promotions. I got lucky during the Christmas sales. I also do not mean to imply that memory for an Intel Core i7 860 is cheaper than a 920. It's just the memory I selected for my system.
The 650 is fine as far as power....no need for an HX series if you're not overclocking or using twin GFX cards. The Antec Earthwatts is comparable to the TX and issame price but w/ Antec, no MI Rebate to mess with.
Hard Drives - Check out the performance charts and pick whatever 500 GB per platter drive performs best under your usage patterns. The WD Black 2 TB is a good choice but at smaller capacities, you are limited to the Seagate 7200.12 or the Spinpoint F3. The 7200.12 excels in gaming, multimedia and pictures whereas the F3 wins at music and movie maker. See the comparisons here (copy past link in manually, link won't work in forum):
Even the 212 is an excellent cooler (though not compared to the other suggested coolers). Running your CPU overclocked really won't make your machine that much louder, though the heat will rise a bit. Depends a lot on your ambient air temperature, actually.
And, as I think JohnnyLucky is trying to suggest, if you don't have any USB 3.0 devices (or the bank roll to purchase them, considering they'll be expensive for a while) you may want to skip the 3.0-supporting board in favor of a cheaper one for now. You can always add in a PCIe 3.0 card when they're out and cheap.