I am debating doing an upgrade to my CPU and GPU in the upcoming month or two. I mainly just play games like Dawn of War 2, C&C 4, Diablo and some FPS which hasn’t been too much of a problem. Recently though I just purchased a 24 inch monitor (waiting on it to be delivered) and I would like to be able to properly play a game on the max resolution.
Below are my specifications. I am looking to only spend a max of 400 dollars for both the CPU and GPU upgrade.
Your best bet would be to upgrade your GPU to an XFX 5830 or Sapphire 5850 and keep the E6400 overclocked. Your best bet on a CPU upgrade is a Q9550, which is $285 and doesn't leave room for a GPU upgrade. In gaming, you'll get the biggest improvement by your GPU.
Upgrade your GPU and save up additional funds to purchase an i5 750 build down the road, which currently is the best bang for the buck gaming CPU... IMO.
Interesting, so even after 3 years the E6400 still can hold its own?
Outside of the quad is there anything else in the price range that would give the performance boost I am looking for, GPU only or the combination?
Hold it's own is a little stretch to a point. It is no where near the power of the new Intel Core i5/i7 quads or the AMD Phenom II X4 955/965 but those are all on a different platform. With your build, there isn't enough justification for the cost to switch out your CPU... IMO. To see a major benefit, you would have to jump to the Q9400 + CPU's, which cost over $200 and leaves not much room for a better GPU. At a $400 on an LGA build with a decent CPU, the money is best spent on a GPU and save the rest for a platform change (new build) down the road.
Your only combination some what worth it (be it little) IMO is an E8400 & ATI 5770, which should come in pretty close to $400.
One of the reasons I think you should blow your budget on a 5850 now is that next year you can buy an i5/mobo/ram and move the 5850 into it and have a great gaming machine. If you buy a 5770 now, when you upgrade to an i5 the 5770 will be relatively underpowered.
Unless you are playing Crysis or GTA4 your dual to 3GHz+ will give you 90% of the performance of a quad at the same speed. Going from an 8800 to a 5850 will double your graphics power (a 5770 will be a 50% increase). To me its clear where the money will be most effectively spent.
I agree with the recommendation to buy the 5850. You'll get a good boost for your current rig and you can move the card to a new rig next year. You could always Crossfire that card in your new build and really be cooking.
I'll add another vote for the 5850. Your overclocked CPU will push the GPU just fine. You'll be disappointed with the performance of a 5770 on a 24" monitor. The 5850 is the best use of your funds considering your budget.