BUDGET RANGE: 800-1000 (i might have a monitor, I'm not sure, but I would like to spend $1000 total, so if I have to buy a monitor then I'm looking for a cheaper computer
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: gaming, period. I've got a netbook for portability and productivity. i assume any gaming computer will handle any word processing, internet surfing, or video playback that I have to do.
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, operating system
PREFERRED WEBSITE FOR PARTS: I like newegg, but I'm open to other options if people can recommend them
PARTS PREFERENCES: I'm looking at an Intel Core i5 or i7 and will probably get Radeon 5000 series, unless it's more cost effective to get two cheap ones with Crossfire than a more powerful one running on its own, I'll probably only get one card. I'm not looking for top of the line, but I would like to be able to play game a year from now at least at medium settings. I'm also looking for advice on faster dual-core, or slightly slower quad-core (I'm not against overclocking) I'm also looking for advice on RAM. I want to get 8GB, and would rather get 2x4GB than 4x2GB, but it's much more expensive. Is it worth it? I've also heard talk of booting from an SSD while storing data on an HDD, but does this really give incredible speed boosts? I just hate the time it take to turn my computer on and off and was wondering how complicated the process is.
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080 would be ideal, but I'm not too picky on this aspect.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I'm still in college, so while my computer will be stationary for a few months at a time, I will still need to be able to move it a number of times within the next two years, so any advice on moving computers would be appreciated (e.g. static proof bag, etc) Thank you very much for all your help.
I agree with Proximon; considering your needs and budget, AMD is the way to go.
I'll throw in some different considerations:
AMD X2 555 - 3.2 Ghz dual core, but you have a very good chance of 'unlocking' this CPU into a quad core! It's very easy to do, as long as your motherboard supports ACC (has Southbridge 710 or 750). It's only $100, and can easily overclock up to 3.8ghz without a voltage increase (or 3.6ghz if it unlocks to the quad). Since a good dual core will still work very well with most games, I strongly recommend giving this a shot as even if it doesn't unlock into the quad core you are getting a good processor.
Gigabyte GA-770TA-UD3 - only has 1 PCI-E x16 lane so no Crossfire. But for under $100 you get USB 3.0, 6gbs Sata, and the ACC feature to unlock the processor.
G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR3-1333 2x2GB CL7-7-7-21 for about $115. More than 4gb won't be of much use to you right now. I should also ask, is your current operating system 64-bit? You need a 64-bit OS to make use of more than 4gb of system memory.
I've been holding off on SSD's until the dollar:Gb ratio improves. I've been using the Western Digital 640gb Hard Drives because they each have two 320gb platters for increased performance (shows as 640gb though, not 2 drives). Been happy with that for loading.
Lately with this build I've used the Coolermaster 690 case with the Antec Earthwatts 500W PSU. Add a couple 120mm case fans and the Coolermaster Hyper 212 heatsink for your CPU and you can do decent overclocks with no heat issues.
I would recommend you buy any case locally in person because its weight usually makes the shipping cost greater than the inflated cost of buying locally vs online.
Speaking of buying online, I use NCIX.com because I'm in Canada eh and they have long been our equivalent for high service to newegg. Newegg is here now too, but NCIX will pricematch so I would recommend you look into that (they do ship in the USA). So basically, I use shopbot.ca, pricebat.ca etc (not sure of the American equivalents) and search with the Manufacturer's Part # (AMD X2 555 = HDZ555WFGMBOX) then use the lowest price to pricematch @ NCIX
For monitor I'll not hesitate to recommend the Asus MS238H 23" LED (not LCD).
Grab yourself a 5850 now with the $ you've saved and voila, killer gaming rig for ~$1000
Thanks everyone for the advice, I'll select a best answer by the end of today. So it seems the general consensus is to not worry about the processor as much as the graphics card. Also, I'm surprised that I only need 4GB of RAM for a good gaming system. I would think that as long as I get a 64 bit OS (probably Windows 7 Home Premium or Ultimate) that the 8GB would make a huge difference, but I guess not. Thank you so much everyone for all your input.
Search Tom's Hardware? Check the Reviews & Charts sections, in particular.
Here is March 2010 Best Graphics Cards for the Money. I expect that there will be an April one out shortly including notes on the new Fermi cards. (Though based on the reviews, I don't expect the new nVidia cards to unseat ATI.)
Thanks again for all your advice. One more quick question, how can I know whether a power supply works with a case (preferably using newegg, but if I have to do extra searching i'm not opposed.) Also, will the products I order come with all the necessary cables, or is there a basic cable pack that I need to order in addition to everything else on newegg?