I built a gaming pc 5 years ago and my GPU (eVGA 6800GT) just died. I currently play Guild Wars and Team Fortress 2, and don't want to spend more than $300 upgrading this system right now. I use it for gaming exclusively. The 6800GT has a lifetime warranty so I can RMA it and that's given me a couple of options:
Option 1: RMA 6800GT and keep gaming pc as-is. Limp through the rest of the year and upgrade next year for Guild Wars 2.
Option 2: Spend up to $300 right now upgrading what I can on this limited budget. If I upgrade now I will not upgrade again for another five years.
What do you think? Is Option 2 going to be a meaningful upgrade or is the budget too small to bother right now?
Here's my system: Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Premium
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 3000+ (not overclocked)
HSF: Retail included w/Athlon 64 3000+
Memory: CORSAIR 2X1G Twinx2048-3200c2pt
Hard Drive: 1x WD Velociraptor 32GB SATA, 1 x WD 160GB SATA
GPU: 1x eVGA 6800GT
Case: Antec P160 (graphics cards over 10" long are too big)
PSU: Corsair TX750W (Original PSU died, bought this last year)
It really depends on what your budget is going to look like next year, when you're ready to build (and, of course, barring any financial issues over the course of the next year). If, next year, you're going to be able to build the uber-gaming system (Core I7/Enthusiast class graphics), then it'd probably be best to wait. If not, upgrade now. The way I see it, you have a few options:
1) Replace your CPU and graphics card.
While I really don't recommend this option, it is a viable one. You can pick up a decent dual-core, socket 939 processor and add in a new graphics card like the HD5670 for under $200. You keep the same motherboard and memory. While not quite up to spec with my old X2-4800+ and Geforce 8800GTS-640, my old system did play Crysis are reasonable (25-35 FPS @1680x1050) rates. I think this upgrade would handle your games fairly well. Again, I don't recommend this option, but if $300 stretches the budget a little too much, then perhaps this sub $200 option will work.
2) MadAdmiral's rebuild
If you can spare the extra cash, MadAdmiral's build is nothing to laugh at. It will certainly out-perform option one.
Wolfshadow you're right and I didn't mention what next year's budget would be. This year's budget is limited because I'm unemployed but next year should (hopefully!) be much better. Assuming I save the cash for now and have a full-time job next year I would be able to spend $800-1,000. That would be a solid new system that could last me for a few years.
I think I'll just RMA the card and limp through 2010. I could always upgrade the monitor at the end of the year in anticipation of the new rig to come. Thanks for the input everyone.