2006 i got:
£105- AMD Athlon 64 3500+ Socket 939 (1.8Ghz clock)
£93 - Sapphire ATI Radeon X800 GTO 256MB
£30 - 1gb Ram
£40 - mobo
worked ok, played CS:S and other Source games and some WoW
2008 i got:
£105- Core 2 Duo E8400
£110- Gigabyte 8800GT 512MB
£30 - 2gb Ram
£50 - Mobo
that was easily double the above, played CoD4 and AoC and later MW2, also HAWX and such quite well (on 1024x768)
2010 its all more expensive to get double the performance
(i also have 1080p flatscreen for it to power which is a bit more than 1024x768)
£132- AMD Phenom Black Edition 955 - 3.2ghz
£250- Sapphire ATI 5850 1GB GDDR5
£70 - Gigabyte GA-MA770T-UD3 AMD 770
£80 - Crucial 2x2GB DDR3 1333MHz Ballistix
have i missed something somewhere? will that 2010 build be way more than double the 2008 performance wise?
(i know i can cheap out on the mobo but i feel its like PSUs, better to spend a bit more for one that wont die, the 3500+ died last year)
[also why is ram so much more expensive these days?]
A few years ago there was a huge amount of DDR2 chips made. At various points it was selling wholesale for less than cost and you could buy 2x2gb sets for 40 bucks or less there was just alot of it around. Then ddr3 comes along and they are just being smart about supply on it. They figure your paying more for the mobo,proc and video card why should the memory manufacturers be making any less so they are controlling supply and are also paying licensing fees to someone. All memory seems to follow the same curve. It starts out high then drops down to a certain point as more and more gets produced. Then when production stops or manufacturers buy it up cause the price is so low it starts to rise again.
On a purely gaming basis the video card is whats gonna give the most performance over the older setup unless you find a game well optimized for multicore processors or run lots of things at once.
Like ChefJW said, the GPU is going to have more impact than anything on the gaming side. A tri core will be sufficient to not bottleneck the GPU in most cases. So the question I have for you, instead of skimping on the PSU, is what mobo is the socket 775?
The 955 performs on par with a Q9xxx so maybe just a GPU/CPU/PSU/2gb ram will do just as well and save on the cost of DDR3 and a mobo. It will easily get you 2 more years.