So I'm helping my buddy put together a gaming rig that is mostly going to be playing WoW, but it would be nice if it could play on ultra settings and get decent FPS (45+). Also, he wanted to keep it under a thousand dollars
what I was thinking was since gaming will be its primary use, focus on hard drive speed and graphics processing ability.
from these thoughts i concluded that going with SATA III SSDs in raid would be more than fast enough.
for graphics i was thinking about the budget-friendly GTX460 which would, if I'm understanding the Fermi design correctly, take some stress off of the CPU while gaming and allow me to allocate "processor money" elsewhere.
So with this setup in mind, would it be more prudent to go with the Athlon quad core ($100 USD) or the Phenom 945 ($140 USD)?
Both are decent, but I would choose the phenom for the l3 cache and superior overclocking ability. Even with a good GPU, you can be held back by a processor because the games code needs to be executed with enough speed to keep things running smoothly, the two components are mutually codependent.
phenom, more cache, better for gaming...and everything else. The GTX460 does not normally take any more stress off the processor than any other graphics card. The only place they will do this is in a "PhysX" enabled game, where they can process physics data instead of the CPU. There are limited titles that take advantage of this. Still a good GFX card either way.
Put it this way, as far as gaming, the Athlon II performance is nearly identicle to the Phenom 1 at the same clock speed. However it runs cooler, is more efficient and clocks much higher than the P 1's clocked, therefore making it superior due to clock speed. The older Phenom 1 wasn't as bad as some believe, it was just that they could not get the clock speed up high enough.
I think the TLB bug and bios fix that reduced performance on top of the 2.3Ghz max clock when Phenom launched, and inability to overclock to 3.0Ghz on most Phenoms until ACC was released later in 08 is what gave them a bad rep.
As an owner of a Phenom 9850 I've got to agree they were given a horrible rep which they didn't deserve.
OP, the difference between Athlon II and Phenom II is 10% at best, the 945 will help with gaming over a 640, but not by much. I would still grab the 945 if you can afford it though, they're only what, $30 difference in price now?