My current system is starting to get a little long in the tooth, and I'm looking at a ~750-850 system. Windows 7 will have to come from that budget, so its really $650-750.
My current system was built in summer 2008:
Vista Home Premium 32Bit
Intel G35 Motherboard (an actual Intel!)
Core2Duo E8400 @3.0 GHz
4x 1GB DDR2 800 RAM (not dual channel)
500 GB SATA II Hard drive (Seagate)
HD4850 512MB Video card (diamond)
Onboard sound and onboard gigabit ethernet
20X DVD+/- RW
16X DVD Player
650W Powersupply (OCZ)
1680x1050 22" Monitor (Acer)
I compromised at the time on my Mobo and RAM and HD for the then-new Video and CPU chips. The CPU was 3 months old and the GPU only a couple weeks old when I put the system together, and DDR3 was expensive and new at the time. I put it all in a basic black box that may be a bit inadequately cooled (120mm side fan and 80mm front and rear fan)
My main goals are a solid game performer thats not quite as hot as this has turned out to be (Its practically a space heater, running 60-70C). Most of my gaming is in RPGs and MMOs, with occassional FPS. My main MMOs are Champions Online, Star Trek Online, DDO, and Second Life, and want it future-proof for DC Heroes, Star Wars The Old Republic, APB and other 2011-12 games. Second Life is a big FPS killer due to its real time rendering needs that are never pre-scripted, unlike most games. a System that can handle Crysis at 45FPS can be brought to its knees by a busy sim with 40-80 avatars in Second Life, getting as little as 6 FPS.
Basic goals: Buy to build in 2-3 months.
AMD processor for for bang-for-buck
4 Memory slots on the MOBO. 4x2GB is much cheaper than 2x4GB!
Better cooling -- I'm strongly considering the Rosewill Challenger case (1x140MM top, 120MM front & Back, and optional 2 120mm side)
6GB RAM min, but not triple channel. more likely a dual-channel 2 GB Kit + 4 GB Kit, or possibly 3 unlinked 2 GB sticks, 8 GB if It can be managed.
1 TB 7200 RPM Sata II Hard Drive
DX11-ready Graphics card.
decent quality power supply (OCZ, Ultra, Cooler Master, Antec, etc), with enough power to handle upgrades like a second HDD, a Blu-Ray player, and *possibly* light overclocking. I'm not an overclocker at the moment, but it keeps getting easier and I might take the plunge with this machine. I'm thinking a 680-750W model
Processor: X4 955, X4 965 or X6 1050T as the spread between them is ~$45. I've also entertained the possibility of getting a Phenom II X2 555 and gambling on unlocking the other two cores to get a X4 955 for ~$100 instead of ~$150, though I'd like to know my odds first.
Mobo: I'm considering an AMD770 Board by AS Rock or Gigabyte ($60-75), which is older (rated 140W instead of 125), but wonder if I should go up a generation to an 860m or even consider an Nvidia board
RAM: 6 GB of unmatched RAM runs about $120 in DDR3-1333, while 8GB is about $160 in 4x2 GB Sticks. DDR3-1600 runs $165 (6 GB) and $220 (8GB). Is the performance hit from 1333 vs 1600 worth the ~$15/stick savings?
Graphics: Its a big price difference right now, but an HD5770 (~140) or splurge for a 1GB Nvidia 460GTX (~230)? Going for the big chip might necessitate going for the X2 555 and hoping to unlock extra cores AND compromising down to only 4GB RAM and a less than 1TB HDD
Get the Phenom II x4 955, it is the same chip as the 965 and is easily adjusted to besame speed. Do not get a 555, Dual Core is a thing of the past and there is no guarantee you will be able to unlock cores, and if you cannot you are stuck with dual core.
1. Shoot for quad core. People say that with a bit older games they get better performance with dual, but all the latest games have been optimized for quad. Not sure about 6 cores you may want to hold out on that for a couple years.
2. 4GB of ram will be fine.
3. Check out ASUS motherboards. If you're interested in overclocking, they're built to do that! Check some of the comments on newegg about specific boards and they'll let you know how far they got with their overclocking.
4. A quality 600W power supply should do you just fine for what you want to do. If you want to double make sure check the newegg PSU calculator: http://educations.newegg.com/tool/psucalc/index.html
Your current CPU/mobo/RAM are good, postpone the upgrade on those for later this year or next year, the prices will go down.
Your monitor resolution limits the video card that you'll need, so you can sell your monitor and buy a full HD one and a powerful card like the HD 5850 or, if you keep the monitor, a HD 5770 is more than enough for any game.
You don't want more than 4gb RAM for gaming so that saves money, the G Skill Eco RAM is 1600mhz, CL7 and $104.99
Okay, WHY would I not want more RAM? I read about monster gamer builds with 12-16 GB. is having 6 or 8 GB somehow disadvantageous for gaming over 4 GB? Or is 4GB of Dual channel just that much more superior over unmatched sticks?
What resolution you play on dictates what you need for a GPU
True, but in the words of Tim Taylor, "more power" is never bad thing
If you only game a 500gb Samsung Spinpoint F3 is all you need at $54.99
No one 'only' games. I do have music, movies, and TV series that occupy hundreds of gigs, but that's more size than graphics card these days. 1TB is still my goal, and can be found for only $70, just $15 more.
As for Crossfire/SLI, I'm not sure if 2 cards are better than 1 at the same price point, although the GTX 460 1GB *MIGHT* be an exception over the GTX480. 2 460s are way outside my price point right now though!
Because games do not utilise more than 4gb, more like 3-3.5gb. The only monster gaming rigs with 12-16gb of RAM are either prebuilt ones trying to milk money off you by pretending the rig is awesome (thus hiding the fact they use crap parts) or people who like to wave their ecock around because they have waaay too much money and like to overindulge on their systems. There is no adverse effect to having more than 4gb, except on your wallet - you are spending money on what will give you no performance gains. 4gb instead of 8gb suffers no performance loss yet the money saved means buying a GTX 460 (1gb) instead of a 5770, or a 460 instead of a 5850 etc. you are missing out on where the power matters in order to get what does not matter. Same goes for buying a 6 core processor when games don't even make full use of 4.
More power is never a bad thing -but if you cannot fit it into your budget it is important to know what you need. The 5770 will be good for your resolution, the GTX 460 would also be perfect if you can afford it, but if you cannot then the 5770 is plenty pre 1920 x 1080 resolutions for most everything.
Plenty of people 'only' game. Sure, I have music but only about 10gb worth, certainly not enough to worry my HDD, many people don't have movies and tv shows on their HDD, so aside from games, they have files and music, neither of which are significant. If you have movies and tv shows taking up space, then yes a 1tb is worth it.
Having a mobo that can XFire or SLI is very good, for the extra cost now it can save a lot later when you need more power. 1 GTX 460 is very good, in the future as games get more demanding you may find it is not enough, now you either look to buy a powerful card such as a 480 or whatever is new, or you spend a hell of a lot less by buying a 2nd GTX 460. Weaker cards always drop in price faster due to the need to keep competing with budget buyers, whereas powerful cards take longer to drop - for example, the 8800GTX was an expensive card and stayed that way for a very long time