I'm looking at getting an Alienware Aurora system mainly for gaming. I'm a strategy gamer not into the first person shooter thing so I'm looking for a good system that will play Civ5, Shogun 2, Elemental War of Magic, those kinds of games.
Budget is around $2500. I'm looking at something like this:
Intel i7 960 or will the 930 do just as well?
ATI Radeon HD 5970 - is that okay?
12 Gb 1333MHz DDR3 - is that too much?
Monitor - I'm looking for a 24 inch, what would be good for my needs?
Sound card - suggestions?
Any Acer, Samsung, LG, Asus montior will do - just make sure the response time is 2-5ms, it is 1920 x 1080, it has DVI connection
12gb is excessive, gaming doesn't need more than 4gb, as you are going with an i7 build you will want triple channel RAM kit, so 6gb is as low as you want to go and also as high as you want to go.
Personally I think the 5970 is excessive. A 5850, 5870, GTX470 or even GTX460 with intention to SLI would be plenty.
I persoanlly would actually look for an i5 760 build instead of the i7 because then the motherboard is cheaper, you only need 4gb of RAM so thats cheaper too. But then I am always pro i5 over i7 so am biased.
In terms of the Alienware - are you looking at customize the Aurora, or the Aurora ALX?
The 930 would work just fine - this is the i7 that most gamers go with. Like asteldian said, the 5970 is likely overkill, and his recommendations are good.
Alienware/Dell states that 12 GB is the sweet spot for gaming - False. But anyway, you definitely don't need 12 GB of ram, and if going i7, 6gb is the way to go, although 3gb may be sufficient - because the GPU will have its own onboard ram.
Unfortunately, Alienware doesn't provide i5 builds, but for gaming, the i5 is more than sufficient.
In terms of monitors, Dell makes decent screens, but also, those recommended by asteldian would likely be cheaper and as good, if not better.
Do you feel the need to have a sound card? On-board sound is pretty good, and some MB's come with 5 or 7 channel audio (I believe), but that would only really be necessary if you plan on doing the full surround setup. If you are going with high-end speakers, you may want the sound card, otherwise, I would recommend not bothering with a sound card, and if unhappy, then drop in an sound card later.
I'm not really good at building things and I would definitely screw it up big time.
I went with the 930 with 6gb and 5850. I found the ASUS VE276Q monitor for $331 (thought it was worth it) and my wife made me get one of the sound blaster cards and a 4 year warranty - I'm happy with it.
I figure this should be good enough for quite some time.