Upgrade 9800GTX+ or C2D E7400?

I built a computer in the spring of 2009 for gaming.

Intel C2D E7400 2.8 Ghz processor
EVGA 9800 GTX+
4 gb DDR2 ram
500 watt PSU

It still runs great and I can run Crysis/Warhead on high settings, with a few things towards very high, at a good FPS, usually at least 30 except in sustained explosive action sequences, where it might drop to 20. Still, I figure that two years in, it's time for an upgrade, considering the new games coming out. Of course, this is the hard part: I'm not sure which part to upgrade.

I feel like I have more than enough RAM for most things, but now it's a tossup between the video card and CPU. I've heard about bottlenecking and such, and that getting a fast GPU won't matter if I have a bottlenecking CPU. And I've also heard that my Core 2 Duo (still running stock) will do just fine. All my gamer friends are split 50/50 on which to upgrade. So of course, I'm confused as heck.

Mainly, I want to play Crysis 2 when it comes out. High to highest settings with good FPS. I know my system specs are good enough according to what the box will say, but we all know system requirements are BS and don't mean much at all.

I'm running a 1920x1080 monitor, and I always run games at native resolution, AA disabled if it helps. I have enough cash to get a good quad core, say a Q9550, OR a new video card of roughly equivalent price. I've always stuck with Nvidia out of habit, but I'm willing to switch to ATI if there's any really good reason to do so. I will eventually upgrade the other part in the end, so for the most immediate, substantial benefit, which do I go for?


EDIT: SLI is not an option, I only have one slot for VGA. Overclocking is an option, but one that I'm a little hesitant about.
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More about upgrade 9800gtx e7400
  1. get a new gpu such as a gtx 560 ti that you can carry over to a sandy bridge based build in the future, it will be bottlenecked a bit by your current processor, and of course in games that utilize quads you will also be missing out. However I would not bother upgrading to a Q series chip it would be better to carry over your gpu purchase to a sandy bridge build in the future. So maybe you get one gtx 560, then a second for sli when you buy that new motherboard/cpu/ram. Overclocking will help, but if you do not know what you are doing then I would post for help in the overclocking part of the forum. I would highly recommend going for a sandy bridge based build in the future.
  2. at your resolution, a video card upgrade would be of more benefit. have you thought about overclocking your cpu? should get it to 3.4ghz with little effort which will get you by for a while longer. I agree with the above, dont bother for a quad core chip on that old platform. wait till you have the cash for a platform upgrade and go sandy bridge or wait for amd's bulldozer chip to see how it performs and go AM3+ motherboard.
  3. Looks like I would be best served getting a new video card (like the GTX 560 jjb mentioned) and PSU if it's necessary (probably is, I doubt 500 watt is is enough if I upgrade). For now, I'll see about overclocking my dual core - I figure I can learn it easily enough and get some nice cooling.

    If I do overclock, would I still be bottlenecked by it being a dual core, even if it's fast, or does the number of cores not matter for bottlenecking?
  4. yeah in some games like bfbc2 that utilize quads you will only have so much performance from an overclocked e7400 although it should still provide you pretty decent performance when overclocked to around 3.4 ghz.... I would go ahead and go for that gpu upgrade and I would pick up a Coolermaster Hyper 212+ which is an awesome and cheap cpu cooler and give it a shot, you could also likely use the cpu cooler in future builds even though they are only around $30 USD, this is the most logical route to take with your rig, imo and I also think the gtx 560 is a great choice for a gpu
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