they are virtually the same price, which one should I get and why?
Also, related to that, the mobo I have selected (MSI P67A Intel P67 1155, http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...) doesn't say that it is compatible with 1866 memory, only 1066/1333/1600*/2133*(OC) memory. Will this be an issue? will I have to chose a different mobo if I decide to go with the 1866 memory?
For the sandy bridge cpu's ram specs are largely unimportant.
The integrated ram controller can keep the cpu fed with data from any speed ram. 1866 ram will buy you nothing except better synthetic benchmarks.
The difference in FPS or real application performance will be undetectable(1-3%)
I think either of the 1600 sticks will be OK, but to be certain, go to the g.skil web site, and access their configurator. Enter your motherboard, and you will get a list of compatible ram kits. If you should ever have a problem, you want support for the ram.
No need to pay extra for faster ram, better timings, or fancy heat sinks. Any DDR3 1.5v 1600 ram is probably best.
Any 120gb ssd will be OK, they really will all perform well for you.
Performance differences using synthetic sequential benchmarks and iops mean little, and are used for marketingdifferentiation.
Normal desktop usage is mostly small random reads and writes at low queue levels. All modern ssd's will do that about as well.
I will have a one monitor set up, with a resolution of 1680 x 1050
All advice is gratefully accepted
I don't remember what GPU was best at that resolution in the latest Tom's Hardware GPU tests, but I'm ~fairly~ confident it wasn't the GTX 560Ti. You could save a decent sum of money if you get a better GPU for that resolution. Unless you plan on getting better monitors, I wouldn't go with the 560s. I'll try to find the benchmark review Tom's did...
Essentially what I want is the best possible computer for $1500. I don't really care how I get there, as long as I am there in the end. This computer will be primarily used for gaming and then for modeling/schoolwork. I am using that monitor because I have it now, but I may upgrade to a full HD model sometime in the future, so it wouldn't hurt to keep that option open. I don't have all that much knowledge about computer components, so I am kinda relying on you guys to help me decide.
I really don't know whether I need 2x GTX 560ti's or 1x HD 6950 2GB, because I don't really know the difference
The 560Ti performs better than the 6950 (1GB or 2GB) at resolutions lower than 1920x1080, but the 6950 bests it at and beyond that.
For $1000, you should be able to get most of the major hardware, and $100-200 will get you some extras (like a SSD). $200-300 is enough to get a great 1920x1080 monitor, and as a student, having a secondary monitor (the 1680x1050) will be beneficial. I actually have 4 monitors (one 1920x1080 strictly for games and 3x 1600x900 for work) and they are insanely productive.