And I'm wondering what the best route to take is. Should I stick with AMD, get a AM3+ board and wait for bulldozer, or pay up for an i5 2500k? I do a fair amount of heavy computing along with some gaming. Rendering, transcoding, some dirt2, etc. Is the i5 really all it's cracked up to be? I've seen benchies, of course, and it seems to beat even the Phenom hexacores more often than not. But, it is extremely expensive compared to any Phenom.
Should I get the 2500k or does a Phenom ii x4 for half the price give acceptable performance for my needs?
Or should I wait for bulldozer? Does anyone even know the release date?
Or should I wait for Ivy Bridge? Any news on this?
There is no incentive for me to stick with AMD to reuse the mobo because this mobo and processor are going into an XBMC build in a couple months anyway.
I'm not locked into a specific budget; that's why I need help. I am willing to get an i5, but not just because I have the cash, if that makes sense.
So I was planning on using my current board in a htpc xbmc build, but maybe I should do something else for that and then upgrade the cpu in this one. But I don't want to waste this athlon ii x2, so... any suggestions?
Well, the athlon won't be good for any of this stuff. HTPC it. A 2500K would be great; a 955 would be decent. It depends how much you're willing to pay for. What we're really good at here is creating a build that maximizes the potential of a certain budget.
A lot depends on timing, how soon you want to buy.
Both Ivybridge and BD will offer better performance than SB (qualifier BD no real Bench marks out so just my guess). BUT i would not buy either untill it has been on the retail market for at least 6 Months. With Intel, the initial release and the recall on P67 MBs. Also note the problems with the Intel RST drivers and the rate of releases - Primarily aimed at fixing some problems with SATA III SSDs (NOTE Sandforce may be bore to blame for this problem).
AMD is not without problems either, look at the long lag time in fully supporting SSDs (a AMD driver supporting trim (Go back to the release of SSDs I and SATA II SF12xx controller and earier). AMD resources (Money and personnel) are much lower than intel and "fixes " and updates to improve performance lag intel. Case inpoint is the problem they are having in the notebook segment in being able to support Graphics switching between IGP and a dedicated GPU. This applies to desktop also, but Not really a concern.
Cost wise: Intel's lowest cost unlocked IB CPU is est at $580, add to this a MB and the other system parts and I'm not sure that the performance vs cost would be worth it for most consummers over a SB system. AMD's BD would be cheaper, But as stated would wait!! Another reason to wait on BD is for a MB designed specifically for BD and not one that is just capabile of running BD.
The harder question is: cost vs performance vs time and ONLY you can answer. In terms of performance the question is not how fast it is in benchmarks, BUT how much performance YOU see when using it (Real life)!!
For gaming - Over the next couple of years, probably very little diff between the i5 (or I7) SB vs BD and IB. For all normal task (ie offic, email, internet, File transfer) - NO diff. Video encoding is one of the area that would improve, But as 13thmonkey implied - that may be dependent on software and new software therefore must be factored in.
My choice would be to get a I5, or I7 and enjoy a year of usage. I also feel that a I5/I7 will satisfy your computer need (in terms of performance) untill it time to upgrade (ie 3 or more years downstream). Either BD or IB will have ironed out problems and improved their performance over the course of 3 years, or MORE LIKELY something even better will be out. NOTE it is not always about the CPU. MB improvements are just as important reason making an system upgrade worth it. Ex, Sure my I5-2500 is faster than my I5-750, BUT the REAL reason for Upgrade was the newer chipset support for USB3 and SATA III. SATA III and a pair of SATA III M4s provided a great performance boost in day to day usage.
Ah, I thought you were referring to the soon-to-be-HTPC Athlon.
The heavy coding might make a 2600K worthwhile, if you've got the cash for it. It depends how much you care about a few seconds. A 2500K would be very good.