Currently building a new gaming rig for the upcoming star wars mmo after being out of the game for sometime. I am having trouble deciding on a cpu and looking for some advice im sure most of you will recommend the 2600k but I am currently looking at a i7 960 wondering exactly how important the cpu actually is to playing games and if im better off spending money elsewhere. Also would like some advice on if i would see any in game performance gains out of a ssd or a 7200 32mb hdd paired with a ssd i dont mind the loading times. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Actually, the current best CPU is the Core i5-2500k, not the i7-2600k. Games do not take advantage of Hyper Threading. The Core i7-2600k is 100MHz faster than the i5-2500k and it has Hyper Threading and it is $100 more expensive. That means you are paying $1 for every extra 1MHz.
Upgrading from an i7 960 Clarkdale to a Sandy Bridge i5-2500k may mean a small increase in performance (too lazy to look at benchmarks), but the difference would be so small that spending money on a new CPU and a new motherboard (socket 1155) it is definitely not worth it.
My suggest would be to spend your money on a new graphics card depending on what you currently have.
A fast HDD or SDD does not affect gaming performance other than faster install/uninstall and load/save time.
A 2500k will work perfectly fine, and is a fair bit cheaper than the 2600k. The 2600k gives you some more features like hyperthreading, but 8thread optimized applications are far and in-between. Plus getting a new motherboard (Socket 1155 for new i series) gives you some upward mobility for future upgrades.
The CPU masterminds your whole PC's operation, even if that just means passing information to the GPU. It can effect your performance, but it will vary between games. Generally:
1- Simulation and AI heavy games like RTSs will requite a bit more CPU than other games.
2- Having large powerful, or multiple, graphics cards can lead to 'bottlenecking' if the processor is too slow.
It honestly depends what processor you have now? You may not need to upgrade. All that money put toward a new GPU will net far better FPS in games than a new CPU if the CPU is adequate (Like a Phenom or Core2Duo)
An MMO has Servers that handle most things like AI routines, so the CPU may be less important in general save point 2.
Most benchmarking sites show the 960 outperforming the 2500k at stock speeds i believe
Nope, the 2500k is better and yes you can overclock the hell out of it with a decent air cooler. IMO though you should focus on graphics card, SSD would help when say your going from one zone to another in an mmo or there's a loading screen for an instance maybe but that'd be about it, it's not going to help latency with the game, a beastly graphics card will let you turn all the dials up to maximum without your computer crashing cause everyone in your raid casts a spell at once.
As mentioned earlier, your GPU plays a much more involved role in the gaming experience; if you are planning on getting a 2500K and suffocating it behind a 550Ti or HD6770 then you are wasting your money: get a Phenom 955 and AM3+ board and a GTX 570, or wait until next week and see what price drops come with the Bulldozer launch.
To fully utilize the 2500K in most games you want a 580 or faster SLi/CfX rig.