I'll be perfectly honest. I'm a lazy A-hole. I could easily have geeked out and sifted through all the specs myself, comparing benchmarks and budgets, and utilize Tom's Hardware because it exists for this very purpose!
I'm an IT professional, and just started back to work a month ago after being unemployed for a year. This means I don't have a ton of money yet, and that I was out of the game for a little while, so I'm catching up on advancements and obsolescence.
So I want to upgrade my existing rig: keeping the Case, PSU, 460GTX and several drives while replacing the mobo, memory and CPU. Sometimes, when the technology has -at times- leaped significantly in a year or so, upgrading is just dumb or impossible.
For four years I've had an AMD Athlon 5000+, 4gigs of DDR2 several satas running on a rather humble MI-A78S Geforce 8200 chipset XFX Mobo, with a 9800 GTS I upgraded last year to the 460 GTX. I can play Skyrim pretty well on it, around 28fps.
And lately I've been recoding videos as my media server is XBMC running on a gracefully aging XBOX, which is beginning to be challenged by H264. Actually, it's downright miserable, so yeah, I'm recoding to Xvid.
I've been looking at the Intel i3 and i5 with MSI or ASUS motherboards. From what I've read, AMD slipped a bit and neither they nor Intel has produced anything downright revolutionary the last couple of years.
So the first question was, being that GPUs provide more significant improvement in performance for the things I'm going to grinding out, would replacing the CPU/Mobo and RAM get me the wild capability I'm upgrading for in the first place.
So, $300, give or take, is what I -don't laugh- want to spend. My PSU is 450Watts, and it's just fine...in fact, the specs on newer mobos/cpus draw less power than what I have, so I think I'm ok on keeping the case and power. Same drives, probably just need to reload the OS. I don't think the 460GTX is a bottleneck or a dinosaur, so I didn't feel stupid thinking about upgrading around it for now.
It looks like every new motherboard requires DDR3, so 8gigs would be in order.
Overclock...sure, but nothing that requires higher end power, airflow or coolant. If I can use my existing case, power, fans, drives and GPU, I think I can make it in that budget for a modest gaming/working scenario.
I'm pretty open. I'm not married to AMD or Intel, nor manufacturer of mobo, although I've seen a lot of good marks for ASUS.