Approximate Purchase Date: February 2012
Budget Range: 400-500
System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg, but open to other
Country: Argentina. Everything will be bought in the US
Parts Preferences: AMD CPU/VideoCard
SLI or Crossfire: Maybe
Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080
Additional Comments: I cannot go over 500$ under any circumstances. Intel and Nvidia won't be considered for this build. My intention is to change the CPU ASAP, but given my limited budget I have to buy a mid-end one first.
Athlons are not mid-end they are low-end. If it is meant to be a throw-away CPU that gets replaced soon then an athlon quad core is not the best choice. In fact AMD is no longer good for anything high end and struggles with the lower end of the mid-range.
AMD video cards are still excellent and probably won't suffer like AMD's CPUs are right now.
If you must get AMD for gaming then you should get a Phenom II quad core black edition CPU and overclock it until it is just below becoming unstable. You need to realize that AMD's Athlon/Phenom IIs are three or so years old and getting older and that the FX CPUs are even slower right now.
Also, since you aren't buying anything until February anything you choose now will be subject to change. Maybe something much better will come out, maybe the opposite will happen. Maybe what you choose now will go up in price from reduced availability.
AMD CPUs can and will bottleneck gaming. Unless AMD gets a huge (like 30-60%) improvement in per core performance without unrealistic or unreasonable power usage they will lower your frames per second in some games today and probably even more in 2012... Intel CPUs are quickly becoming a requirement for any gaming machine as AMD has failed to make competitive CPUs since 2009 or so.
The Phenom IIs can be compared to the Core 2 quads from 2007-2008 in performance. Since AMD did't make a new architecture since then Intel is now about 40% faster per MHz of each core in Sandy Bridge and Sandy is around 50% faster than Bulldozer clock for clock too.
This gap is increasing yet again this year between the Phenom IIs and Ivy Bridge. Piledriver may be good enough to close the gap between it and Ivy back to 40% or maybe even to 30% but even then it will also use much more power than Ivy bridge.
I realize you say that you're adamantly against buying an Intel CPU but Intel is MUCH faster and not much more expensive than the top Phenom IIs. The i5-2500K has the most value of the top Intel CPUs and has similar price/performance to the Phenoms, if not slightly better. It also doesn't suffer from the horrendous gaming performance of Bulldozer FX CPUs that were supposed to replace the Phenom IIs.
Intel probably won't be upgradeable by too much without replacing the motherboard and CPU but since the "upgrades" for AMD are currently worse then a 3 year old micro-architecture (Phenom II) that wasn't the best even when it came out "upgrade-ability" on the AMD platform doesn't look any better right now.
I have faith that AMD's Piledriver upgrade for Bulldozer will at least be as good or better than the Phenom II CPUs but that isn't saying much... Phenom II will be four or five years old by the time Piledriver comes out and matching a four or five year old arch is not worth bragging rights for AMD.
I would change your RAM kit with something of 1600MHz. 1600MHz is proven to show a tangible benefit to 1333MHz in many usages and has similar prices anyway.
There are a lot of G.Skill 1600MHz kits for the same or near the same $40 price tag of your chosen kit.
If you are on such a tight budget you should buy a cheaper PSU. you are spending about $100 for a 600w PSU when you could get a higher wattage PSU for about half that if it is not Bronze certified. Yeah we all care about power usage but the savings between a 80 plus certified and 80 plus Bronze certified are minimal, especially on lower power systems that lack power-hungry video cards and CPUs.
The Radeon 6770 is a great budget video card and that hard drive is probably the best that Newegg has to offer at the sub-$100 price point.
The PSU was just chosen because it has a discount together with thet CPU. But you really got me thinking about AMD. At first I thought this build as a temporary one, but considering I won't be able to sell it in my country it might be better to spend a little bit more and make something that will last at least 2 years.
So... What motherboard and CPU should I take if I decide for Intel? Most importantly the motherboard, because the CPU could be upgraded later. You might see that given my budget I'm interested on a motherboard that won't become obsolet in a few months (that was the first reason for choosing AMD).
Intel's next CPU micro-architecture is Ivy bridge. It comes out later 2012 and is supposed to be compatible with the current Sandy bridge motherboards. However, the next arch from Intel, Haswell, probably won't be using the same LGA 1155 socket as Sandy/Ivy Bridge.
That doesn't mean LGA 1155 based motherboards will be obsolete, just that they won't be compatible with Haswell or any other arch later on.
Like the now "obsolete" LGA 1156/1366 platforms is now LGA 1155 motherboards will still be pretty fast later on. This just means that you will need to replace the CPU and motherboard at the same time instead of one at a time. This is a price I'm willing to pay for the incredibly greater performance Intel offers over AMD and any gamer will need to deal with this or deal with slower computers based on AMD CPUs.
I don't enjoy the fact that AMD has failed so miserably (I was kinda an AMD fan before bulldozer) but I don't idiotically ignore the fact that AMD is no longer competitive with Intel in high end systems, even with low budgets.
If you don't want to overclock the CPU then the i5-2400 is the CPU of choice and should be paired with an H67 or H61 chipset motherboard, preferably the H67 because H61 lacks features like 6Gb/s SATA and other important things.
If you do want to overclock then the i5-2500K is the best value possible and will give the same performance in gaming as the more expensive CPUs will almost always meet the other, more expensive CPUs in performance. It easily beats AMD's most expensive CPU in gaming. The i5-2500K goes best with either a P67 or a Z68 chipset motherboard, the difference being that Z68 has two mostly unimportant features that the P67 lacks.
The Z68 can use up to 20GB of SSD storage as a read cache for a hard drive to improve read speeds but write speed doesn't change much last I checked. The second feature is the ability to use the integrated GPU of the i5-2500K (HD 3000) and a discrete video card at the same time for different tasks. The HD 3000 graphics is best for encoding and such stuff but doesn't make a difference in games because it has horrible gaming performance even compared to recent $15 graphics cards.
I'll do a quick look through Newegg.com for possible motherboards and report back in 30min or so.
Those are some of the cheapest good quality motherboards I could find.
The P67 and Z68 should be capable of going to ~4.4GHz on the i5-2500K according to reviews by some people whom bought the boards. The H67 is just as good as the Z68 except it can't overclock. In order to overclock you would then need to spend another $15 on a motherboard, $20-25 on a CPU cooler, and $20 on the CPU so if you want to overclock that will cost another $55-60. Price/performance doesn't really decrease because of the large performance benefit but for gaming the benefit really won't be as great as you might think.
I would go for the overclocking simply because I like to do it and would use the large performance benefit for not just gaming. For example, that would allow me to have a VM running while I'm playing a game without the CPU bottlenecking either the game or VM. Basically the benefit of the overclock would be better multitasking because the games just don't use the full performance the i5 2500K has to offer at ~4.4GHz with affordable video cards.
If the improved multitasking is not important to you then the H67 board + i5-2400 would save you $60 or so without sacrificing performance.