This is my build of many years which I sold to my brother:
Intel Q9400 @ Stock (Motherboard never allowed for OCing)
Intel Classic Series LGA 775 MoBo Model DG33FB
BFG GeForce GTX 295
6GB DDR2 PC6400
640GB WD 7200rpm HD
And this is the build that I am waiting to construct. I have all the parts except for the case (coming this week) and the 7970, which, of course, I will be adding around the 9th of January.
Intel 2500k (to eventually OC to ~4GHz)
Intel DP67BGB3 Extreme Series MoBo
AMD Radeon HD 7970 (when it comes out, using an 8800GT in the meantime)
16GB G.Skill DDR3-1600
250GB Seagate 7200rpm HD from a scrapped mid-2000s build, still fully functional as per SMART tests
Corsair TX750 v2 PSU
I sold a bass guitar to be able to afford the AMD HD 7970. I am SO excited to complete this build. Roughly how much overall performance will I notice between the builds in blender, gaming, photoshop and video encoding? I'm not necassarily expecting a huge increase, because my GTX 295 was an absolute beast.
Also, at what GHz should I be OK OCing my 2500k to while using the stock fan? Honestly, until I switch from my 1680 x 1050 monitor, I don't know if I'll even bother OCing my CPU unless I can do it on stock cooling.
Finally, I have been reading that the 7970 is estimated to be ~$550. Is this an accurate prediction for the actual retail prices, or do you anticipate those actually being more?
Do not use the stock CPU cooler for any overclocking. The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is a great cooler for under $35 and should get you to 4.4GHz or thereabouts. The 7970 will likely cost around $550, possibly a little more or less.
Nvidia has been very quiet about their next graphics cards and that might mean they intend to blow AMD out of the water surprisingly or they might be having problems. Won't know whats up with them until they start talking but Nvidia's next series (I think it's Kepler) won't be out until well after AMD has stuff moving.
Overclocking your CPU won't help at 1680x1050 in gaming but it will help outside of gaming. Besides, you might as well get a cheap cooler like the Evo I mentioned and see how well it overclocks anyway.
For a good comparison of many graphics cards and CPUs look at the latest versions of "The Best Graphics Cards For The Money" and "The Best Gaming CPUs For The Money", both by Tom's hardware. Here's links to the latest versions of both:
I would estimate the Radeon 7970 to be about 60-80% faster than the GTX 295 based on it being in the same tier of performance as the Radeon 6970, The GTX 580 being about 50-60% faster than the Radeon 6970, and the Radeon 7970 being about 10-25% faster than the GTX 580.
The 7970 is either going to be at the top of the tier with the GTX 580 and the Radeon 5970 or the bottom of the next tier up with the GTX 590 and Radeon 6990 when it is released because it's performance is between the performance of cards in both tiers.
Radeon 7970 is out, price range is about $500 to $600 with the $600 card being a considerably factory overclocked card from XFX.
Considering the fact that the Radeon 7970 costs about the same as the GTX 580 cards do while being 15-25% faster than them and using less power than them it is currently the better value. The 7970 doesn't have mature drivers yet so it's performance may improve by another 5-10% increasing it's lead over Nvidia's GTX 580 further. It is probably comparable to two crossfire Radeon 6870s in performance while using slightly less power at load but the dual 6870s still win in price.
Price per performance, crossfired 6850s and 6870s are the winners right now of all cards. Like I said tow 6870s are probably very close in performance to the 7970. Their combined TDP would be a little over 300w, only 50w or so above the 7970. However, TDP isn't everything when it comes to power usage. AMD's new arch is extremely power efficient at idle or very low loads and would probably use much less power than the 6870s at idle or near idle, it's power usage shouldn't get too close to two 6870s unless they are all at load.
The only serious setback to using two 6870s would be micro-stuttering and even then only if you are sensitive to that kind of thing. Another boon for the 6870s is for about the same price as the 7970, you can get three 6870s in trifire for about 30-50% more performance than the 7970, but now you will have significantly higher power usage than the 7970.
Also, when using dual GPU setups in order to use high settings and high resolutions (above 1080p) to get cards with more than 1GB or video RAM each. For 6870s that means getting 2GB 6870s, not 1GB 6870s. memory is never shared between GPUs so even though two 6870s have 4GB altogether each GPU can only use 2GB of that total 4GB. 1GB of memory is not enough for high resolutions and high settings.
The 7970 doesn't have such a problem because it has 3GB of memory and only one GPU. Having only one GPU also means that the 7970 doesn't suffer from the micro-stuttering problem common with most multi-GPU setups. 6900 series Radeon cards don't have this problem even in dual, tri, and quad GPU setups and I assume the same is true for all of the Radeon 7700/7800/7900 cards in multi-GPU setups.