My friend (I know, "friend") is looking at a new build, but he's on a budget. However, Micro Center has some pretty sweet deals concerning motherboards and processors.
I can get:
Phenom II 960T and an Asus M5A97 for $155.
2500k and Asus P8Z68-M Pro for $255
2500K and Asus P8Z68-V LX for $245
2500K and GA-Z68AP-D3 for $215
I'm actually really torn here. You've got what is arguably the best budget-performance chip out there and a Z68 motherboard for under $300. On the other hand, you get a hexa-core* cpu and a sweet motherboard for under $160!
First off, I'd say he needs a bigger budget. Even with the cheaper AMD platform, that's still only $145 for a GPU which is barely enough for the cheapest 6850. With the Intel platform, $85... well that's no gaming system there. I really would push for the Intel platform, but if money is a significant problem, the AMD platform and a better GPU would serve the best in the short term.
It depends how long he wants this for, cause with the 2500k build if he wants to game, he'll need to either increase his budget, or get a *** card and spend heaps upgrading it.
It also depends on his monitor, if it's only a 1366x768 or 1280x1024 then the 960T with the 6870 would per fect (my current setup actually) and will handle even STALKER with Enhanced DX11 Dynamic Lighting with 50+ fps
Not to mention the 960T can be unlocked to a hex core, which for games like BF3 and hopefully future games will hold their own against the IX series.
Stick with the 960T, get a mobo that can unlock cores (fingers crossed!) and a 7870. Push the budget on the GPU. At 1080p, which is what you'd want to play at, the GPU is more important than the CPU. Some upcoming games will support DirectX 11 and tessellation is better on the 7xxx series.
there is nothing wrong with a 6850. heck even a 6770 will run skyrim maxed out at 1080p, cpu counts quite a lot with skyrim. You should look at an i3 2100 for an intel budget cpu. It gives equal, and in the case of skyrim, BETTER performance than any amd cpu. It also gives you an upgrade path to an i5/i7 later on. AMD has no upgrade path. And also remember that you are not accounting for a power supply. the beefier vid card and cpu you get, the more power you need to run it. You are going to want to get a good 500w unit for the i5/960t + 6870 combo spending $80 will get you a good psu. If you went the lower power consumption i3 2100, you could probably go with a 6850 and get a 380w antec earthwatts for around $50, and still be faster than the proposed AMD setup. a 6870 with an i3 2100 and you would want to bump up to a good quality/good brand 450w unit. I dont know if Ram and a case are in the budget, but you need to think about that.