I have around 2,000 uk pounds to buy a new 3dsmax rendering machine and can't decide between the cheaper i7 clocked to 3.8Ghz or a dual xeon 5520 setup.
If I go for the i7 then I can get the latest ATI HD 5870 Gfx card (single cpu with DX 11 support so realtime viewport plugins should really benefit) I don't need a Quadro, use them at work and they are just overpriced imo. Its also for real time development too so I need a decent gamer card to test things out on. I can also get 3 x £200 monitors using EyeInfinity so lots of desktop space or something like a 24" Dell Ultrasharp but thats not as sexy as a 3 monitor setup
If I go for the Dual Xeon setup then I get faster rendering from the additional cores but no monitor (will have to use my old 22" one) and a cheaper graphics card like a GT250 or something.
It will also be a main machine for all my other general stuff like encoding, gaming etc.
I would go with the i7 box since you can then afford a decent card and monitors. The dual xeon is rather juicy but over priced for what you get plus you can always over clock to help close the gap but that is far as it goes. In the end you are better off with the i7 box.
Basic set up for 2000GBP (~3320 USD according to Google):
ASUS P6T Deluxe v2
ATI 5770/5850/5870 or better/similer
Intel X25-M G2 or Kingston M series (which use the Intel controller and usually cheaper) SSD for OS
Samsung F3s possibly in RAID 01/5 for storage
2x decent 22"+ LCDs if you want and if budget allows
A good cooler like a Megahelmus or Core Contact Freezer to OC the i7. Or a WCing loop if you want (Warning: You WILL need to do a lot of research if planing to do WCing for the first time, it cost ~$250-350 (USD) to cool just the CPU)
A quick notes: I recommend you sticking to the LGA1366 platform as you'll be able to upgrade to the i9s (6 cores) down the road, which should benefit 3DS. Also, which real time view port plug in do you plan to use, IIRC there are like 4-5 available?
@Mods/OP: I believe this should be moved to the "Home Build" section?