I'll sorta apologize for hi-jacking this thread first, although since the thread wasn't a serious discussion anyways, hopefully this will add something to it
Three easy steps to a successful gaming system, in no particular order.
1: Give the damned thing enough memory. 2 gigs doesn't cut it anymore. 4 gigs is ok, 6 gigs is preferable, and 8 gigs is more than enough. If you don't have enough memory and you start swapping, your game will chug. No matter what else you do. I haven't had a swap file in over four years, and believe me I don't miss having one. On the same note: 64 bit OS the next time you upgrade. Just do it, it's not going to be a problem.
2: Storage. Investing in a one to two hundred gig SSD, preferably with either a marvell, intel, sandforce, or samsung controller inside, is one of the best things you can do for your box. The storage access is without a doubt, the slowest performing part of a personal computer. SSD's speed this up considerably. This speeds up things like texture loads for the game. As an example, my gaming/personal system, runs with two intel 160 gig ssd's. (the old x25-m series, with 34nm flash). They were expensive, admittedly. Prices are better now. Even with them being relatively old, the storage system is extremely responsive. I prefer running them in raid-0, where they approximately match the speed of the new, sata III, sandforce drives. Roughly 500 megs a second, and about half that in writes.
PS: You can get two, or four, smaller drives, for roughly the same price. Slap them in raid-0, and watch them go ZOOOOOOOOOOOOM. There is no comparison. Hard drive based systems feel broken once you've experienced this.
PS2: Normally raid-0 can be somewhat unreliable, due to the increased potential for errors. The wear leveling algorythm's on the ssd's, alleviate this somewhat. In the entire time I've been running my raided x25's, I've never had to reinstall them to a raid error. Never, and that's not in approximately two years now. As long as one of your drives doesn't die on you, you're good to go.
3: GPU power. You want to game? Invest in a gaming grade gpu. It doesn't have to be a gtx580, or a radeon 7970. It can be a lesser card. But please be sure the card has at least one gigabyte of memory, and at least 256bit memory access. If it has the last two, it will almost certainly be 'fast enough' in terms of gpu shaders, etc, without specifying that. As a for instance, the GTX 560ti was an _excellent_ gaming card for its generation, even before they changed it up later on. Basically, you're looking at a couple hundred bucks here.
You'll notice I didn't mention the cpu itself. That's because, for the most part, the cpu itself is somewhat irrelevant. There ARE performance differences between the different cpu's, even if the other hardware is the same... but as long as the cpu is relatively modern, the difference won't be world ending. Your money is best spent on the first three things I mentioned, and the cpu (relatively) last.
As an example system, I'll recommend something a local friend just upgraded to when his E8400 setup decided to roll over on him.http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115230
(note: friend could have gone with a 2500k, or a 2600k, or a 2600.. any of them would have worked, just went with the 2550k.http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128506
(note: any z68 board would have worked. friend and I have history with gigabyte motherboards, and I like the layout on this one. If I'd bought socket 1155 on my last upgrade, it would have been this particular board)http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820233144
(note: any 8 gig kit would have worked. gigabyte boards seem to always get along with corsair memory, and it's what we've been using for a while now)
He has yet to make the jump to SSD's.. I'm still convincing him. What the SSD gives you is quick booting, which admittedly is once or twice a day usually, and can be ignored by going for coffee. But it also gives you _responsiveness_ when using the computer. It's no longer click-and-wait.. it's click and 'oh, it's ready'. This is where hard drives start to feel broken.
Total cost would be 473$ plus the cost of the gpu which he carried over from his previous system, and the ssd, which in his is still a hard drive.
Point to this excersize, is it does not cost the entire world, to get a good, solid, gaming-grade system, up and running.
My last system (and his, we upgraded at roughly the same time), lasted 4 years. When you spread the cost out over that time frame, it really isn't much.