Specifically, I was curious about the price gap between the hardware I lined up earlier, and what a more "future-friendly" machine would look like. Socket 939 is venerable, but already phasing out in favor of the AM2 format, which has been touted as the next "long term" socket in AMD's lineup - i.e. it has the best upgrade potential for the foreseeable future.
To be honest, it's kind of stupid for me to care about that, because I have never once upgraded a CPU - I always end up building entire new machines, usually because motherboard/RAM/whatever technology has advanced too far to justify a mere CPU upgrade. So it's really a bit of a red herring. But I did it anyways.
As it turns out, AM2 is not a significant extra expense. In fact, it's a far better buy overall when considering raw performance - because AM2 also supports DDR2 with Hypertransport. The bottom line is I can get a completely new AM2 machine with comparable/slightly better specs than my last configuration for about $150 more.
Of course, once the Conroe thing happens, there's supposed to be a huge price drop in the Athlon X2 line - which means, obviously, that the $150 price hike to get AM2/DDR2 capability will then disappear, leaving me more or less at the same price point as my current plan, except with significantly brighter upgrade potential and a much nicer memory layout; whereas DDR400 is cheapest in 512MB blocks (meaning 2GB would fill the 4 slots on most motherboards), DDR2/800 is actually cheapest (for now) in 1GB modules, which lets me fully capitalize on the ability to put 4GB of RAM in my development machine - and that is a very nice perk indeed, considering the kind of memory load I usually run.
So, all things considered, I think I'll hold off for the moment. This gives me a few advantages. First, prices always drop, which means I'll basically save money anyways. Second, Conroe means a potentially very nice price drop, which translates to much better value-for-money on the purchase. Thirdly, I can set aside cash slowly instead of digging into my current savings, which will appease the little paranoid slice of my mind that says "yeah but what if your house burns down/car blows up/aliens invade the planet and charge everyone a fee to breathe oxygen." Finally, it means I'll have the patience to really spec out parts and check deeply into reviews instead of just skimming a few Internet articles.
Anyways... here's what I'm looking at for the moment. This will almost certainly change over the next month and a half, and likely just get sweeter.
- AMD Athlon64 X2 3800+ Windsor AM2
- ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe motherboard
- ASUS EN7900GT-TOP (overspec) video card
- Seagate Barracuda 300GB SATA3.0Gb hard drive
- Silver XBlade case w/ 450W PSU
- Cheap DVD/CDRW combo drive
- Saitek Eclipse keyboard and Razer Diamondback Plasma mouse
All told I'm looking at around $1350 with current street prices; after the Conroe frenzy and a month worth of price decay, that'll likely drop to around $1200.
I nixed the ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe/Wireless Edition motherboard for an extra $70, largely because I don't need the onboard wireless or extra features at all, and also because I'm cheap. I may well end up having to put that money into a better PSU though, so it all evens out.