Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275 896MB (2x SLI)
Since I already had one of these but still wanted a bit more oomph, I figured I might as well go dual-GPU for the first time. With the supply of high-end video cards as they are and the fact that DX11 is just now poking its head out, I'll be depending on these to last me at least as long as it takes for the dust to settle. They perform great even individually, and they've got support for 3D Vision and Physx. If a game comes along that really makes good use of the latter, I could even toss in my old 8800 GTS for an SLI+PPU setup that should really kick some ass.
CPU: Intel Core i7-920 Bloomfield 2.66GHz
The Core iX series is the next big thing from Intel after the Core 2 dominated the processor world a few years ago. In addition to making quad-core and DDR3 memory the new standards, it heralds the return of hyper-threading, which was last seen in the Pentium 4 line. The i7-920 represents the sweet spot among this family of CPUs because the only real difference between it and its pricier brethren is clock speed.
You may be wondering why I chose Bloomfield instead of the highly lauded Lynnfield - well, I'll tell you. The advantages of Lynnfield include lesser power consumption (thus, lower heat generation) and the fact that the motherboards based on the P55 chipset are generally a lot cheaper than those that use X58. They also overclock very well and so can go toe-to-toe with much more expensive processors performance-wise.
However, the advantages of Bloomfield lie not with the chip itself, but the LGA 1366 platform it's used with. Most obvious is the support for triple-channel RAM, and while it's hard to tell exactly how much better that is than dual-channel, the theory is sound.
Also, something that most people probably would have no idea of, the X58 chipset is much better suited for multi-GPU setups. With the QPI link to the north-bridge it provides more PCI-E bandwidth, able to provide a full 16 lanes to each of two graphics card slots, whereas the P55 chipset has to split 16 lanes between two GPUs for only 8 each. Lynnfield is perfectly fine for single-GPU rigs, but since I wanted to do SLI, it wasn't for me.
Lastly, and this may be bad news to some of you, the new 6-core, 32nm Gulftown CPUs are going to be using the LGA 1366 socket, the one already used for Bloomfield. This means that the LGA 1156 motherboard you had to buy for Lynnfield is a dead end upgrade-wise, and you'll have to buy a new one if you want to swap in a 6-core CPU down the line.
Cooler: Noctua NH-U12P SE2
Brandon's always going on about how crappy the stock Intel heatsink/fans are, and now I got to see why. It just feels flimsy and rough, has some crude thermal compound pre-applied, the fan is probably really loud, and they still use those infernal plastic push-pins for installation! I knew I would be overclocking, so I was always planning to buy a separate HSF, but I think it'd be a good idea regardless.
I wanted a high-quality heatsink that would cool really well and still be very quiet. While browsing Newegg I came across this brand I had never heard of before, Noctua. I read a few reviews and it turns out that their NH-U12P tower heatsink is one of the best performers out there, and the 120mm fans they make to go with it are specifically designed to be super efficient and silent. Not to mention, it is installed securely with screws and brackets to a backplate on the underside of the motherboard. Yes, it is pricey, but the overclocking headroom it will provide without making any significant noise justifies it.
(Brandonís note: Intelís stock heatsinks are terrible performers, but their one semi-redeeming value is that they operate quietly when everythingís at spec. I still wouldnít use one of these coolers long-term in a rig I cared about though.)