1500$ Gaming rig

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Had some fun with my 8800 back in the day. Now I want more transistors. 1500 is my budget. I am looking for a 3x1 gaming monitor setup later on when I can find a thin enough bezel (each running 1920x1200).

I'm pretty sure I'd want a ATI 5870 unless there's other recommendations. Mainly will use for MMORPG over the span of 3 screens (something capable of running WoW or similars). Occasional usage for high resource fps games. Occasional video and music conversion and copying backing up large data.

Mainly uncertain about Motherboard, CPU (i7 maybe or will I not notice a difference), 12GB ram overkill?, PSU wattage?

Will not be needing a OS, hard drive or case. Not really interested in the SSD craze.

i spent $1550 on mine:

ATI Radeon 5870
AMD Phenom II 965 quad core processor over clocked to 3.4ghz
4 gigs DDR3 Ram
Asus M4A79XTD EVO mother board
700 Watt PSU
500 gig 7200 rpm HDD
dvd burner

Runs crysis and crysis warhead at 1920 x 1080 maxed setting at about 30 - 40 FPS on a 23" monitor.
As your psu is good, an i7 1156 and a 5870 should run still on it.

A 1366 is over kill for gaming, an i5 is just fine, but the HT of a 1156 i7 will help with the other stuff you do.

I'm not a component spec'r so someone else can tell you that, but an the 1156 fsb chips should do you fine, and keep your psu still alive. Its a great psu, so why waste it.
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