I prefer the p7p55 series over the p55a in terms of looks. Curious though is your friend using the on-cpu gpu? Because you will have to look for a h55/57. Of course you most probably aware of this, in which case i agree with gurusan, the p7p55D best fits your budget.
Well my friend was getting advice from two different people, me being one of them, and he ended up barely listening to anything we said. He came up with bad reasons why he should get certain things and ended up pretty much going off on his own. It was really quite annoying but, hey, if he wastes his money now, he has nobody to blame but himself. Thanks for your guys' recommendations.