That doesn't mean ignoring my design goals, though. I want to leave myself with the longest and smoothest upgrade path possible, avoiding buying anything that I'll just have to throw away in a later phase. To that end, I'll be investing in the best motherboard I can find, along with a case that will go the distance and a graphics board that will scale well.
Monitor: I happen to have an old Samsung 22", 1680x1050 LCD hanging around, so I'm going to use that for the early build phases. With all the detail turned up, I doubt I'll have enough grunt to max most titles out on this screen until at least phase 2, depending on how well the overclocking goes.
Motherboard: ASUS Rampage III Extreme
This one is important to get right, as replacing it later is both expensive and a serious hassle. The OC'ing potential of this board, along with its support for future CPU, IO device and RAM models means it should last the distance as well as any motherboard could. Also supports both nVidia SLI and ATi CrossfireX, which means I can switch ponies later on, when/if nVidia takes the lead in the 3D graphics race.Graphics Card: ASUS EAH5970/G/2DIS/2GD5/A
One would hope that using an ASUS graphics board with an ASUS mainboard might reduce the chances of compatibility woes by a smidgen. This ASUS board is pretty reasonably priced anyway. nVidia vs ATi was discussed in and earlier post, so I won't go into that again here.
CPU: Intel Core i7 930 (LGA1366)
While not the best CPU available, this one ought to see me through until the rest of the system out paces it.
RAM: 3x2GB DDR3 1600
No need to go all out here. RAM isn't the most critical part of the overall system when it comes to frame rates. As long as I have a reasonable amount of moderately spec'ed RAM it shouldn't be the bottleneck - at least in the early phases. I can upgrade this in a future phase, without throwing away too much money.
Case: Zalman GS1000 Plus
Really pushing the boat out on this one. This is the one part of the system that will outlast all the other bits. Until the ATX form factor goes out of fashion, I'll be able to keep on building systems in this enclosure. Ironically, it's actually the cheapest component in this list. Further discussion here.