Tell me how much performance gain I'll get moving from my current system to say, a new S939 AMD system with a new end graphics card.
A metric assload.... Your *everything* is outdated and would be considered low end or even obsolete for gaming. I wouldn't want to game on anything less than what I have, and I have the itch to upgrade myself.
Perhaps our excitable friend Pete has exagerrated a bit. You might only see a 6 to 8 deci-assload of performance gain in some applications. If PC gaming isn't a huge deal to you, there might be more important priorities.
A 939 solution will be huge. You'll notice everything faster. I'd stake my job on it.
I agree, without even knowing whether or not Pete hates his job. Generally, it takes a 25% increase in processor performance or video card performance for it to be noticeable to me. You should be able to get a 100% improvement on CPU gaming performance and a 300% performance boost on 3D gaming graphics without breaking the bank. The difference will be quite apparent.
Socket-939 with PCI-express is definitely the way to go. Start out thinking about Athlon64 X2 3800+ and a GeForce 6800GT. If that looks too expensive, consider the Athlon64 3000+. If it's still too much, consider a GeForce 6600GT. The lowly GeForce 6600 is only about 20% faster than your GeForce4Ti at the things that they both can do, but the 6600 can do DirectX 9.0c shaders, while the GeForce4Ti is a DX 8.0 part. You'll be amazed at how shiny water can look as you splash through it in a 3D shooter.
How excited can we get about these possible configurations?
$ 87 MSI K8N Neo4-F NForce4 PCI-Express ATX motherboard
$369 AMD Athlon64 X2 3800+ Manchester 2.0GHz 2x512KB L2 cache dual-core 64-bit socket-939 processor *1
$ 8 No-name AMD-approved heatink & fan
$ 0 Far Cry
$ 0 Half-Life2
$ 0 Four months of Napster
2x512MB Corsair Value Select PC3200 CAS2½ unbuffered DDR SDRAM
eVGA GeForce 6800GT 256MB dual-DVI PCI-express graphics card *2
74GB Western Digital WD740GD Raptor SATA hard-drive *3
250GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.8 SATA2 hard-drive *3
NEC ND-3540A dual-layer DVD burner, silver
Mitsumi 3½" floppy and card reader, black
Chaintech AV-710S sound card
Antec SonataII mid-tower ATX case with 450W ATX 12V 2.0 power supply, black *4
Logitech MX3100 cordless keyboard & MX1000 wireless mouse, black & silver *5
$ 56 -$20MIR
Logitech Z-3e 2.1-channel speaker system, black *6
Sennheiser PC150 stereo headset with retractable microphone *6
Dell UltraSharp 1905FP high-quality 19" 1280x1024 LCD monitor, black *7
This is a butt-kicking system for about $1825 - a lot less than you'd pay to get bleeding-edge components, but probably too much for a college student's budget.
However, if the prices above make your head spin, do consider these less expensive alternatives to bring the system down to under $800:
$135 AMD Athlon64 3000+ Venice 1.8GHz 512KB L2 cache 64-bit socket-939 processor
XFX GeForce 6600GT 128MB dual-DVI PCI-Express graphics card
*3: $ 84
160GB Western Digital WD1600JS Caviar SE SATA2 hard-drive
*4: $ 41
Linkworld 435-10 C2228 ATX mid-tower case with 430W ATX 12V 2.0 power supply, black & silver
PowMax keyboard + optical wheelmouse + crappy speakers, black
*7: $180 - $110MIR
KDS XF-9B 19" flat CRT monitor