Signed up to post this. Here is the low-budget (Under $500) story:
Video Card:.....$120 EVGA 7900GS ($8 shipping) [ebay]
Cooling:..........$5.99 - 33% Zalman VF700-AlCu [New in Box!! Thrift Store this morning]
CPU:..............$102 (total with shipping and CA tax) [Newegg]
Cpu cooling:....$3.99 "Authentic AMD high performance all aluminum Heatsink and Fan" [ebay]
Motherboard:...$77 ($88.70 after tax and shipping) MSI K8NGM-FID Nforce4 (geforce6150 onboard) [Newegg]
Case:...........$35 (shipping $??)[Newegg] I think the cheapo included power supply might be having some issues keeping voltage stable.
Ram:............$50 2x256MB Samsung @ 400mhz [ebay]
Artic Silver 5 on VGA and CPU, just applied VGA 5 hours ago, CPU applied 24 hours ago.
~$412 plus XP pro and my hard drive. Not too bad.
I have a 2x512 AMPO coming from ebay for $70 which I hope will bump up the scores, or at least keep the minimum framerate up. I really am enjoying just maxing all the settings in all my games
I think I may be at the max that the motherboard can do, I did the bus in 4 jumps 220mhz, 230mhz, 240mhz and 250mhz. The ram came back at 3000/15 = 200mhz (DDR400). I think for stability purposes I will need a different PSU and probably a better heatsink, but it idles at 93-97F right now!!
Edit: I just realized I have passive northbridge cooling, the CPU wasn't seeing over 120F and the GPU wasn't even to 50C, so I am going to put a 120mm fan on the fairly large NB HS and see how stable it is. Still plan to buy a PCPower and Cooling PSU, nothing over 350W unless there is a good deal.
I will be doing a volt-mod on the 7900GS sometime, I hope to go over 600mhz with a 1.4 volt mod, 650 or more would be nice. I might do a ram volt-mod too, I would like to see the ram at 1,650mhz on the card.
I just broke 94,000 on Aquamark3. ahem, DAMN!!