Assembling a PC optimized for Blender

I didn’t see a thread about computer assembly if we’re targeting for optimal Blending experience, so here goes;

I’m currently an owner of a normal gaming computer specs as shown:

  • OS: Windows XP Home

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 at 2.13GHz, cheapo processor with a certainly too small cache (can’t remember it tho)

  • Asus Geforce 8800GT 512MB

  • 2GB 667MHz Kingston ValueRAM (way too slow, again)

  • Cheapo Asus mobo with internal sound card

And now that I’ve got a little extra cash I thought I should upgrade. But then I realized my motherboard is way too old for fast (DDR3?) RAM, or a fast processor.
From what I’ve understood, the Intel i7 series of processors seems quite optimized for 3D modeling (especially since they did some of the benchmarks with Blender).
What else should I go for in a build mostly directed towards video editing and Blender? From a new computer dedicated to modeling and rendering I somewhat expect a certain gain in simulation speeds, especially now that I’m waiting to get my hands on the Volumetric simulations

So the main questions:
What would I want to look for in a processor the most (core amount/hyperthreading/cache size/CPU speed/bus speed)?
What about RAM (amount, speed, DDR2 vs. DDR3, many small units vs. one big stick)?
Are there any other pieces of hardware I should seriously reconsider (motherboard type?)
Is there a difference between using a media computer GPU / gaming GPU (now that we have GLSL materials, are they rendered via the GPU?)

What about the software? Should I change to Windows Vista to get more kick out of the 64bit awesomeness? Is there any programs or packets I should get for an optimized experience with Blender and editing HD videos? (nVidia Purevideo HD codec pack used with a good gaming GPU/media GPU?/Do media GPU’s run HD material without expensive decoding software?)

Please do discuss about computer rigs and modeling overall, I didn’t mean this to be just a question thread.

stick with xp, or ditch windows completely and use Linux, Blender preforms a lot better on Linux.

XP 64 bit is the way to go. get yourself some decent RAM (8gb+ to enjoy the extra memory address benefits of 64bit) and a good processor - dual quad-core should do. You could do a lot worse than buying from a company like Armari if you want a decent workstation. They certainly deliver a lot of bang for your buck, so to speak. At the very least you can get recommended specs from them and try to build from that on the cheap!

that one won an award for CineBench performance. Should work nicely with Blender too…