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Dropping back to a i7-950 and GTX 460 would drop you comfortably into your budget range. Every other component that you have selected looks pretty great!
If you feel like busting your budget, you could stick with the i7-970 and just drop back on the video card.
Thanks Jim has given me some things to think about. So what about between these 2 options:
24GB 1600 RAM
16GB 1600 RAM
Everything else would be the same as far as hard drives/case/etc... Which would you get better performance out of?
I think the i7 still wins on performance... http://ppbm5.com/
Also, you could start with 3x4Gig=12 memory and add 3 more later
I personally would go for an 850watt power supply
Power supply calculator http://extreme.outervision.com/index.jsp (the PRO version)
Both choices are i7!
Really tough choice I'd say, and I'd lean towards the 2600k if it were me (even though I have a i7-950 overclocked system myself).
You don't mention the two motherboards that you have in mind for the comparison - what are the specific models - hopefully Asus or Gigabyte!
Also if it were me, I would definitely go with a 1155 (P67) motherboard that allows for 2 x8 PCIe slots in case you want to expand your system to include a RAID card later on (HIGHLY recommended - i.e. 5x1TB RAID 5). Many of the lower cost boards have a configuration where the first PCIe slot is 16x and the 2nd is 4x (too slow for a good RAID card).