The “tock” portion of Intel’s latest tick-tock cycle has officially hit, and the shrink of last year’s Core processors brings a number of improvements to the line. Intel’s finally taking some steps towards reducing systems’ reliance on discrete GPUs, and they’ve also seriously improved hardware transcoding. Essentially, though, this isn’t a feature or performance release, it’s bringing the top-end speed of the last generation to chips that plain cost less money and produce less heat. Looks like it’s time to upgrade to me.
I’ve just read Anandtech’s thorough analysis of the chips, and I think he’s right in recommending the i5-2500K. You’re really getting just a huge amount of performance for a bargain price ($216 as they quote it, but it will vary), and even some of the lower-end chips will do heavy HTPC duty now.