Is the Athlon x4 the best choice? You might want to look at some benchmarks and see how well 3D max 2010 responds to cores/L3 cache. You might be better off with an x3 that still has the L3 cache enabled. Other then that, looks good.
Most benchmarks I've seen on 3D Studio, L3 cache is useless. It theoretically helps when cores needs to exchange a lot of data at once, but it is not a case when rendering. Each subset of pixels is dealt with mostly individually.
I presume that you do understand the implications of the MSI board being an "open box item", Yes? MSRP is $89.99 and the open box is selling for $26.00 off that price. At that price differential, it means it's probably missing everything but the mobo.
500 GB HDD is about 490 GB of overkill
but I guess that is where the sweet spot is today. But surely I do not need cooler master case, I could save 15 bucks, using something cheaper, and it can start to add up if we consider using 2-5 nodes.
Thanks for your input!