First of all, to provide context, I have an iMac with a second partition that has Windows 7 installed. It's an iMac 11,1, with an Intel Core i5, 2.66GHz, 4 cores, and 4GB of RAM. The graphics card is an ATI Radeon HD 4850.
So today I launched The Walking Dead season two from Steam (on the Mac), and even though I had been running it just fine a couple of hours before, some seriously wonky flickering and artifacting started to happen. I couldn't force quit the program, so I was forced to hold down the power button and force a shutdown. I launched it again, and surely enough it did the same thing. But this time, it had trouble starting up. At the point in startup where it's supposed to be a plain gray screen with the Apple logo in the middle, the screen freaked out in the same manner as before. It eventually righted itself, but there were some faint pink lines in the background of the gray screen. When the startup completed everything seemed fine, but as soon as I launched TWD again the same thing happened.
I switched to my Windows partition to see if the same thing would happen, and it did. And it wasn't even a Steam game, it was a different game with a different launcher (Final Fantasy XIV). While I was forcing that application to close, some gray lines filled the background, but erased after the game closed. I'm a computer graphics artist, so I launched 3DS Max, but that seemed to run just fine, and so did After Effects. And I can run DVDs and web videos just fine. It only seems to freak out for video games.
I'm coming here to confirm these symptoms, and to ask some advice on the kind of computer to get in the future. I've already been thinking about getting a new computer for a while, this one is 4 years old and the things I'm doing with it creatively are starting to push it a bit farther than it wants to go. I'm having trouble deciding if I want to get another iMac, or if I want to try an Asus. I love the Mac OS, but I only have 3DS Max for Windows, and admittedly having to switch between partitions to play games and run programs that Mac doesn't like is frustrating. And I realize a new OS is coming out this fall, but given these symptoms I don't think I can wait that long.
But, I know that any new computer I get will most likely have Windows 8 (unless that's a better decision for my needs, which I feel like it isn't but I'm not an expert on this), and I really don't want to do that. What I do know is I need something that's high-performance that will last me another 4 years, preferably better. So what would all of you tech gurus recommend for a computer graphics artist, and where would you suggest I find one for preferably $1500 or less? I have no preference as far as desktop or laptop, as long as it works and doesn't break me.
Oh, and here's what I'm looking at from Asus:
Essentio CM6830: http://www.asus.com/us/Desktops/Essentio_CM6830/
I chose these three because I narrowed the search to multimedia computers, and then ones that have Windows 7. Though I don't know if their "multimedia" includes actually creating media. This is their gaming PC, though even I think that might be overkill. And I can't decide if any of them are out of my price range because apparently Asus doesn't want you looking at any of their damn prices. The CM6870 is going for $1200 new on Amazon, but I also know I'll have to buy a monitor if I get any of these, so that will add some more (monitor recommendations also welcome).
The current line of 27" iMacs start at $1799 which is a good $300 out of my comfort zone. I know my parents will help me out since I do kind of need this, and I do have a small business account so I can get some taxes back on it later. However, if I can get something with the same performance or more at a much lower price. As much as I love the Mac OS, I'm very aware they charge quite a bit for what is usually not as much performance.
So to summarize my questions in a nice neat package:
1. Is my graphics card dying?
2. What should I look for as far as (relatively) reasonably priced PCs that will serve me well as a computer graphics artist?
3. If building a PC is the best option, where should a mostly hardware illiterate person like myself begin to look into that?