questionsis phenom x4 'better' than i7?

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The general consensus is that the i7 outperforms the X4 in most benchmarks but the X4 is usually priced lower. I'd recommend the i7 for heavy modern gaming and video editing and the like and the X4 for more casual gaming and everyday computing. The X4 is a great value for the money in my opinion.

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"I7" is such a broad category as to be a meaningless description. Case in point: The not-yet-released Core i7-980X Extreme (a 6-core processor) is part of the I7 lineup. And I'm sure it will cost over a grand just for the chip.

But when comparing chips with more-similar specs, it is as @cwarriorx said, the I7 usually outperforms the X4. But they tend to cost a LOT more, making the AMD very attractive.

I have a Phenom II X4 Black edition (easily OC'd) in a system with 8GB of RAM and a single Raedon 4800-series graphics card. I can play L4D2 at highest quality, fastest framerate without issue on my 24" 1920x1200. I can edit HD video without pauses or stutters. I can simultaneously run Photoshop and play games - not that there's any reason to do that.

If I were to run two cards in CrossFire I dare say it would handle the most demanding of games just fine. And note - my processor is nearly a year old and I got it at that time for <$200 & mine is NOT overclocked at all.

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I just finished going over my budget...looks like I am going to have to wait. Thanks for the feedback, theoretically the longer I delay my upgrade, the more computing power I can purchase.

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@druple: No matter when you jump in, you'll be kicking yourself in 6-12 months if you don't come to accept Moore's law (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moores_law).

But I think that the last few years have been a pretty good time to buy as software demands haven't been keeping up with hardware performance gains.

Something else I meant to mention before: Consider what your primary use(s) will be for your computer. If you're a hardcore gamer and that's what you really care about, you'll be well served to put your money towards a faster dual core processor because, generally speaking, games do NOT benefit from mutiple cores. But if you're big into photo- and video-editing then a quad core is the way to go because those programs generally DO make use of all available cores.

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When you are ready to buy, I would suggest you google "passmark cpu" and open the searchable list page. When you type in the cpus you are considering for purchase , it will show you how they compare from a performance standpoint. Sometimes what may appear to be a good deal may not be all that great when you see how the cpu stacks up against the competition.

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One other point: You say your PC is 10 yrs. old. If you want a computer that will be functional as long as possible, spend the extra couple bucks to get the higher end cpu. The difference in cost over a long period of time is negligible and the chances of it being able to keep up with new software demands is better.