Even the i5's are great for gaming and most applications. AMD is slipping, I hope their next gen picks it up a bit.
For people building their first PC and balking at prices I think I would suggest buying a quality full gaming tower, their soundcard of choice, and a large wattage (600ish) power supply... (more if you planned on going SLI or Crossfire at some point) and then sitting back and buying the rest as sales arise. Newegg constantly has sales and bundles on AMD and Intel CPUs/MoBos/RAM.
If you're just gaming, AMD CPU's and especially MoBo's are a great deal any day of the week. Especially when you look at their typical process of multi-generation chips working on the same MoBo, it becomes and excellent financial cost vs enjoyment/capability investment.
My system was built this way, piecemeal. I got a NewEgg bare bones kit since I had my own Win 7 license. That came with a tower and DVD burner, a PSU, a motherboard and chipset combo, 4 gigs of RAM, and a 1 TB hard drive, all for around $300. I added in a $75 video card to start out. I had two mismatched dual monitors (one eventually died.) I bought cheap $11 speakers.
Then, over the course of two years, I added in the following:
- 16 gigs of RAM, snagged on sale for $50
- New Radeon HD 7770
- 128 GB SSD to act as primary OS drive
- 800 watt PSU
- 2 matching 1080p 22" monitors on a big steel monitor stand
- Windows 8 Pro (got for free thanks to my school)
- 5.1 speakers (my motherboard supported it, so no sound card needed)
All in all I've put in around a thousand dollars and I have a souped up gaming system that would have cost me twice that if I bought it from Alienware or whatever.