I think two cores is enough for most purposes
Really? I'm surprised by that.
Over time I've found the extra cores goes a long way to a better experience.
Obviously I don't disagree with that statement, I bought more than two cores.
It means I can be using two browsers, ripping a CD to MP3, possibly streaming through my Apple TV, and still have a responsive system.
Yeah, but that's the thing, these days you can do that with just two cores if you have a SSD. The web browser I/O is the only part of all those tasks that really punches your computer in the nuts, especially if you have a halfway-decent GPU — basically anything from nvidia or even AMD which will run in the currently shipping driver will decode all common media formats for you.
I'm pretty sure my video card is a cheapo generic Nvidia with 1GB of RAM (which I'm old enough to be in awe of being cheap and generic),
Yes, I got only the 1GB video card myself; if you don't have 4k it doesn't matter much. Few games need more than 1GB to reach their full potential at 1080p or less (I'm playing at 1920x1200, but close enough.) And I too am just old enough to be in awe of how cheap this stuff is. My first computer was a C= 16, then I had an Apple ][+, then an Amiga 500, then when I killed that I got an IBM PC-1 from someone, a 386DX25, and then I got a Sun 4/260 which was kind of hilarious. Had 24MB RAM, though. So yeah, when I can throw these systems together for virtually nothing and they are faster than my first ten computers put together and then some and some of those computers were just as powerful as multiuser systems I was happy to have accounts on elsewhere at the time... it's a good time to be a nerd.
Unless you're the kind of person who launches a program, uses it, closes it, and then launches the next program (do people actually do that?) I've found that tons of CPU and RAM means the machine will be more usable for a lot longer than if you went with less. And it usually means your machine can be bloat proof for a lot longer without becoming horribly slow.
Yeah, I agree with all that, I just think that these days a fairly decent dual-core (especially something from intel with four threads, but even just an AMD processor) is more processor than most people will actually use most of the time, and a really good dual-core will cover all the needs of all but the most hardcore users. I eight cores because I too like to do lots of things at once, but frankly I rarely actually pin more than four of 'em.