There are so many computer options out there, it can be hard for people to know where to start. We’ve created this simple guide to help select the most appropriate computer or mobile device.
How to use this page
Start by printing this page, if possible. Next, read all the statements below, and tick all the ones that apply. This makes it easy to then compare the list against computers available in the shops and online.
We’d love to hear what computer was picked and why – please leave us a note in the comments.
Size and weight
I only need to use my computer in one location and have dedicated desk space for it
Unless your budget is severely restricted, you’ll get better performance from a desktop of the same price as a lap top.
I need as much computer functionality as possible but also need it to be portable
Your laptop choice will be a trade-off between size, performance and price.
I’d like a portable computer but only need to basic tasks with it
If you only need the features offered by a Chromebook, you’ll find that this is the smaller, lighter, cheaper option.
I want to surf the internet and engage with social media on the go with a large screen
Tablets are ultra-portable, take up very little space and can be used anywhere.
There’s portable and there’s portable. If all you want to do is move it to a different room or put is in the car to take to work, then size and weight is not such an issue. On the other hand you might be carrying it everywhere with you when you travel…
Comfort and ease of use
I spend several hours a day using my computer and I also like to use a keyboard and mouse and a large screen
Sitting at a dedicated desk with a comfortable office chair in front of a large monitor with a keyboard and mouse is much less likely to leave you feeling tired and achy at the end of the day.
I’m happy to sit with my device on my lap. It needs to be light and portable
A laptop can also be used at a desk if it’s more comfortable.
I don’t need a dedicated keyboard or mouse and I like a hand held device that I can use by tapping the screen
You’re clearly comfortable with the idea of a tablet. It may be able to do more than you realise.
You can attach a keyboard to any device if you have the right cable. You can also attach an external monitor to any laptop and most Chromebooks.
£100 to £200
Entry level tablets
£200 to £300
Entry level Chromebooks and Windows Cloudbooks. Fuller featured tablets.
£300 to £400
Entry level Laptops. Fuller featured Cloudbooks and tablets.
£400 or more
Desktops (including monitor) and improved performance from other devices.
Better specified (more expensive) machines are likely to last longer before needing replacement.
I need to edit photos and videos, work with 3D objects and graphics or play high end computer games at the optimum settings
You’ll need good graphics, a fast processor and lots of memory (RAM). These are much more easily obtained in a desktop machine. There are lap tops that are marketed as high performance models, nut these are very expensive and can’t equal the performance of a cheaper desktop.
I’d quite like to do some of the above things but speed of performance is not critical. There’s a large range of apps I’d like to run
You’ll get better performance from a desktop than a laptop at the same price so your choice will be dictated by how much you need convenience and portability.
My computer use is limited to surfing the internet and creating, editing and managing my documents
A low end laptop or a Chromebook should do.
I just need to be able to engage with social media, listen to music and watch videos on the go
Chromebooks and tablets are best suited to this task.
I need to keep local copies of all my photographs, movies and music and a lot of other data besides
It’s easy to incorporate a large amount of storage in a desktop machine relatively cheaply. Storage is more expensive on a laptop, but there’s always the option of external USB hard drives.
The amount of data I have to store is huge but I need to make sure I have enough
Often, the point at which a laptop needs to be replaced is when its hard drive fills up. Consider this when choosing.
I have data storage needs but am happy to use cloud storage
Chromebooks and notebooks don’t have a lot of local storage and use data stored on the internet.
Where do you need to access your data from? You won’t be able to access your cloud data if you have no internet access. If all your data is stored on a hard drive bac at base you’ll need to implement special measures to access it via the internet. A local copy on your device will go with you whenever you have your device with you.
I have a lot of devices I need to attach: extra monitors, scanner, printer, joystick, graphics tablet and so on…
A desktop will make it a lot easier for you to do this.
I just need to print occasionally
Most printers now come with wireless networking so you don’t need to connect directly to them, just log them in to your broadband wireless network. Use with any sort of machine.
I’d occasionally like to use my computer with a proper keyboard and mouse and a larger monitor
It’s easy to do this with a laptop or Chromebook if you wish.
I’d like to be able to keep my computer going for a long time by improving and adding features to it
It’s not for beginners but this is easily possible with the right desktop.
If only I had a route to keeping my PC going for a little longer
It’s sometimes (but not always) possible to add extra memory (RAM) to a lap top which would help. You could also make use of external storage if you’re running out.
I’m not worried
By and large, when your Chromebook or notebook isn’t up the task, it’s time for a new one.