How much should you spend on a new computer?

New computer costs vary hugely, so what do you need to spend to get a decent new device?

Tuesday, 23 January, 2024

The start of a new year is often a time of optimism, but for many people, 2024 is going to be a year of financial struggles.

While mortgage rates and inflation are finally coming down, disposable incomes are being squeezed by a variety of factors, with instability in Ukraine and Taiwan threatening to make things worse.

This is therefore not a great time for your old computer to start failing.

Yet the components in a modern computer lead a punishing life and can’t be expected to go on forever.

When you add in the in-built seven-year obsolescence attached to many Apple products, new computer costs are worth bearing in mind at all times.

However, they vary hugely. You can buy a Chromebook for £250 or a gaming PC for £2,500.

The question is, what do you have to pay in new computer costs for a machine that’ll meet your needs not just today, but for years to come?

Below, we consider the main variables affecting new computer costs, starting with what’s under the bonnet…

Operating system

There are four main OS options, each with distinct pros and cons:

  • Microsoft Windows is deservedly the market leader, running the widest range of software. It’s prone to malware, but remains the default in workplaces around the world.
  • Linux was developed as a rival to Windows and is a popular choice thanks to extensive customisation options. Incompatible distros (versions) complicate matters for beginners.
  • ChromeOS is Google’s take on a lightweight Linux-style OS. It’s affordable and easy to use for online activities, though it struggles with file management and PC-style gaming.
  • macOS is Apple’s operating system for desktop and laptop devices. It’s easy to learn but expensive to buy, and there can be compatibility issues with some software platforms.

For most people, Windows remains the obvious choice. It runs the widest array of third-party software, and is pre-installed on most of the computers displayed in your local retailer.

This is where you’ll notice the next major factor affecting new computer costs…


Once upon a time, computers came almost exclusively in desktop form, but advances in laptop design in the 1990s made them a viable alternative for the first time.

Today, laptops include the aforementioned Chromebooks – cheap to buy but with limited specifications that make them unsuitable for tasks like video editing or intensive gaming.

Desktops have also moved away from the ugly beige towers of yesteryear, with today’s slimline towers sporting LED lighting, focal-point fans and transparent sidewalls.

If you lack room for a tower, you could even invest in an all-in-one device, though these minimalist machines (with components hidden inside their monitors) are very expensive.

Speaking of which…


Many computers are sold as packages, bundling in a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and possibly even a printer as well.

If you’re replacing an existing device, these might all be superfluous. There’s no point throwing perfectly good peripherals into landfill if they’re still fully functional.

Laptops tend to incorporate everything you need, as do two-in-one devices which might additionally replace (or serve as) a tablet for car journeys and holidays.

Laptops can be given the everyday practicality of desktop devices simply by plugging them into a docking station which powers multiple peripherals through a single USB port.

For this reason, the additional cost of a laptop is often justified by its greater flexibility.

A well-chosen laptop can be as practical as a desktop yet as portable as a large tablet, with powerful components on high-end models.

Yet if all you really need is something capable of word processing, web streaming and a little light gaming, a budget PC or Chromebook might be perfectly sufficient.

For more intensive applications, you’ll need to look for higher levels of RAM, storage and GPU performance, inevitably increasing costs compared to budget machines.

Unless you’re already enmeshed in the Apple ecosystem, we’d recommend avoiding Mac devices, which have an in-built obsolescence that necessitates periodic replacement.

Similarly, a serviceable Chromebook may suddenly stop working properly because Google no longer supports its software – making it nothing more than an expensive paperweight.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!