When you feel the need for a new PC, and have less than £500 to spare, there are now some challenging choices to make.

For someone who needs performance and mobility, I might recommend a budget laptop. We were recently surprised at just how much laptop even £400 can buy you these days – and from high-quality brands, too.

Budget laptop reviews

But if they need a PC that’s better suited to web surfing, emailing and entertainment, and rightly don’t want to get bogged down by viruses and security worries, I’d recommend an iPad. Many people, who were educated to think they need a whirring tower by their feet to fulfil the role, are now becoming liberated by embracing a take-anywhere tablet that lasts for days without recharging.

Apple iPad 2 review

I’ve heard people criticise the tablet for being unable to do some of the things a ‘normal’ PC can. And that’s often true, if you’ve grown up in a mouse-and-keyboard world. But what about all the things you can do on a tablet that are impossible for a desktop, or even laptop PC?

If someone really wants a big computer, and doesn’t mind matching monitors, peripherals, wires and cables, and will enjoy installing the weekly patches and virus updates, there’s the cheap Windows PC. You can get a whole heap of PC for less than £500, as we see in our Top 5 chart. I wouldn’t recommend them to someone naïve enough about computing to ask what type of PC they need. The desktop’s time came and went.

Budget PC reviews

Even Microsoft is clutching at tablet straws with its mash-up of Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 in Windows 8. The sheer diversity of modern PCs, from smartphone to tablet to laptop, is helping to erode the ecosystem upon which it built its earlier monopoly in desktop PCs.

Windows 8 review

The future for personal computing is becoming more personal, more mobile. To misquote a professional photographer’s adage, the only good computer is the computer you’ve got with you.