I have a neighbour who knowing that I have dabbled in computers for more than twenty years has asked my advice as to upgrading his PC. As I said to him, the options these days is vastly more complex to when I started, with now a bewildering number of options available. I advised him that I would pose the question here for advice.
He currently has a Medion Akoya E4120 with an Intel Pentium E5700 processor (3.0 GHz, 2MB cache) 3GB DDR3 SDRAM, about four years old.
The most subjective programme that he uses is Photoshop for photo editing, which he does a lot. Uses Microsoft Office a lot, e-mailing and general surfing. He does not play games except Mahjong and similar low level (?) applications.
He is relatively happy with what he has but asked as to what is available now that would be more superior to what he has now. It would appear that he has offered his PC to his daughter but does not want to hand it over till he has replaced it.
He has a budget in the region of £500, wants to keep his same keyboard, mouse and Samsung 24” HDMI screen.
With regards to W7, some retailer's like CCL, Scan have purchased large stocks of W7, which will last to well into 2015. Computer's with W8 or W8.1 will apparently have an option to 'upgrade' to W9 (?) for free (W8.1) or for £20.00 (W8).
I am not sure how much resources the likes of your friends existing computer activities take, or their future needs, but perhaps a look at the computer range Argos are offering might be worth considering. Yesterday I purchased a ready to work out of the box 'bundled' Acer Aspire XC-603/J2900 desktop computer complete with monitor and W8.1 from Argos for £289.99 (Argos catalogue number 242/7021). If this suits the needs, then price wise, you might not better. Specification wise, that would depend.
compumac: Assuming that, as you say, his current computer is 4 years old and wasn't a ludicrously expensive Gaming machine.
All PCs available today will be considerably faster than his current one. £5/600 will get him a Desktop which will carry out all the functions , you have mentioned.
My advice: Look for any PC, in the price range, whose case looks good in the surroundings he intends to put it. One can faff around forever debating the Pros and Cons of one Spec as opposed to another.
Buy the Magazine, look at the recommendations, visit the websites, most of the PCs available now work faster than our brains can think anyway, get the one in a case that appeals to him.
I think that the reason that he asked my advice was that he had already done the exercise of looking through magazines, websites etc. and became a little bewildered by the array of choice and also being unable to fathom out the ramifications of the various specs.
I believe that he would follow the advice from a knowledgeable person who specified Model XXXXX produced by YYYYY would suit.
He is quite satisfied with the performance of Photoshop editing and has a 1TB hard drive but his data is on a lesser sized drive, I think 500GB, and he has 3GB ram. Has not complained about the efficiency of Photoshop performance.
Basically I believe he just wants to update the existing system with the reason for change is that he might give his old(?) PC to his daughter.
Dont go for less than an i5 processor, with 8Mb ram, and a 1Tb hard drive, That will fly compared to his original. Just google the market for those minimum specs and hope for the best. Most modern machines are fairly good as regards breakdowns, the reliability of today's components is A1 so the choice of supplier is ? ? ?