@jonobacon , I feel your pain re: computer upgrades. I upgraded not only my system but my wife’s. I had an AMD Phenom X4 840, and my wife had a core2duo system. I last upgraded mine was 2008, and my wife’s was circa 15 years old.
So I found three things that helped me navigate the rocks and shoals of computer upgrades.
- http://cpu.userbenchmark.com to compare various parts, primarily CPUs.
- http://pcpartpicker.com to match cpu/motherboard/memory etc and build out a system.
- A geek son-in-law to bounce ideas off of.
So I ended up getting an Intel i7-6850 with 16gb of ram, on an asus mobo and a new case.The rest of the parts came forward from the previous builds.
I also agree with @sil that a desktop is the best and most cost-effective way to go. You can put huge amounts of storage on it, and you can upgrade individual parts. I have done exactly what he suggested. I have my desktop, with a 27" monitor, clicky mechanical keyboard, and gaming mouse. I also went out and bought a cheap used lenovo laptop off of ebay. When I am at home at my desk, I use synergy to control both laptops (I have a work Dell lappy too) from the desktop’s keyboard and mouse.