When considering a new computer the question comes up as to how much you should pay.
You should pay for whatever it takes to serve your purposes, present and future.
That might not be entirely clear at the outset.
Unfortunately I see many users paying too much or too little for what they need, even though prices have dropped a lot.
There is no need to pay more for a tablet than the $230 Nexus 7 second generation. Spending less will get you fewer capabilities, and spending more will gain you little or nothing, unless you have a special reason for a particular capability, such as ability to mirror to a TV.
If you need a laptop, there is every reason to buy a Mac Book Air at $1000 plus. Although this is the most expensive of laptops, what you gain is no cutting corners to give you the best.
If you do purchase a Windows machine, there is no reason to spend anywhere near that much for a machine which will not give you better service and just cost more.
What you are buying is nothing more than processor speed and memory that you will never need if you are not doing many things at a time or doing games & video editing.
A mechanical or optical hard drive may just be an unnecessary nuisance. You can always plug in an optical drive, but nowadays you should not need one. There are better options.
A $300 touch screen Windows 8.1 laptop will do the job if you are conscientious about opening only one or two applications at a time. Without a touch screen, your machine is severely limited in ease of use. Windows 8.1 is not worth having unless you are willing to learn how to use it, which will then be worth the effort.
Now, want to spend more?
If vision is a concern, or if you need to have a large screen, then almost any device will work nowadays with a TV or large display. Just be sure you have the proper connector or converter to do the job. A TV box may be needed.
The same applies to a keyboard although you may need a particular keyboard device.
For example, the iPad, with an Apple TV box, can work with your TV and add on keyboard to serve the same purpose as any other computer.
If you play videogames or do video editing you will absolutely require a powerful machine which will cost you $$$. Don't scrimp.
If you are a touch typist, you may feel lost without a friendly touch keyboard like the old IBM Selectric, a classic machine loved by all of us who ever used it.
If you are a poor typist, or even if you are not, you may want speech recognition. In that case only the best will do. That means speaker independent internet aided speech recognition such as Google's.
If you travel or move around a lot you will absolutely want a small device. You will want something with a solid state drive. The Samsung Chromebook laptop will do the job at $250, as will the Nexus 7 tablet if you do not need a keyboard.
It may be useful to choose a machine used by others who can help you.
Remember also, that there may be no machine which will fill all your requirements, and you may need two devices rather than one. It may be better to have two than to spend a lot on a single device.
Whatever you choose, you may very well need a new printer. Again, too much is often spent for a bulky device. No more than $100 will get you a fine all in one printer.
It does make sense to have two printers, a laser printer to keep ink costs down, and an all in one for all other functions. Both should be small. My Canon all in one cost $50 including some other items thrown in by Walmart and is recommended by Consumer Reports.
What makes little or no sense is to use or buy old equipment, no matter what seems like a bargain. New equipment will do more for the same investment.
It is almost always a good idea to read the manual for a new piece of equipment, even before buying. Manuals are almost always available on internet.
A very good and popular book may also be advised. Just make sure you get the best one, often by first reading user comments on Amazon. The book should have plenty of pictures of screen processes.
Choose the easiest machines to use for your particular needs. A tablet comes first, followed by a Chromebook, followed by a tablet, preferably from Apple for Apple support, then only a Windows machine with touch screen.
Windows 8.1 is mainly for someone who wants or needs to infinitely configure his machine for all kinds of purposes. That capability is the prominent benefit of Windows.
Windows 8 is not a good choice for those who want to learn nothing new and stick to the old Windows unless...they stick to the desktop only in Windows 8.1.
It is not a waste of money to buy into support such as Apple's support if you will be able to take full advantage of it.
A cost saving measure is to combine your computer and TV by using a TV with another device for both TV viewing and computer. That is fine if your mobility is limited and you have limited space.
Does it make sense to buy something you want even if you don't need it?
It certainly will make sense if you will regret not having it sometime later.
A very popular device is an all in one computer in which the computer and screen are in a single case and there are very few wires. The keyboard is wireless. If you want that, go for it.
And for cell phones, the simplest will do the job. On the other hand a large cell phone can do much of your tablet work. You can now obtain an unlocked phone and pick your service separately.
There are now very inexpensive cell phone plans which will do the job.
Even a non phone tablet may provide what you need in phoning via Wi-Fi.
A hot box such as that from Freedompop can connect almost any device to internet. It will work almost anywhere but needs to be in a place where it can "see" that cell tower.
The big thing about Internet service is to choose a service which indeed provides service and does not pass on to you most of the support.
In summary, it is possible to buy a tablet, a laptop, a new printer, and Wi-Fi hardware, all of them outstanding, for way under $1000. You may or may not want to chintz on your internet service.
Oh, and as for cases, very low cost cases can be found on Amazon or eBay. The idea here is not to spend more but to choose wisely after studying Amazon comments.