I have drunk way too much water, tea, juice but the cold is finally starting to clear. I have done the distro shuffle on my main box, back to Ubuntu 11.10. I dislike Unity but it is not that bad. Just not handy enough or intuitive enough for me. Intuitive means it works akin to how I am wired so that it seems it was made for me. Otherwise you got to get used to a different way of thinking. This is why choice in Linux is so great. You can find what suits you or tweak to suit. Mint was great but again I don't have the resources to support Gnome Shell in comfort. Comfort means no glitches, hesitations or malfunctions due to low memory and/or older graphic card. All the newer stuff forces you to upgrade, you can't escape it. If you buy a new PC, also buy as much RAM memory as you can afford or will fill it. Sure as shootin someone will write software that demands it and your comfort level will drop. 2 gig of RAM on my desktop will make it run better and accommodate the present software.
Slowly wheels and wires are disappearing. Wireless mice and keyboards abound. I got a mouse with a finger rail instead of a mouse wheel, man did that take a while to get used to. If you invest, PC memory price is stable to the point that old memory cost the same as when first put on the shelf. High when new, high now that it's older and not restocked. Laptop memory is the same way. New memory for new PCs and laptops are a good bargain, cheaper than the old stuff, get it from the get.
My old Gateway 4026gz laptop is resurrected again. I got a used 20gig hard drive for $15. It does not boot from USB flash, darn it, has 512MB ram and has a missing keyboard key. Hey, your first hotrod still under the green tarp, at least mine is running. I put Xubuntu 11.10 on it and it is so cool. The battery needs replaced, the keyboard, I disconnected the fingerpad. I am going to take out the keyboard, put in a filler and buy a USB keyboard. I am not alone in driving my PCs into the ground. When I get stuff to recycle from others, there is not much left but a spent carcass and OT (old technology, what did you think?). I have 4 really old laptops and a half a dozen desktops, a trunk full.
I do have my eye on new or near new stuff. I am ready for a new Desktop and Laptop. I thought about the ipads and the screens are not big enough and the CPUs are not powerful enough for my work and horse play. I still like to install my own stuff and that cloud thing smacks of not controlling my own data. Cable PC anyone?
In any case if you don't need light dimming graphics for photography or 3D work or serious gaming, you could replace a desktop with a laptop. If they can boot from a flash drive then you don't have to worry about the size of the on board hard drive, but get that RAM. Still, make sure the graphics system is adequate.