In the '90s there was a terrible marketing slogan that argued by the time you purchased a computer and brought it home, it was already out of date. This wasn't true then and it's not true today.
My family invested in an encyclopedia that lasted us a good decade. After that, they invested in a personal computer. It wasn't cheap. It ended up being the entire family's shared Christmas gift. But I will argue until I'm blue in the face that it was one of their best investments. It helps that I received a large amount of value from it. That ol' PC taught me to love to learn, research, write, build things, and share with others. PCs together with the Internet have democratized learning.
Building a laptop is rarely easy or economical, but a desktop is surprisingly easy to do.
Is it better to build or buy a desktop PC? That depends on if you want to learn how to build a PC. Building can save money & allow you to pick out quality parts. Buying can save you time and the hassle of selecting parts & building the PC.
If you're looking for a computer to use once in a while to browse the Internet and run a few apps, I recommend seeing if an iPad will fit your needs. They tend to give a great experience for a low price. You can get a keyboard or pen to use with it. They also put a little more effort into privacy than others.
For a higher-end laptop, I'm a fan of anything made by Microsoft or Apple.
Quality parts are important. I have had amazing luck over multiple decades with a higher-end Asus motherboard and mid-range to high-end Corsair everything else. Corsair doesn't make a processor but with a little research, you can find what the top of the line processors are. I prefer to pick the processor rated with the best price vs performance ratio in the latest lineup. Right now AMD seems to be destroying Intel.
I can't stress how important it is to get enough memory on your laptop or PC. If you are going to get a desktop or laptop, make sure it has at least 8 GB of memory. If you can afford more, please do. Memory (RAM) is what allows your PC to keep running fast when lots of applications are trying to work at the same time. Even if you just browse the web, lots of memory can save the day if you have a bunch of tabs open. Recipe blogs and anything Pinterest related will suck up as much memory as the browser will let it.
A great thing about memory is that it can be super easy to upgrade later on both laptops & desktops.
On a side note, using an ad blocker or browser like Brave can help quite a bit here. Brave also has a nice & easy option to turn off scripts on web pages. Sometimes this makes a web page unusable. Other times, it improves the web page & makes it much easier to read.
The amount of hard drive space you need depends on how much you plan to install and how much you plan to utilize cloud services like OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, etc. If you have a desktop it's very easy to add another hard drive to store files & applications on. This makes hard drive space one item where you can try to save some money and upgrade later.
This is the foundation of the computer. I prefer not to have to update these two components. When I get to this point I feel as if I might as well start from scratch. Odds are it's time to recycle my PC anyway. If you're doing research on your PC, look into the motherboard and see how much of the latest & greatest it has for features. Check how much memory it can support. See if it is using the latest USB standards. A little research here can mean these two components will last you a decade or more.