Good Morning husser80,
I really appreciate your prudence in asking for advice on this topic. There are so many choices out there it is easy to become overwhelmed. First off let me preface the following statement by saying that it's difficult to pick a system FOR someone. Computers have become so basic to our day to day life that it really has become a matter of personal expression the type you purchase. Now that said most pre-builds are pretty much the same. HP's makes some good some not so good. Same for Dell and all the majors. I prefer Dell because there customer service is always extremely easy in my experience to deal with and they tend to honor whatever warranty agreements you have purchased. You would think this was a given but ask some people that purchased the HP DV series Laptops a few years back and they will tell you. It's Not!
You sound like a basic day to day functional user who needs to surf the web without any delays or lag and your wife seems to be a tad more advanced if I may risk saying so. She probably users one of the Microsoft Suite of office programs if she doing filing, data entry and spreadsheets. You also relay on your systems to access your E-mail so You need something with a little bit of storage.
Try to order whatever you choose direct. I suggest going to Dells wedsite and doing some windows shopping. They often have great deals and the are extremely secure and mindful of your personal info. I believe that they have laptops right now for under $300.00 and check out the Clearance section for your desktop. The monitor question is a resounding YES. Few things are a more dramatic upgrade than a nice big new monitor 19" and above have become almost cheap so go for broke, you wont regret it I actually upgraded to a 27" from Dell a few months ago and paid just over $300.00 which is a great price and boy was I impressed with the overall difference it made.
You have the option of chatting with a Dell sales agent right there and they can walk you through and satisfy all your current needs as well as help you advance and be prepared for upcoming fundemental changes.
A couple pointers if you choose someone else, You do NOT need an i5 or i7 multi-core processor, way more than you would use. You do not need any additional Video Cards. You might want to invest in some after market speakers, once again cheap these days for some pretty descent products and its very easy to stream video content and music and descent speakers go along way. Logitech makes a whole series anywhere from a few bucks to several hundred.
The most important thing for you sir is going to be RAM. Internet speed is dependant on RAM and I would suggest something with at least 4 Gigs if not 6 or 8, once again pretty basic. Go ahead and spring for the Terabyte hard drive as well. If you get it now you probably wont have to worry about it again.
Good luck my friend and happy shopping.
I have an old Dell with XP and a not quite as old Sony laptop with Vista. Both are becoming sources of problems and after more trips than necessart to have them worked on it is time to replace them. My wife uses the laptop and I use the desktop. She does files and other things for an organization we belong to, while I am looking for woodworking plans and tools. We use e mail like most do now. Not looking for anything for gaming but do want something that will be fine for most things we need to want it to do. With the desktop, should I be looking for a system with a new monitor? Seems like that would be good to do. Need some help and advice before I wander off to the stores. Hate to spend the money but here in TN the no tax days are coming quickly and would like to take advantage of them. Thanks