Minimum PC Specs Nowadays?

If you don’t want to spend a fortune on laptop PC nowadays, what are the minimum specs it should have? This is a laptop for a middle schooler’s use for general purposes for school and personal leisure on the internet (watching videos, playing Minecraft, and such). Possibly some desire for video chatting… What would you recommend (assuming a Windows OS). What processor? What minimum RAM? Or, what PC make/model? (Obviously, Dell first comes to mind, but you may have other thoughts…)

A surface 3 (not pro) should be plenty maybe with the larger hard drive.

Right now is a great time to get a good deal on an budget laptop.

A Surface 3 is $500.

For half that you can get a laptop with a quad-core processor, 4GB RAM, and a 1TB HDD:

4GB memory is the absolute minimum. I’d go for 8GB if you can afford it. Storage drive, 256GB is the absolute minimum, with 512 being a more “reasonable” minimum. SSDs are more reliable but more expensive than HDDs. For example, if you’re just buying a hard drive plain, you can get a 1TB HDD for less than the cost of a 256GB SSD but unless he’s dealing with lots of saved video data he probably will never use all of 1TB. So keep that in mind when looking at what kind of storage drives laptops come with. Laptops usually get bounced around a lot so usually an HDD will mechanically fail sooner than an SSD, but price is also a big factor there. The processor should probably be an intel i5, but I bet you can get away with an i3 just fine. The graphics card you don’t have much choice about as they’re integrated. Minecraft has low system spec requirements so it should work fine on whatever happens to be in the laptop you get in terms of graphics card. The above minimums will allow video chatting as well, given you have a cable/DSL connection or equivalent.

If there is a Microsoft Store in a nearby mall, I’d suggest visiting it as they have a variety of notebook and tablet systems from various manufacturers on display. You and the middle-school-age child can play with various ones to see if the size, keyboard and weight are comfortable. If you buy the computer from them, they can guarantee that there will be no crapware on the system.

If you don’t have a Microsoft Store nearby, Best Buy stores have a reasonably large selection of models on display as well.

Minimum spec? Pretty much anything reasonably recent will do.

Look for a deal on a Lenovo Thinkpad, They were much more durable than Dell laptops IME. For a child a SSD is nice to have but not essential.

Do check to see if the school has any deals going.

What does the term “solid state” really mean? I recall when my parents’ TVs all said “solid state” on them. …Perhaps as opposed to vacuum tubes? And now for today, what does “solid state” mean? I get the impression the PC is “instant-on”, no boot-up time. But, since I doubt the HHDs aren’t using vacuum tubes these days…what’s the difference?

Solid state, wrt hard disks, means there’s no motor and no spinning platters. Nothing inside the drive moves - like flash memory. These are usually much faster than standard hard disks.

Thanks for explaining!

Now, how to shop processors? Might a slower processor actually be better, or is processing speed alone not the full story? For example, I hear an i5 processor is supposed to be better than a Dual Core. Yet, I see the i5 is significantly slower. If the i5 is truly better, in what ways? How do you explain this discrepancy?

Also, are all model processor names unique to one make, like “i5”…or, can the same name be used by different manufacturers (makes)? And, even if unique, are all make/model processors the same? For example, I see the specs of an Intel i5 processor expressed as a range of processing speeds. Is this because the speed will vary, or is this because you can purchase one specific make & model processor within a range of desired processing speeds? (I suspect the former.) Pardon my ignorance…I haven’t been in the market for a PC for a long time.

Slower by what measure? Which benchmarks are you looking at? For processors in the same generation and series (i.e. comparing desktop processors against each other, not desktop vs. mobile), a Pentium Dual Core should be slower than an i5 by pretty much all performance measures. (Note, however, that clock speed has very little to do with performance, unless you’re comparing processors that are otherwise identical. E.g. A Skylake core-i5 2.0GHz is faster than a Skylake core-i5 1.8 GHz, but it may or may not be faster than a Pentium Dual Core 2.4 GHz.)

Pentium, Celeron, Atom, Core-i3, Core-i5 and Core-i7 are all trademarked by Intel. Nobody else can use those names. Each processor model comes in several different variants, with different clock frequencies. A “Core i7” ranges from a 2-core 2.5GHz mobile (laptop) processor to a 4-core 4GHz desktop processor. But generally for a comparable line, a core i7 peforms better than a core i5, which performs better than a core i3, etc. I.e. a laptop with a low voltage “U” series core-i7 processor is faster than one with a “U” series core-i5, but it may be slower than an i5 desktop.

Sheesh, go check out modern laptops. A 2GB RAM, 32GB storage with a CherryTrail (Atom) processor is the minimum requirement. With a microSD expansion slot, then you can increase the memory cheaply. You can buy such a desktop (without screen) for $99 such as the Kangaroo, and a laptop for under $169.

Here is the Minecraft recommended(not minimum) specs:
Recommended Requirements:
•CPU: Intel Core i3 or AMD Athlon II (K10) 2.8 GHz
•GPU: GeForce 2xx Series or AMD Radeon HD 5xxx Series (Excluding Integrated Chipsets) with OpenGL 3.3
•Latest release of Java 8 from

You can get a 4GB and 500GB hard drive for $199.

I would highly recommend buying a Microsoft Signature Image PC (definitely available in person or on line from the MSFT store). This is a clean image PC without all the crapware installed. To me, it is totally worth not having to go in and delete all the crapware that brand makers generally ship with their PCs. (Full disclosure: I am recently ex MSFT employee and still recommend the Microsoft Store and the Microsoft Signature Image PC’s as by far the best choice to get a good clean PC. I’m actually not sure but if you can get a Microsoft Signature Image PC from Best Buy or anywhere else, that’s equivalent. If you didn’t know, PC brands get $5 or so from Norton anti virus or any of the other junk they pre-install, and this usually is not optimized and bogs down a new PC’s performance. And I’m no longer employed by MSFT but still 100% recommend you get a Signature Image PC from whatever source you want.)