Well, it’s time to go back to school and time to change our setups ! Here’s my 2021 Back to school laptop spec guide (Intel Edition), where I’ll cover not the laptops, but the specs and what they can do. I’ll be covering Intel chipsets in this one. It’s a long one, so sit back, relax, maybe grab some popcorn because there will be some life anecdotes as well!
As a student, you have 3 options
- Dirt cheap – Baseline (Under $400)
- Cheap – A good middle ground (Under $600)
- Not so cheap – A midrange (Under $1,000)
- All prices are for Indian Territory
Let’s get started with the dirt cheap option – this is what you’ll mostly get here. You’ll find Celerons and Pentiums galore and maybe a few Intel Atoms. But, if you’re here, what you should be looking for is something like a Pentium 3558u or above. No Celerons or Atom chips, they’ll make you regret it. An ideal laptop would have a Pentium Gold chipset or a Pentium Gold G5600 of the ‘Coffee Lake’ 8th Generation Intel processor series, a minimum of 4GB DDR3L or DDR4 RAM and Intel HD Graphics paired with a HDD. I recommend 8GB RAM or at least 6GB. DDR3L sticks are hard to come by, that’s why I prefer DDR4. Why did I mention the Pentium 3558u ? That’s because I’ve had some beautiful memories with it. It was my first laptop, with 4GB RAM, which I later upgraded to 6GB RAM and I used for 4 long years. I did some video editing on Filmora8 , gaming and even recordings on it. However, when running such a rig you need grit and patience because it will lag. This rig is enough for writing Word documents, making presentations, running Teams, Google meet, Zoom with PPTs simultaneously. You can even run Minecraft on it at 60FPS with some setting tweaks such as Optifine, sub-12 render distance, VSYNC-off. I managed to even play Watch Dogs on it! I still have that laptop in my tech-wardrobe, I take it out every once in a while, purely for nostalgia. You can get one of these rigs for under 30,000 INR with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD or a 1TB HDD, whatever your choice. I’d prefer the SSD, a little more speed is always good! Also, I’d recommend using Windows 7 on this one rather than Windows 10 for seamless usage. Heads up, Adobe applications won’t work, neither will Corel Draw because it’s Windows 7. I highly recommend you do not use Windows 10, it lags the laptop a lot. Telling this from some bad experiences. This is not a machine for multitasking. Plus, 8GB RAM prefitted in Pentiums is hard to come by, so prefer getting it upgraded.
However, you can’t push this rig too much, as it’s a baseline model.
Onto the next one – Intel i3. This is what will appeal to most people. It’s neither a potato PC or a ROG rig. It hits a perfect balance, a sweet spot. It can handle most AAA titles like Need for Speed Payback, Heat and titles such as Modern Warfare and Warzone run fairly well. Minecraft with BSL shaders runs at 60fps well. It can run modern programs such as Premiere and After Effects without a hitch. Windows 10 is a breeze on such rigs. It can multitask well and can do almost anything a student needs (or wants). A good setup would be an Intel i3, with 8 or 16GB DDR4 RAM, 4GB not recommended and a HDD or SSD. Such models with i3, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD/256GB SSD would set you back Rs.42,000 or more if you go for a bigger RAM or more storage with SSDs. You can run Windows 10 on these seamlessly.
8GB + 1TB HDD
8GB + 256GB SSD
Let’s get to the midranger, something most students want but can’t afford. The Core i5s. This machine is practically the most, actually an overkill to what a student needs. This machine can breeze through After Effects, Premiere, DaVinci Resolve and play 4K games such as Ghost of Sushima, Watch Dogs 2 in FHD, Minecraft with Sildur’s Extreme Volumetric Lighting shaders at 200FPS and record 60FPS HD Gameplay using OBS and even stream these smoothly to any broadcasting service. These rigs usually come pre equipped with 8GB RAM, 16GB recommended as always. This can do almost everything that you want. Windows 10 is as smooth as butter on this machine, however, all of it comes at a cost. The cheapest machine with a Core i5, 8th Generation 16GB RAM with a 500GB HDD costs 54,900 INR and moving back to 8GB RAM, 50,999. At this price, you’re getting the absolute monster of a machine that any student wants, this spec laptop isn’t a need unless the student is into designing, autoCAD work, video editing or post production, which are one of the most demanding applications which need all the processing power they can get. In fact, I’m writing this on Word on a Core i5-8th Gen, 16GB RAM with a 1TB HDD, with 20 running chrome tabs, Zoom open in the background, outlook constantly pinging, 5 excel sheets open, 13 Word files open alongside this, Adobe acrobat open and Microsoft Edge. I’ve blurred out some apps to avoid copyright infractions – see the screenshot here – Screenshot .
https://www.amazon.in/gp/slredirect/picassoRedirect.html/ref=pa_sp_atf_aps_sr_pg1_1?ie=UTF8&adId=A0916621305R9WFNKOZNY&url=%2FMSI-i5-10210U-39-62cms-Windows-A10M-482IN%2Fdp%2FB08NTVZMWD%2Fref%3Dsr_1_1_sspa%3Fdchild%3D1%26keywords%3Di5%2BLaptop%26qid%3D1629365329%26sr%3D8-1-spons%26psc%3D1&qualifier=1629365329&id=5288859007784089&widgetName=sp_atf (8GB +512 NVMe SSD)
Still, it’s running just fine. If you’re curious, it’s a Lenovo ThinkPad.
So, which one should you get ?
If your work is simple, writing and making powerpoints and doing some light gaming on the side, the Pentium is good enough. It’ll satisfy all that you need to get, but not more.
However, if you want to use heavier programs such as Premiere, you must go for the 2nd or 3rd option, whatever your budget permits. It’ll give the much needed breathing space and an almost lagless performance.
The 3rd option is a bit of an overkill for all those who don’t use heavy applications, but is a good option for Premiere, DaVinci, Adobe XD, Photoshop and autoCAD or Coreldraw.
Also, a note before I sign off. Prefer to pay extra and get the Microsoft Office and Windows bundled in. I know, cracks cost lesser, but in the long run, licenses are better.
Thanks for reading!
Important Points –
SSDs VS HDDs
SSDs read information faster, making the entire laptop faster while writing data (such as playing a game or restarting the laptop), unlike an HDD where a disk has a sector, which has to be read individually. SSDs make the laptop faster, significantly.
For all the laptops – do not go for any laptop (refurbished or used) that is below 6th generation and I recommend a minimum of ‘Coffee Lake’ or 8th Generation of Intel processors.