I need your help, team.

Any excuse to use this classic.

I'm going to be starting a part-time certificate course in January and my laptop situation is not cutting it. I need help in buying a new one.

I'll be doing general web surfing, some intense googling and considerable word processing/spreadsheet. As some of you know, I also dabble in ms paint art, so it's gotta be PC.

I'm looking in the $500 range. Not sure if pricing is different in the States, but mostly what I'm asking for help with is knowing what specs to look at and where those specs should be.

What is a processor and why do I want one (or two)? Got a lock down on screen size. Rams are animals, why do I need 6 of them? Are novelty things like touchscreens and such worth it? Which brands do y'all have good experiences with? Hold my hand, please.

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ETA: you guys are the best and have given me the right amount of the right things to think about!