Deal-buying do’s and don’ts – Laptop Mag

Whether you’re looking for your new everyday laptop or just want to stock up on some accessories, the holiday shopping season, which runs from early November until three weeks after Black Friday, is a great time to buy. But with prices changing daily or even hourly and many “deals” that aren’t particularly good, it’s hard to know when to make a purchase. Here are some helpful tips and a list of potential deals that you should act on right away if you see them appear.

Discounted Laptop

Deal-buying do’s and don’ts

So you’ve picked up a sales flier, clicked on an online ad or seen a post about deals on a site you trust. How can you make sure you’re actually getting a bargain?

1. Do compare the deal price of a product to its current price on Amazon, Newegg and other leading retailers. Sometimes, one site’s “sale” price is still higher than another retailer’s regular price.
2. Do use price history tools, such as camelcamelcamel.com, which tells you the best price a product has ever had on Amazon.

CamelCamelCamel Price History

3. Do configure your laptop with better than the base specs. Some laptops, particularly business systems from Lenovo and Dell, let you pick the CPU, RAM, screen and storage when you buy. You don’t need to settle for the base model when there’s a sale.
4. Don’t buy something just because it’s really cheap. What good is a $150 laptop if it’s too slow to use?
5. Don’t buy from an unknown/disreputable seller. It’s OK to buy from third parties that sell through Amazon or Newegg’s marketplaces, but be wary of deals from eBay sellers you’ve never heard of. Check user ratings if you’re not sure whether a vendor is reliable.
6. Don’t buy a laptop over $500 with a 1366 x 768 display or a hard drive. Premium laptops should have both a 1920 x 1080 or higher resolution screen and a solid-state drive for storage.

How to watch for deals

You’ll see a lot of online ads and get a lot of marketing emails, but the best deals usually don’t fall into your lap; you need to look for them by doing the following:

1. Visiting a deals aggregation center such as our Best Laptop Deals page.
2. Signing up for a deal alert service such as our sister site Shopsavvy.com or Camelcamelcamel.com.
3. Checking the deals pages on Lenovo.com, Dell.com, Newegg, Amazon and other e-tailers.
4. Reading sales fliers for retailers such as Best Buy and Staples.

Laptop deals to watch for this year

If you see any of the following deals happen, jump on them right away:

Dell XPS 13 with Core i5 / 8GB / 256GB for under $1,000: Our favorite laptop because of its light weight and long battery life, the Dell XPS 13 rarely goes on any kind of real sale. Dell didn’t discount it at all during the holiday 2015 season.

Dell XPS 13

It starts at $799 for a model with a slow Core i3 CPU and just 4GB of RAM. The minimum configuration you should buy has a Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB, and normally costs $1,099. If you can get it for $900 or even $999, act right away. Just make sure you get the current generation of the XPS 13, which has a 7th Generation Core Series (ex: Core i5-7200U) CPU.

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 with Core i5 / 8GB / 256GB for under $650: Built for business but fantastic for students or anyone who needs to get work done, the lightweight ThinkPad 13 has the snappiest keyboard of the year, plenty of ports and over 9 hours of battery life.

ThinkPad 13

The price on this laptop fluctuates almost daily, sometimes starting at under $600 and sometimes going for more than $700. But don’t buy the base model, which has a mere Core i3 CPU and 4GB of RAM. Make sure you configure it with a 1080p screen, which comes standard on the silver model, and at least a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. If you can get those specs for under $650, go for it.

Any laptop with a full-HD screen and a 256GB SSD for under $650: To get a truly modern computing experience, you need two components: a full-HD (1920 x 1080) or higher-resolution display, and an SSD with at least 256GB of storage. Normally, you’d have to pay well over $700 for both of these features, so if you can find them together on a system that’s under $650, you’ve found a pretty good deal, no matter what model it is.

Alienware 13 with OLED display for under $1,600: The most beautiful laptop screen you can buy is the OLED panel on the Alienware 13 gaming laptop. Though the Alienware 13 starts at $1,199, the cheapest configuration with the OLED panel goes for $1,799 and sports a Core i7 CPU and Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics. This is the ultimate lightweight gaming rig, and it does VR, too. If you can get the Alienware 13 with an OLED display for $1,600 or less, that’s a steal.

Alienware 13 OLED

Any gaming laptop with Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics for under $1,000: If you want high-end performance in a VR-ready laptop, the minimum graphics chip you should get is the Nvidia GTX 1060. If you can find one on sale for under $1,000, you’ve found a fantastic deal. But at any price, don’t cut corners and buy a computer with a 1366 x 768 screen or a hard drive.

The 2015 MacBook Pro for under $1,150: The new MacBooks may get all the press, but Apple still sells the 2015 model, which is very powerful and has long battery life, for a starting price of $1,299. The base configuration comes with a 2.7-GHz Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. You rarely find any MacBook, even an old one, at a significant discount, so if you see this one drop by $150 or more, it would be quite a find.

Microsoft Surface Book for under $1,300: One of the most innovative laptops on the market, Microsoft’s Surface Book has remained stuck at the starting price of $1,499 since it launched in fall 2015. If you can find the base model for $200 less than that this holiday season, that would be quite a deal.

Surface Book

Monitor and SSD deals

1080p monitor for under $90, 2K monitor for under $150, 4K monitor for under $250: If you need an external monitor, you have a lot of affordable choices, even when there’s no sale. So don’t be thrilled by a 1080p (aka full-HD) screen going for $99 unless it has some other features, because that’s a typical price for a basic display. However, these would be good deals:

1080p for under $90: If it’s less than $90, that’s quite a bit less than usual.
2K (2560 x 1440) for under $150: You normally have to pay closer to $200 to get this resolution.
4K (3840 x 2160) for under $250: The least expensive 4K monitors top out at $299 and are not from top brands such as Samsung, Dell, LG, Asus or Acer. If you can get a decent 4K screen for less than $250, jump on it.

500GB SSD for under $100: The best upgrade you can make to any computer is to swap its old-fashioned hard drive for a speedy new solid-state drive. And if you already have an SSD inside your computer, you may want more capacity. SSDs have gotten dirt cheap in the past couple of years, to the point where you can now get a 256GB unit for less than $80 without a sale. However, if you see a 500GB or larger SSD from a reputable brand for under $100, it’s a very good deal.

Image Credit: Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP’s real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
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