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.
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.
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. We recommend getting a model with at least a 1920 x 1080 display, a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
4. Don't buy something just because it's really cheap. What good is a $150 laptop if it's too slow to use? If it's a secondary laptop or a child's laptop, you can cut more corners.
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 i7 / 8GB / 256GB for under $1,000: The latest version of our favorite consumer laptop, the Dell XPS 13 lasts over 16 hours on a charge, has a luxurious carbon-fibre chassis and a bright, colorful screen. The configuration with the 8th Gen Core i7-8550U CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD normally goes for $1,299, but this holiday season, we've seen it to drop as low as $930 with a coupon. Getting it for under $1,000 is a steal. We're tracking all of the XPS 13 deals and Dell laptop deals for you, because they are changing very rapidly.
ThinkPad T470 with 1080p screen / Core i5/ 8GB / 256GB for under $1,000: Our favorite productivity laptop lasts over 17 hours on a charge (with 6-cell battery) and features the best laptop keyboard you can get. Though it starts at under $900, the ThinkPad T470 typically costs over $1,250 when configured with the minimum specs you'd want: a 1920 x 1080 display, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. If you can find it for under $1,000 with those components, pull the trigger.
Any laptop with a full-HD screen and a 256GB SSD for under $550: 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. With one or two notable exceptions (ex: the Acer E 15), most laptops that have these features cost well over $600. If you find one for under $550 or even under $500, that's a fantastic deal.
MacBook Air for $799, MacBook Pro for $1,299: Apple itself rarely offers substantial deals, but as of this past weekend, Best Buy was selling the entry-level MacBook Air for under $800. We've also seen some MacBook Pros for under $1,400. See our list of Apple deals for up-to-the-minute coverage.
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.
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 $150: 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 $150, it's a very good deal. As of this writing, Amazon is selling the Samsung Evo 500B SSD for $139.
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