Editor’s Note: Updated for 2015!
We are getting close to the holiday shopping season, and that means many shoppers are going to be in the market for a new laptop, desktop, or tablet for themselves or their families. But is Christmas time the best time of year to purchase a computer? The answer is cloudier than you think. Before joining Integrity, I spent six years in technology retail. Let me share with you some of my tips when shopping for a new PC.
Don’t purchase a PC on Black Friday
Most of the computers that have the largest sales on them for Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) are special Black Friday-only models. This has a few bad consequences. They are typically constructed as cheaply as possible and with obsolete or mismatched parts. Computer manufacturers will do this to get rid of surplus inventory of outdated components. Black Friday deals are also usually all sold out during that weekend, so if you get a bad one, there won’t be another left to make an exchange. Shoppers will also be able to get better-than-normal deals on stores’ regularly-offered computers throughout the holiday season, so save your Black Friday shopping for other items!
Know the product cycle
While shopping, I once saved a family from purchasing an iPad 2 the day before the iPad 3 was released. That salesperson was trying to make a sale of an out of date iPad and taking advantage of an uninformed customer. Don’t be that customer! New models of Windows computers typically come out four times a year: January (after Christmas), late April (Tax Day/graduation), July (before Back to School), and October (before holiday season). New Apple computer and iPad models have also been released recently this fall.
Consider clearance models versus new models
If you catch a period where stores are changing out their inventory, you might have the option between a clearance machine and its new replacement model. Both have their benefits and drawbacks in purchasing. Clearance models can usually be had for far less money than a new model with comparable specs, but they are also older designs. Often clearance models are former display units. Display computers are almost never turned off and run non-stop (even overnight) for months at a time. I would not recommend buying a display unit unless it has not been on display for long. A brand new model will offer newer components and nicer features, but may also hold undiscovered bugs or issues. Before making your decision, it is best to visit the manufacturer’s support website to check to see if there are many owners complaining of issues with that model on the website’s forums.
Be aware of multi-year trends in technology
While there usually are 4 new model “refreshes” per year for PCs, many hardware and software improvements do not happen as quickly. Intel releases processor updates every 12-18 months, Microsoft releases new versions of Windows every 3 years. Other technology like memory can use the same standard for 6 years or more.
The 2015 holiday season is actually a phenomenal time to purchase a new PC, because almost all of these longer-period technology improvements have all had major upgrades in the past few months. We now have Windows 10, Intel’s new 6th-generation i-series processors, a new type of memory (DDR4), and UltraHD and other higher resolution displays, among other improvements.
Are any of you looking at purchasing a new computer or tablet this holiday season? What other shopping tips might you be interested in learning from a former retail sales manager? Leave a comment!