Maybe there was a time when you could catch a killer deal on electronics and technology on Black Friday, but nowadays the best promotions are few and far between, says K.T. Bradford, news editor at Laptop magazine.
The best discounts, which are advertised to hundreds of thousands of people on the radio, online and on television, are often available for only the first 10 to 200 customers who are willing to stand in line at 2am. The rest of the sale items are often discounts you might be able to find other times throughout the year if you’re a diligent and frugal shopper. “Sometimes the sales just aren’t that deep,” says Bradford. “For me, another $30 off is not worth getting up at 5am.”
Even if you come across an amazing price, you might be getting products left over from last years models or new products with older parts. So if you plan to stroll in at 5am and expect to get a deal, be warned. Here’s what you should avoid and how you should plan:
Hunt for newer processors
I’m noticing, a lot of the laptops I see [on Black Friday sales] have older processors like the Celeron and Pentium,” says Bradford. “Keep in mind that with an older processor, you’re basically getting a very big netbook; they are good for basic stuff, but not for anything taxing.”
You can get a regular sized laptop with an older processor for $300 to $600. These are great for people who won’t need them for much outside of checking email, surfing the web, or word processing, but they aren’t powerful. If multitasking, graphics, and high performance are important to you, look for laptops with the newest Intel chips which areCore i3, i5, and i7. “The lowest processor I would get in the generation before those would be Core2 Duo from Intel,” she says. Many laptops come with Windows 7 and it is very resource intensive. If you are using an older processor you might not get the performance Windows 7 is intended to have.
Hunt for newer processors (con’t)
A computer doesn’t always need to have Intel Inside. Many of the laptops on sale have AMD processors, which are very good processors; but they don’t perform as well as Intel processors, says Bradford. “They are less expensive, which is why you see a lot of them at Black Friday.”
If you get a laptop with an AMD processor, make sure it has one of the newest AMD processors like the Vision Pro series or a Phenom II Quad, Triple, or Dual Core processor.
Don’t forget the memory
Just like retailers might pass off a computer with an older processor, they might try to stiff you on memory.
For a regular size notebook, which might be 14” or 15” and up you definitely want to get at least 2 gigabytes of RAM, but three or four are better. Also, get a hard drive with at least 320 GB, says Bradford. “Most netbooks have 1GB of RAM standard and come come with 160 or 250 GB hard drive. If you can, try to get one with a bigger hard drive.”
Research unfamiliar brands
There are a lot of unfamiliar brands on sale duringBlack Friday and Cyber Monday. Keep in mind that brands like e-Machine, Gateway, and Compaq are owned by bigger brands that you may know, like Hewlett Packard and Acer.
Don’t be afraid to buy an unfamiliar brand if you’ve done your research, Bradford advices. For example, Acer owns Gateway. Even though Gateway is a different brand, Acer just takes a lot of their own notebooks and puts the Gateway name on it, but it is basically the same thing. Just make sure you know who owns the unfamiliar brand, and check reviews to see what people are saying about the company, says Bradford.
Stick to electronics stores
Be careful about buying electronics at megastores like Wal-Mart or Kmart or at a retailer that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with electronics. These stores sell name brand products, but they have some duds as well.
“Even though the prices are really tempting, you might not be getting the top of the line,” says Bradford. For example Kmart is selling an Augen GenTouch Tablet and Toys R Us is selling the Archos Home 7 Tablet, which aren’t the best quality, Bradford adds.
Also, Black Friday ads don’t always give you all of the information. The ad may not give you the model number so you need to do your homework before you head off Friday morning. If you purchase products from non-electronics retailers, make sure the product has the newest upgrades and that the company is reputable.
Don’t pay too much for peripheral equipment
When you buy that high end HDTV, Computer, or stereo system, the Black Friday sales person may lead you to invest in high end cables; as in $120 vs. $20. Some will even try to get you to replace a cable that comes for free with your new purchase. Don’t believe the hype. Whether it is USB, HDMI, or firewire the differences between the high priced cables and the low priced cables almost always go unnoticed by the regular consumer, according to an article by Gizmodo. But if you can get the $120 cable for less than $20, go for it. They do have some advantages over the long term, especially if you’re running cables over long distances.
Don’t buy a product that doesn’t meet your needs
“It looks like a lot of the e-readers advertised on Black Friday sales are pretty good deals,” says Bradford. It is rumored that the Barnes and Noble Nook, which is usually $150 will be $99 just for Black Friday at Best Buy. “The only caveat is that it has WiFi and not 3G,” says Bradford. 3G is better because you can get an internet connection anywhere there is a cell phone signal, regardless of whether or not there is a WiFi signal. Also, the Nook gets free access to 3G and WiFi on AT&T’s network.
“If WiFi is fine with you then that is a really good deal, says Bradford. “Most people aren’t going to need to download a book while standing out on a street corner.” But if downloading a book on the fly is your thing then you might want to spend more for 3G.
Leading up to Black Friday stay informed about new models that are soon to be released. A lot of brands will be releasing newer models towards the end of this year and the beginning of the next year. If having the latest product is important to you, don’t buy an older version just because it is on sale.