2.6GHz 6‑core Intel Core i7 processor. 512GB SSD. 500-nit brightness.
If that string of mumbo-jumbo looks more like alphabet soup to you than specs for the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, you are not alone. And if you’ve got no idea whether it’s better to storm Best Buy for deals on Black Friday or wait patiently for Back to School sales in the fall, then you’re in the right place.
We’ve put together a definitive laptop-buying guide to help you get the best deal and the best computer possible.
Sometimes, it’s easier to shop with your eyes than with your brain. That’s especially true if you have no clue what the heck RAM is, why CPU matters, or which features to focus on for your intended purposes. After all, if a gamer, a graphic designer, and a programmer walked into a Best Buy, they’d all likely leave with something different.
It’s easy to one to buy the latest and greatest as soon as it comes out, but you’ll be paying premium for it. Practice a little patience (and realize a year-old laptop is still a very good laptop), and you could save some serious cash.
Here area few of the best times to buy.
(Mostly) gone are the days of waiting out in the cold in a line of hundreds of people to get that laptop deal at Walmart at 3:00 a.m. But Black Friday lives on—mostly on the internet, these days. But then again, so does Cyber Monday, which is only three days later. So what the heck is the difference? When will you get the most bang for your hard-earned buck?
Cyber Monday has only been around since 2005, but it feels like it’s been around for ages. It didn’t take long for the new shopping holiday to become popular as more and more folks began buying their first laptops. Naturally, though, Black Friday has been ingrained in America’s capitalistic holiday shopping repertoire and continues to take companies from the red into the black.
Okay, but you want to know which day is better for good deals, right?
Well, the two days are just different animals. If you’re looking for something from a department store, like a massive 4K HDR television, it’s hard to beat Black Friday. But for purchasing laptops, you’re better off waiting until Monday, according to Honey, a coupon and discount browser extension. That company’s research showed that last year’s Cyber Monday savings per user, per purchase topped out at about 21 percent, while Black Friday shoppers saw an average of 18.5 percent peak savings.
You don’t have to be a student to cash in on the savings around back-to-school season. According to Consumer Reports, July and August rival November and December for the best time to buy a laptop.
“There is a best time to buy notebooks, and it is exactly when you think it is, between the last week in July and the first three weeks in August, when the back-to-school merchandising frenzy is in full force,” Analyst Stephen Baker, who studies laptop pricing and sales for the NPD Group, a market intelligence firm, told Laptop Magazine. That’s for both Macs and PCs.
Traditionally, these savings are spurred by back-to-school shopping, but Amazon Prime Day is increasingly to thank for ushering in these deals. This year, Prime Day fell on July 15, just in time for Back to School.
The last thing you want to do is pay top-dollar for the latest-and-greatest laptop only to see that a few weeks later, the same laptop is a few hundred dollars cheaper and no longer the latest or the greatest. You can thank the never-ending hype cycle of product release events.
If you’re into Apple products and want to buy a MacBook, you’ll usually see deals popping up around its special product event, which is always in September. This year, it took a little longer for the MacBook discounts to hit a high, since the 16-inch Pro didn’t come out until November, but it’s a pretty good rule-of-thumb that for Apple products September means savings.
By contrast, if you’re waiting to shave off a few dollar signs from that Microsoft Surface Pro, you’ll find luck right around the company’s massive October event. This year, the latest model was announced on October 2 and the deals started just a few days beforehand. Similarly, the Google Pixel 3a went on sale for $100 cheaper right after the new Pixel 4 was announced in mid-October.
If you’re not sure when the manufacturer of your favorite electronics hosts its live product release events, be sure to at least look those up before buying a laptop—because if it’s only a month or a few weeks away, you’ll start to see discounts soon.
First, figure out what kind of laptop user you are. An accountant? A student that only really needs web-based tools to create Google docs? Maybe an e-sports champ wannabe? In any case, each of these kinds of people are probably going to leave the store with a different laptop than one another (at least if they know what to look for). Here are some of 2019’s best models and what makes each one so useful.
Despite the popularity of cloud services, a majority of laptops still store most of your files, locally, on your computer’s hard drive. When it comes to Chromebooks of any variety, not so much—a big part of the sell is that you require less storage and processing power because your files are stored on Google’s servers. The Lenovo 100E Chromebook is just one of many options, but it stands out as a great tool for young students, especially because it’s one of the cheapest options on the market. The 11.6-inch Chromebook is not only rugged, but comes with Google Classroom, G Suite for Education and other learning apps.
Lenovo crafted this 15-inch laptop to be powerful. It’s suitable for augmented reality and virtual reality applications and boasts spectacular graphics, thanks to its NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics processor. It’s also got a 4K HDR touchscreen and supports up to 14 hours of battery life. Whether you’re a PC gamer, love to watch Netflix on your laptop or just need really granular screen details for your creative endeavors, this guy is for you.
Given that this sucker starts at $2,400, it goes without saying that this is not the computer for the passive user that just wants to check out memes and read news articles. This thing is a beast when it comes to graphics, with a 16-inch retina display, and the sound quality is pretty dramatic, considering there are six speakers built in. This laptop is ideal for the creator—the videographer, photographer, musician or graphic designer.
There’s a reason people really dig the line of Surface Pro laptops—and that’s partially because the device is so versatile, perfecting the art of the laptop/tablet combo. And it’s also utilitarian in that, unlike most other new laptops on the market today, the Pro 7 includes all the ports you need to connect devices to the laptop, from USB-C (that’s the one where both sides are the same size) and USB-A ports (that’s where you plug in your regular old USB type B cord; USB-A is considered the female port for its male counterpart Micro USB connector). Plus, the Surface Pro 7 is ultra thin at just 1.7 pounds, and the Surface Pen is still one of the most responsive styluses on the market. It’s the perfect laptop for anyone trying to get from point A to point B.
This laptop comes with a battery life of up to 12 hours and a rugged texture on the bottom for ultimate gripping power. It only weighs two pounds and it’s 13 millimeters thin. The battery can get a partial charge for up to two hours of power in just 20 minutes of charging. And, to top it off, the purchase of a new Pixelbook Go comes with a three-month free subscription to Disney+. The new Pixelbook go has all the basics you really need on a computer, looks cool, and is built to last, making it perfect for the college student.
Okay, this laptop just straight up looks badass without even knowing what’s under the hood. The Razer Blade 15 is the company’s most advanced model, yet, and comes with the same NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics processor that the ThinkPad X1 Extreme uses. With loads of memory, fast data storage, a full OLED panel and 4K touchscreen capabilities, it’s pretty much the perfect computer for the PG gamer in your life. That’s without even mentioning that this laptop has the first-ever “optical laptop switches” in a gaming computer. It “harnesses the power and speed of light to instantly capture your inputs,” according to the Razer website listing.
With a 13.3-inch InfinityEdge display that practically eradicates the bezels on the sides of the screen and a new feature called Dell Cinema that enhances your cinematic experience through better colors, streaming and sound, the Dell XPS 13 is ideal for movie buffs who really, really care about viewing films as the directors intended.
Just looking at this thing, it’s clear that it’s not your run-of-the-mill laptop. Above the traditional keyboard is a “4K ASUS ScreenPad Plus” that basically allows you to view items and complete work on the bottom half of the computer, as well as the screen. According to ASUS, this second screen is designed for “the ultimate edge in workflow efficiency.” And, it looks like it could be way more useful than Apple’s Touch Bar–ScreenPad Plus includes its own built-in apps, lets you complete multi-step keyboard shortcuts with one tap, and you can even write on the touchscreen to input text as if writing in a notebook.