Black Friday is a popular time to save big on a laptop, but when there are sales everywhere you look, it's easy to get caught up in momentum that leads you to an unsatisfactory purchase. These are big-ticket items, so buyer's remorse is going to be felt more so than if you're shopping for smaller gadgets. That's why we've put together a list of five mistakes you should try to avoid when shopping for a new laptop on Black Friday.
Don't buy a laptop simply because it's deeply discounted
You're shopping in a physical store, or you're at your PC browsing Black Friday deals. Out pops a large banner claiming hundreds of dollars off a slick new Ultrabook, and it seems too good to be true. Before you know it, it's under your arm in the parking lot or ready to ship from the warehouse. It's easy to get caught up in these types of deals, but did you ask yourself important questions? What kind of laptop is it? Is the display worth looking at? Does it have the right internal hardware to handle everything you throw its way?
Buying a laptop only because it's deeply discounted is generally going to lead to buyer's remorse. Sure, you save a lot of money, but you don't use the laptop nearly as much you could, simply because it's built poorly or doesn't fit your needs. It might not have enough ports for your accessories, it might have a lackluster display, or it might be underpowered or using old hardware. Be sure to do some research beforehand so you can head into Black Friday with an accurate idea of what you need. Our roundups of best Windows laptops and best gaming laptops are a great place to start.
Don't buy an old model of a new laptop
Laptops are continuously being refreshed on about a yearly cycle, generally with new performance hardware and sometimes new ports, display, and design. Although the generation before the latest is usually going to offer a similar experience in terms of performance, buying a laptop from two or three generations prior is a mistake. Many manufacturers take advantage of Black Friday to blow out old stock at a significant discount, but don't trap yourself.
If you see a laptop that looks like it's already seen a few years in the wild — it might be thicker than you expected or might still be rocking an optical drive or strictly USB-A ports — it's worth doing some research to see how far the latest generation has advanced. On the performance side, be sure you're buying a laptop with Intel or AMD processor (CPU) that's near the latest generation. In Intel's case, we're seeing 10th Gen Core chips with stellar performance and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, while AMD has hit its third generation for Ryzen chips. If you see an excellent deal with 6th or 7th Gen Intel CPUs or first-gen AMD Ryzen CPUs, you probably want to keep shopping. Why buy a laptop that's already quite outdated?
To tell Intel Core generations apart, look at the full CPU name. You'll see it generally starts with i3, i5, or i7, following by four or more digits or letters. Core i7-8565U, for example, is an 8th Gen chip, while a Core i7-1065G7 is a 10th Gen chip. On the Ryzen side, naming is similar. A Ryzen 5 2500U is a second-generation CPU, while a Ryzen 5 3500U is a third-generation CPU.
Don't start shopping without a strict budget
Flashing lights, fast displays, and dedicated graphics card (GPU) look so good on paper, but do you really need to spend more just for some extra features you might not utilize? Setting out on Black Friday without a strict budget in mind can be disastrous. You might see a laptop on sale for, say, $700, but there's another available with slightly better hardware for $1,000. Do you really need that 4K display? Is it worth the extra money? How much are you willing to spend, anyway?
It's easy to convince yourself that spending a few hundred more won't really hurt, but you can avoid this scenario entirely if you're certain you're going to spend a set amount. Even if you don't buy a laptop on Black Friday, you'll have plenty more opportunities throughout the year.
Don't buy a discounted laptop that's been sold for less
Just because it's Black Friday doesn't mean you won't find a better deal another day. Cyber Monday is just a few days away, and laptops are often profoundly discounted heading into the back-to-school season. There's no rule that retailers have to offer the best price on Black Friday, and their hope is often to snare unwitting people who see a sale sign and buy impulsively. Retailers achieve this by boosting standard prices before Black Friday, then cutting them down in what looks like a more than generous way. You saved a couple of hundred dollars off the retail price they had posted but was it really a great deal?
A website like CamelCamelCamel is an excellent service for shoppers. You can type in a product name or corresponding URL and see a comprehensive history of prices. That Dell XPS 15 you had your eye on is on sale for Black Friday, but it turns out it was available for less just a few weeks ago. Chances are, it's going to drop again when the Black Friday madness is over.
Don't buy a refurbished laptop without a solid warranty
Refurbished laptops are often blown out on Black Friday, made tempting by prices considerably lower than a similar laptop fresh from the factory. There's nothing wrong with buying a refurbished laptop — you can often find powerful hardware and a stellar display for a great deal — but don't get caught without a warranty.
Many popular manufacturers offer certified "renewed" laptops that have undergone a quality inspection to ensure the laptop isn't a lemon, but buying from a third-party retailer can be a bit different. A quality warranty often costs more on top of the price of the laptop, and it might not be clearly advertised as such. Before you buy, be sure you're getting a warranty; you don't want to be stuck with a faulty laptop a year after you purchased it… just in time for another Black Friday.
Shop smart and have fun
Black Friday is a great time to find deals on laptops, but don't be dismayed if you don't find exactly what you're looking for. There will be more sales, and you'll be happier knowing you got exactly what you wanted. Keep the five mistakes listed above in mind while shopping, and you should come out on the other side with the right laptop at the right price.
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