5 tips to use when shopping for a laptop a Black Friday

Purchasing a laptop usually takes time. It's often quite an investment, so you want to be sure that everything is perfect before you check out. However, many may be enticed by Black Friday's lure. And it's easy to get burned — there are plenty of bogus deals out there that only serve to get you into a store — but you should have a much better experience by keeping the following tips in mind.

1. Know exactly what you want

Dell XPS 15

Blindly buying a laptop is never a good idea, as you'll likely end up with a few features that you're missing, didn't need, or can't stand. If you're out on Black Friday hunting for laptop deals, you'll want to have in mind an exact idea of what you're looking for.

This should include size, display type and resolution, hardware, and other features, including port availability. For example, if you need a 15-inch laptop with a touch display and enough power and ports to deal with photography tasks — a specific type of PC — you'll likely have a harder time finding a sale item that exactly matches your needs.

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If, on the other hand, you just need a laptop that can be used for word processing and web browsing, you'll likely have a much easier time getting your hands on a bargain device.

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2. Know what's high- and low-end

CHUWI LapBook 14.1

When it comes to laptops, there is a huge difference between and high- and low-end devices. Everything from hardware to display, to keyboard and to chassis material, can and usually will be inferior in a budget device, and you will have to live with some concessions when going with something more affordable.

Seeing a regular price of around $600 cut in half might be very attractive, but that $300 laptop is going to force you into some compromises. If you can't stand a low-resolution display, a large bezel, a slow hard-disk drive (HDD), or a bulky chassis, be sure to look closely at those specs.

For more help when it comes to buying a budget laptop, check out the following articles.

3. Know the prices of premium and budget laptops

Know the usual prices for premium and budget laptops

Piggybacking off the last tip, having an idea of normal retail prices when it comes to premium and budget laptops can help a lot on Black Friday. You might see a laptop deal and think, "Hey, that is pretty cheap," but the prices might not tell a complete story.

These days, premium laptops, like the new 15-inch Surface Book 2, can reach upwards of $3,300. This is a rare case, and you can get other premium devices, like the Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre x360, or Lenovo Yoga 920, for a price somewhere around $1,000.

Budget laptop prices are usually also varied. The excellent CHUWI LapBook 14 costs only about $270, while the Acer Aspire 5, also a decent budget laptop, costs about $600.

The bottom line is that you want to do your research before buying. Knowing the prices for laptops with different hardware, features, and build qualities will help you make a smart decision. Be sure to check out our collection of reviews and our laptop buyer's guide for more information.

4. Try in person before you buy

Try out a laptop in person before buying

Buying a laptop, especially something with a budget price, without testing it can be risky. Although it usually takes a few days of use to get a real feel for a laptop, getting your hands on one, even for a few minutes, can usually help you get a basic understanding of quality and performance.

Does the keyboard feel flimsy or not spaced properly? Does the touchpad rattle when you click it? Is the screen's color washed out, or does it not get bright enough? What about opening up a bunch of web pages in a browser? Does performance dip significantly? These are all things you can test out quickly in a store, and they will go a long way toward helping you make a final decision.

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5. Check used and refurbished marketplaces

Consider checking used and refurbished marketplaces

Even if you don't find a perfect new laptop on Black Friday, there are probably thousands of others who did buy something, perfect or not. Later the same day — or even the days following — you might want to check out some used and refurbished marketplaces. Some of the people who bought a laptop on Black Friday are likely attempting to offload their previous laptops, some of which are no doubt in fine working order.

To help you with the used or refurbished buying process, we put together some worthwhile guides.

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