Today's premium laptop shopper has a serious decision to make. Do you save a few bucks and buy a previous generation Sandy Bridge-based desktop replacement (many of which are currently undergoing all-time lows), or do you spend a little more on a laptop packing Intel's just-released Ivy Bridge CPU?
Although common logic would suggest that the older tech will provide the better value, and we postulated as much when the Ivy Bridge CPU was first announced, our laptop deals in recent weeks suggest otherwise. In fact, Ivy Bridge-based systems are coming in at such aggressive prices, they're ultimately providing more bang for your buck at the moment, even if they still cost slightly more.
Sandy Bridge Deals Hit All-Time Low, But Ivy Bridge Prices Are Falling Fast
2012 has ushered in a spectacular number of deals on well-configured Sandy Bridge desktop replacements. With deal prices averaging $712, these systems are packing a quad-core Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a minimum 500GB hard drive. In March and April, these systems came in at $800 and $700 respectively. We even saw one such i7 laptop for $550 back in February, which was a full $250 under our best Black Friday price for such a system.
However, despite these remarkable price points, deals on Ivy Bridge-based systems have been even more aggressive. Since their debut on April 30, high-end 16" Ivy Bridge systems have dropped from $1,010 to $689. Although this price range includes different models (rather than the same system dropping in price), there is consistency amongst their spec sheets; most of these Ivy Bridge laptops are HP Pavilions boasting quad-core CPUs, 8GB of RAM, dedicated 1GB+ video cards, 500GB to 1TB hard drives, and, in some instances, built-in Blu-ray players. And, that said, we did see a specific dv6t model debut on our site at $1,010 and drop to $770 within a few weeks. Needless to say, 16" Ivy Bridge laptops are offering a much better bang for your buck than a 17" Sandy Bridge system (many of which do not include dedicated graphics cards).
But why are we seeing such aggressive deals on Intel's new technology? It's hard to say. Reviews for Ivy Bridge systems have been positive, although media outlets like CNET and Laptop concur that you won't notice significantly huge performance boosts when upgrading from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge. One thing's for sure, deals on Ivy Bridge systems have come in stronger and faster than we expected. In a span of weeks these 16" systems have collectively dropped 31% in price to the point where just this week we listed an ASUS Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7 2.3GHz 15.6" LED-Backlit Notebook for $689 total.
What Prices and Specifications Should You Look for?
Given these deals trends, a shopper in need of a new laptop may be willing to spend just a bit more to get the value of the newest CPU. What prices, then, should one expect to pay?
As mentioned earlier, most of the Ivy Bridge deals we're seeing are for 16" HP Pavilions with 8GB of RAM, quad-core Core i7 CPUs, 500GB+ hard drives, and a minimum 1GB video card. ASUS has delivered the all-time low at $689 (as mentioned above), whereas HP's all-time low is $770 for the Pavilion dv6t which debuted at $1,010 on April 30. So any deal between $689 and $770 is getting you the most laptop for your dollar. If you see a system come in at under $689, then you should buy it instantly as it's a one-of-a-kind deal.
That said, we'd also recommend keeping an eye on Sandy Bridge systems, as we wouldn't be surprised if they hit that magic $550 price point again, and continue to reach new lows.