With new designs, improved displays, and better hardware, laptops are hoping to recapture the spotlight from their tablet rivals this holiday season. After last year's dismal sales, the laptop industry as a whole showed some signs of life, but manufacturers aren't out of the woods yet, as fierce competition has created a cutthroat market.
All of this means that we could be in store for some excellent laptop deals this Black Friday. So what should consumers look for in terms of price? According to our research, it all depends on your needs. Check out predictions in the illustration below, and read on for more details.
It's a Case of Déjà Vu for Bargain Bin Laptop Deals
Shoppers who rarely do more than surf the Web can save some serious cash by opting for a budget laptop. These bargain bin machines can pack a basic dual-core processor coupled with 4GB of RAM and a 15.6" display. They're not the fastest machines on the market, but they should provide enough muscle power for everyday tasks and even playing the occasional game, albeit at very low frame rates.
Last year, these machines hit $178 on Black Friday, and this year we predict that doorbuster prices will remain at or very close to that price point; much like the 42" TV, prices on this basic configuration have "bottomed out," in that they just can't get any lower. A price that's identical to last year may not sound like an exciting predictions, but $178 is still an amazing price for such a laptop, especially since prices on these systems have averaged $220 for most of 2014. That said, higher-end laptop deals will provide more value for your money if you can afford to spend a bit more.
Mainstream Laptops Will Hit New Price Lows
Deal prices on these systems have been steadily declining since April, so we predict that they'll hit a new low of $325 on Black Friday. That may sound incredibly optimistic, but as of September deal prices had already hit $350. These systems will be almost double the price of a bargain bin laptop, but mainstream machines provide a far better value since they won't need to be replaced as quickly.
13" Ultraportables Will Break Deal Records
Small, light, and fashionable, the 13" ultraportable was once among the priciest laptops you could buy. These days prices have plummeted to the point where even Apple — a company whose laptops usually command the highest prices — shaved $100 off its 13" MacBook Air. Needless to say, this is the laptop category we're going to double down on. We predict prices on 13" Windows-based ultraportables will hit a staggeringly-low $450.
No system has come near that price point in 2014, but last holiday season, deals for these machines were 50% lower on Black Friday than they had been all year; that means retailers used the flashy laptops as doorbusters to entice shoppers, and we believe they'll follow a similar trajectory this year as well, breaking all deal records for this category. In terms of hardware, this price applies to 13" ultraportables that weigh about 3 lbs. with a current-generation Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a solid disk drive (SSD).
17" Desktop Replacements Show Signs of Life
Despite all the naysayers, 17" laptops (otherwise known as desktop replacements) are still alive and kicking. They may not be as popular as they once were, but it's still possible to find both budget and performance-based desktop replacements. For our predictions, we focused on the latter, analyzing deals on upper-tier desktop replacements with Core i7 quad-core CPUs.
We believe these systems will experience modest discounts this year, dropping just 4% from last season's best prices. In fact, through most of 2014, deals on these systems have varied little from their $717 average. So we believe these systems should have no problem hitting $674 this Black Friday.
Extra Features to Look Out for This Black Friday
The most ubiquitous feature you'll find on modern-day laptops is the touchscreen display. Although notebooks with touch displays were initially expensive, today's best 15" touchscreen laptop deals are roughly $50 cheaper than last year's $441 average. For Black Friday, rock-bottom prices on these systems will cost somewhere in between the basic laptop and a mainstream laptop with prices in the $249 range. However, for power users, the mainstream laptop remains the better bargain as it uses a more powerful processor than most cheap touchscreen machines.
Yet another popular laptop feature you're likely to come across this Black Friday is the 1080p display. In 2014, deals for 15" laptops with 1080p displays cost roughly 30% more than the best deals for 15" laptops sans the 1080p resolution. However, if there's a feature you were going to splurge on, this would be it, especially if you plan to use your laptop for anything video-related.
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