While the return-to-office has hit some bumps along the road, it is largely a question of when it will happen for most workers. Whether it’s on a part-time or full-time basis often depends on the employer and your negotiation skills. Unfortunately, that also means abandoning home offices that often come equipped with powerful desktop systems.
For workers and students alike, laptops are just a part of the landscape. Of course, if your laptop was old before the pandemic, it’s probably very outdated now. That can make you wonder about the best time to buy a new laptop.
If you’re thinking you’ll need a new laptop soon or just want to plan the purchase for some time in the next year, keep reading. We’ll cover the essentials of when and what to buy.
Consider Your Needs
Before delving into the best time to buy a new laptop, it’s important to understand what you need from a laptop. After all, phrases like “best laptop” are maddeningly vague. Does that mean the best specs, or does it mean the best bargain?
For the purposes of buying a new laptop, it should mean the best for your needs. A discounted $2000 laptop might seem great while you scour online retailers. If you only actually need a $900 laptop to do your job or for school, that’s actually a terrible deal.
As a general rule, most people don’t need the most power powerful processor on the market. A few exceptions to that rule are people who work in or go to school for things such as:
- Science and engineering
- Audio production
- Video production
- Computer science and programming
These fields often call for very resource-intensive tasks and software. If that describes you, you want an Intel i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 processor or better. For most other professions, an i5 processor or Ryzen 5 processor will get the job done for most of your needs
Graphics Processing Unit
The graphics processing unit does similar things to your main processor, except it’s all about visual processing. If you’re deep into video production, animation, or gaming, look for the best graphics processor you can find. Otherwise, you can likely get by with whatever comes standard.
RAM is the memory on your laptop or computer. It does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of running programs. It also plays a big role in how fast your laptop operates.
For a while, 8GB of RAM was considered plenty for all but the most intensive applications on a laptop. While that amount of RAM will still let run most programs, it’s drifting into the realm of not enough memory.
If it’s in your budget, aim for 16GB. It’ll add a bit of future-proofing to your laptop and extend its working life.
The exception here is a Chromebook. Most Chromebooks only come with 4GB or 8GB of RAM. Since you’ll do most of your work through cloud applications on a Chromebook, that’s more than enough RAM.
The vast majority of laptops will run one of a handful of popular operating systems. The most common, by far, is the Windows OS. You’ll also see Linux systems, including Chrome, and the macOS on Apple machines.
When in doubt, your safest bet is a Windows laptop. It has the best odds of compatibility with whatever systems, software, and files you need to use.
When you buy a laptop, size is always an open question. You may buy a 15″ laptop thinking it will be fine, only to discover that it’s a pain to carry around.
By the same token, maybe you bought a 11″ laptop to save on space and weight. It was only after you used it for a while that you learned it leaves your hands aching by the day’s end. Use your past laptop experiences to pick the right size.
If it’s your first laptop, aim for a 13″ or 14″ as those are the mid-range sizes. With luck, it won’t prove too heavy or bulky.
So, with the laptop essentials covered, let’s dive into when you should buy a laptop.
Two things happen in late November that makes it a great time to look for a laptop for sale at a great price: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Black Friday has something of a storied history for shopping in that brick-and-mortar retailers tend to run outrageously good deals on a select number of products. Tech like TVs and computers are often on the list of select, deeply-discounted items.
Even better news, you can often take advantage of those deals online at the retailers’ websites and avoid the crowds.
Despite Black Friday’s permanent place in the American consciousness, you’re often better off waiting until Cyber Monday. That happens the Monday after Thanksgiving, a few short days after Black Friday. You might wonder, “Why should I wait?”
Unlike Black Friday which consists of deals across pretty much every kind of item you can imagine, Cyber Monday focuses exclusively on tech. That means that tech-oriented websites will often save their best deals for that Monday.
Mid-Summer to Early Fall
The mid-summer to early fall period of June to August/early September is the magical time of year when parents get to send their kids back to school or college. It’s also a prime period of time for finding great back-to-school deals on everything from backpacks to, you guessed it, laptops.
With more and more high schools requiring laptops of some kind for their students and nearly all college students needing one, retailers recognize a golden opportunity to sell some higher-ticket, tech items. If you can hold off on buying until then, you can often snag a good deal on a great laptop.
Computer manufacturers often roll out their new lines of laptops in early spring. That means that retailers or the manufacturers themselves will offer discounts on last year’s models to help clear out the aging inventory.
That can mean making something of a tradeoff in terms of the processor, as new models often feature the latest processors. If you don’t need a top-of-the-line processor, though, it’s a golden opportunity to save a bundle of a good laptop.
After Major Corporate Events
The big computer companies typically run new product events in early-to-mid fall. That’s when they reveal whatever latest and greatest tech toys they plan to sell in the coming year. While it isn’t a guarantee, you’ll often see discounts on those companies’ laptops and other computers starting right after those events.
New Generation of Processors
New generations of processors don’t launch on a fixed schedule, but you typically see them at around two-year intervals. Each new generation of processors brings new or different capabilities to the computer scene. Computer manufacturers then rush to build new laptops and desktops that can take advantage of those new and different capabilities.
The happy byproduct of that rush to adapt is that older models go on sale. In many cases, you can find a relatively recent laptop with solid specs on sale for a not-bad price.
Manufacturer sales don’t happen on a schedule, which means you must keep your eyes open for them. Most laptop manufacturers will run a number of sales over the course of the year.
The sales sometimes coincide with major holidays, but just as often they happen at random. These sales almost never extend to the major retailer or e-tailers. Instead, you must visit the manufacture’s website for the sale items, check them out there, and buy the laptop on the site.
The good part about these sales is that you often don’t need to wait as long for one to happen. That’s helpful if Cyber Monday or back-to-school sales are six months away.
The downside is the random nature of the sales. You can’t plan around them or even depend on particular types of laptops going on sale. You must simply take advantage of the sale and the available options when they happen.
Of course, sometimes the best time to buy a new laptop isn’t the most financially practical time to buy one. Let’s say that your laptop just dies on your one day. If you can get by without it, waiting for a sale makes sense.
If you depend on that laptop for work, the best time to buy is probably right then. At that point, it’s less about the cost of the laptop itself than it is about the cost of not working.
Picking the Best Time to Buy a New Laptop
Picking the best time to buy a new laptop depends partly on your needs. A dead laptop for someone who uses it daily for work makes the best time right now.
If you can put off the buying for a while, though, the best times are typically around back-to-school and late November. That is when you’ll see the most and typically best deals on good laptops.
Looking for more tech tips or tech shopping tips? Check out the posts in our Shopping and Gadgets sections.