Opinion: I’ve been covering Black Friday sales for a few years now, and every year there’s always a good selection of laptops with amazing discounts.
In fact, I’ve already spotted some deals this year including the Surface Pro 8 for just £699 and the LG Gram 17 for just £1299.98.
But there’s also an alarming number of duds out there too that seem like great deals on paper, but will ultimately leave you wishing you could spend your money elsewhere.
With that in mind, I wanted to focus my weekly Ctrl + Alt + Delete column on helping you avoid those Black Friday pitfalls, and to make sure you find the best deal available that’s great value for money.
The biggest thing to look for is the processor, as I’ve seen many retailers use discount laptops with very outdated specs. This might not be a problem if you’re happy to settle for slow performance on the cheap, but it could be a deal breaker for students and office workers who need a mobile device that won’t slow down their productivity.
When looking at the name of the processor inside a laptop, most people know that i3, i5, and i7 provide an idea of what kind of level of performance you can expect. But not all i3 chips are the same—in fact, they can vary greatly.
It is important to know which generation the processor belongs to. Intel is entering its 12th generation of laptop chips, and since processors are getting faster with each generation, you’ll want to get a 12th-generation chip wherever possible. However, I think you’re perfectly fine going back a couple of generations if you’re looking for a bargain, where you’ll still get decent speeds.
But if you plan to buy a laptop with a 9th generation processor or earlier, you may start to notice a significant difference in performance. You can tell the generation of the processor by looking at its name. For example, the Intel Core i7-1255U processor has the number “12” right after i7 to show that it is from the 12th generation.
AMD uses a similar naming convention, with its fifth-generation Ryzen 7 5700X processor, represented by the number 5.
I’ve also noticed that a lot of retailers are trying to sell Windows laptops with Intel Celeron processors. These devices can be available for under £300 during the Black Friday sales, but I’d suggest staying clear unless you’re able to get guarantees on performance from reputable review sites, like ours.
The Intel Celeron processor isn’t powerful at all, and it’s only really capable of basic productivity tasks like browsing the web, running basic apps, and opening emails. Even then, you’ll likely see slow speeds that can get pretty annoying quickly.
I don’t mind the Intel Celeron processors inside Chromebooks as much, because Google’s operating system is so simple it doesn’t need a powerful processor for smooth performance. But if you’re keen to stick with Windows, I’d recommend looking for an AMD Ryzen or Intel Core processor.
It is also impossible to judge the quality of a laptop just by looking at its specifications. There are many other important variables, such as the cooling system, build quality, and the screen’s ability to display colors accurately. As a result, we always recommend checking your laptop’s revision wherever possible.
My last Black Friday tip isn’t exclusive to laptop purchases. Sometimes retailers can be a little tricky, as they will raise the price a few weeks before the Black Friday sales start so they can announce an even bigger price drop. As a result, the laptop you see on sale may not actually be 40% off as advertised, but 15% off the recommended retail price instead.
Fortunately, you can combat this by downloading a clever Chrome extension called Keepa. This can take a look at the product’s price history on Amazon to see how much it cost a few weeks ago. Not only does this help tell if the advertised price drop is real, but it also shows if this is the cheapest price the product has been available for in the past few months.
I hope you find these Black Friday tips helpful while looking for a deal. And if you’re looking for the absolute best deals, take a look at our best Black Friday deals by clicking the link.
Ctrl + Alt + Delete is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals, and more. You can find them in Trusted Comments every Saturday afternoon.