If you're trying to purchase a new laptop or MacBook, then there's no better time to grab one than on Black Friday, and with this year's celebration of shopping quickly approaching, it's worth gearing up for the big day and seeing how you can make sure you get the absolute best deal.
Online retailers are fighting tooth and nail to deliver the lowest prices and attract consumers. This is excellent news for us consumers, as there's plenty of amazing laptop and MacBook Black Friday deals to be scored.
However, no matter how awesome a deal on the day appears, purchasing a new laptop or MacBook is always a major investment, and you must be sure that what you're buying is going to suit your needs.
How to get the best laptop deals on Black Friday/Cyber Monday
In the lead up to Black Friday 2018, we'll show you how you can be sure you get the best laptop for your needs for the best price.
One point to bear in mind is that, with so many Black Friday laptop deals going live, there's bound to be a massive amount of jargon flying around. While some laptops might seem like a steal, they may be old, low-powered laptops that will end up falling short of your needs.
To avoid this, check out our advice below to help you make an informed decision and score yourself a fantastic laptop deal on Black Friday 2018.
The features to look out for
So, what specifically should you be seeking when you’re buying a laptop on Black Friday?
Firstly, consider the brand name. Something like the Surface Book from Microsoft itself is a quite pricey option, and there are many other, more affordable 2-in-1 laptops to be found by looking around.
On the other hand, you don’t want to run into the dark with a brand name you neither know nor trust – simply because it’s offering a cheap device.
For long-term satisfaction, quality and technical support, you should buy from a well-known PC manufacturer whose brand you’ll recognize, such as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP or indeed Microsoft.
If you want to dig a bit deeper into the individual brands and the products they sell, our extensive library of laptop reviews is a fine resource, as is our constantly-updated list of the best laptops.
It's also worth looking into the websites you're purchasing from. Many websites will have customer reviews, so you can steer clear of stores that take a long time to ship orders. Remember to avoid any websites you're not too sure about giving your credit card information as well – if in doubt, shop elsewhere.
Sizing things up
Firstly, you need to consider the overall size of the laptop you’re buying. The most common sizes are 13-inch, 14-inch, 15-inch laptops, with 17-inch models growing less and less popular these days. (There are also somewhat smaller and larger devices out there, but you’re less likely to run into those).
Smaller laptops tend to not only be more portable but more affordable, too. Larger laptops, inversely, will offer a wider screen and, because there’s more space inside, you’re more likely to find more powerful processors and a larger battery.
If you’re looking for something to take on the go frequently, you’ll want to opt for a more compact laptop which is light (less than 4 pounds, ideally less than 3 pounds).
Check the specs
Taking a long look at the configuration of the laptop before you buy can provide a clear idea of whether the deal is worth considering. If the specifications point to an old or low-power laptop, then the deal may not be as decent as you first thought.
On the other hand, if the specifications point towards a strong laptop that comes with features you'll seldom – if ever – use, then you may be better off saving your cash and searching elsewhere.
As far as performance is concerned, what is most important consider are the core parts inside the machine. That’s your processor, system memory, storage and – to a lesser extent – the graphics processor.
When it comes to the main processor, most of the CPUs you’ll find will be manufactured by Intel. While the Intel Core i5 is a decently powerful model, the Core i7 is the most powerful choice in every case.
Most folks won’t need the kind of oomph the Core i7 offers unless you're deep into gaming, video editing or other heavy-duty tasks. So, the Core i5 is the ideal mid-range option. There’s also the entry-level Core i3 processor, if you’re looking for an affordable machine that you don’t mean to use for anything more demanding than browsing the internet or drafting up documents.
Very slim laptops are likely to house a Y series Intel processor, as they can run without any fans to cool them. The trade-off here is that they're not nearly as performant – an example is the Core m3-7Y30. Note that the Y series chips feature ‘Core m’ models (m3/m5/m7), which is simply another way of labelling these as lower-power CPUs.
Intel Atom processors are widely found in the truly affordable portables and, shockingly, don’t run all that smoothly. If you’re only looking to use the laptop for basic web surfing, you’ll manage okay, but this isn’t a limitation that will be tolerable to most users.
Intel isn’t you’re only choice, however – you could easily opt for an AMD APU, an Accelerated Processing unit, which has a CPU and a GPU (graphics processor) on the same chip. A growing number of devices are coming with AMD hardware, which gives you more options and can generally be found for cheaper than Intel-toting laptops while offering similar levels of performance.
The next piece to mull over is system memory, or RAM. Ideally, you want at least 4GB, though 8GB is the preferable option for future-proofing and any type of gaming. Some more affordable laptops still run with 2GB of RAM, but these days that really is not enough to run Windows 10 well – even though it’s technically within the system requirements for the OS.
Sometimes, the speed of the RAM is denoted in MHz, but don’t fret about that too much; it’s the amount of RAM that’s more important than speed in terms of performance.
Today, you’ll find that many notebooks use an SSD (solid-state drive) for storage. SSDs offer speedy and responsive performance, which translates to apps and programs that load swiftly.
More affordable models are more likely to have eMMC drives and, though these use flash memory just like an SSD, they’re markedly more sluggish.
eMMC is an effective means of laptop manufacturers cutting corners and costs, which is precisely why you’ll often find it in budget laptops.
If you seek to save some scratch, an eMMC drive is often a trade-off worth making, though, as these drives are still quicker than standard hard disks – if only slightly.
Traditional hard drives (which you’ll often find referred to as an HDD or hard disk drive) are the slowest, but cheapest and most capacious, medium of storage. Their strength lies in that they usually have far bigger capacity – you can find storage of up to 1TB even in affordable hardware.
A speed in rotations per minute (rpm) is always quoted with a hard drive, and the faster ones run at 7,200 rpm, with slower drives pitched at 5,400 rpm. The latter may be rather slow as a rule of thumb but, once again, bear in mind that, as with SSDs, performance will vary across individual drives.
Graphics and display
Most laptops will have integrated graphics, meaning the GPU is hardwired to the CPU, and you’ll usually find that visual performance is rather limited as a result. With integrated graphics – referred to as Intel HD Graphics or Intel Iris, when it comes to Intel chips – you’ll be able to play casual games, but nothing more than that.
This will be OK for the average laptop user, but those who want to play some more heavy-duty games will need a discrete GPU – a graphics processing solution that sits separate from the general processor.
As an example, the GeForce MX150 is Nvidia’s current (Pascal-based) ground-level mobile GPU, but you may need to fork out for something a little more powerful than that for really strong performance. An example of a more powerful GPU would be the GeForce GTX 1060, but it should be noted that prices can soar swiftly when it comes to stronger and stronger GPUs.
As far as screens are concerned: most mid-level laptops will offer a Full HD display as standard, which is a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080.
However, when you move down the price spectrum towards more affordable models, you’ll still find there are plenty of products which only offer a resolution of 1,366 x 768. Don’t let this scare you, though.
This resolution is actually perfectly fine, especially on smaller-screened laptops. Indeed, a smaller resolution is often a benefit to a laptop with less powerful hardware driving it, as it means there are fewer pixels for the CPU and GPU to shift, making things more likely to run smoothly.
This is something gamers might want to keep in mind as well. Though a 4K display looks and sounds like an amazing idea, it’ll take a major toll on your machine’s core components. Sometimes, it’s worth sacrificing a bit of image quality for a smoother frame rate.
High-resolution 4K displays will also use your laptop's battery much faster. Given this is an area in which gaming laptops already struggle, you may want to consider what you’re losing to gain 4K.
Know what you want before Black Friday
Before Black Friday, draft up a list of what you want from your notebook, and any models or brands that have caught your fancy. This means your deal-hunting can be focused and more successful.
This will also help to keep you from blowing cash on impulse buys that you may regret later – especially if a deal for a product you actually do want crops up later, and you've already spent your budget.
Keep the receipts
Make sure you maintain your receipts in case you're not pleased with any of your purchases and want a refund – it's also worth checking the refund policy of websites before buying on Black Friday.
Some retailers will also offer longer warranties than others, which could be a deciding factor when purchasing a laptop or MacBook on Black Friday. Having a three- or- five-year warranty on your laptop will give you peace of mind, knowing that if anything goes wrong you'll be covered.
The best Black Friday laptop deals from last year
Best laptop deals predictions for 2018
We've been covering the best laptop deals on Black Friday for long enough now that we can conjure some decent predictions for Black Friday 2018.
Big name brands like Dell, Lenovo and HP should all see price drops for their range of laptops, both budget and high-end. Last year, Dell's XPS 13 and XPS 15 laptops saw liberal price cuts, and we hope to see similar slashing this year. They are two of the best laptops money can buy, so if you find those getting discounted on Black Friday, definitely consider purchasing them.
Price cuts to Microsoft's excellent range of Surface devices are also a common sight on Black Friday. Microsoft just announced the Surface Pro 6, and while Black Friday will be too soon for that new device to see price cuts, it means that its predecessor, the Surface Pro 2017, has a good chance of seeing some decent price cuts. Keep an eye out for the affordable Surface Go as well – we suspect Microsoft will make some prices cuts there as well.
But, what about Apple? Apple's MacBook notebooks don't often receive sizable price cuts, but in recent Black Friday events we've seen some good price cuts emerging from retailers like B&H Photo and Adorama. If you don't mind getting somewhat older MacBook hardware from a year or so ago, then you should be able to score yourself a neat MacBook deal on Black Friday.
- Can't wait for Black Friday? Check out our collection of the best laptop deals right now
Stick with TechRadar to get the best Black Friday deals
On Black Friday (and Cyber Monday), the day itself can be a bit overwhelming as so many online retailers vie for your hard-earned dollar. While this means there are very competitive deals to enjoy, it also unfortunately means there are some deals that aren't as decent as they first appear.
That's why you should stick with TechRadar to guarantee you get the best Black Friday deals. We track all of the top retailer's Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, and highlight the very best savings on the top laptops.
For the latest info, breaking deals and the biggest savings as soon as we know about them, make sure you follow TR Deals on Twitter so you don't miss out on any incredible Black Friday laptop deals.