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The best time to buy a laptop (and the worst time to buy) in 2021

Take a scan of our top laptop recommendations, and you’ll see that most prices vary between $600 and $1,500. That’s a fair chunk of change to drop on a new device, so we understand if you are interested in any available discounts.

While laptops have discount schedules similar to major appliances like a fridge or TV, there are also key differences. Here are the best times to pick up a new laptop to save, and when you really shouldn’t be buying something new.

Best times to buy a laptop

HP Laptop 14

Back-to-school deals

The best annual laptop deals, especially for highly portable laptops, frequently happen during the back-to-school days, when discounts are focused on students and the supplies they’ll need. Online and offline school-based marketing should offer excellent laptop deals during this time, and sometimes new laptop models are announced ahead of the event.

The back-to-school marketing rush tends to start in mid to late July and ends around the end of August, so you should have at least a full month to look for deals — although limited inventory may mean that popular models will sell out fast.

Amazon Prime Day

Amazon Prime Day is a very popular option for buying electronics if you have a Prime membership, and you can find excellent deals if you act fast. The tricky thing is knowing exactly when Prime Day happens. In 2020, it was pushed all the way back to October, but generally, Amazon holds it sometime in early July. Watch for alerts about Amazon Prime Day and you should see notifications a few weeks before the final dates are set.

Around Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and generally the full several-day stretch starting with Thanksgiving remain excellent times to shop for electronics deals, which are advertised prominently and inspire the famed holiday rush.

Because of that rush, we suggest narrowing your search down to several different computer models you like, and then setting alerts or saving webpages for easy access once the Black Friday deals begin. This makes it easier to quickly buy a new laptop without worry about inventory levels and time crunch.

Early spring

When the weather starts getting warmer, it’s time to watch for laptop deals, typically from late February through April. This is a popular release schedule for brands bringing new laptops to the shelves. That often means discounting the now-older laptop generations, or bringing in a new discount to rev up interest in a new laptop line. Be sure to check popular e-commerce portals and as well the manufacturers’ own websites, which may have separate deals of their own (we’ve seen this with Dell and Lenovo, for example).

Right after a new MacBook generation drops

This rule applies to other new laptops as well, but it’s especially noticeable when Apple announces a new MacBook or MacBook Pro/Air. Apple likes to make new MacBook announcements in its September events, although this can vary a little. The MacBooks are generally released after the event or a few weeks later. During this key stage, retailers are likely to start discounting older MacBooks to clear room for the new models. Our full guide on MacBook buying goes over the details.

This is also a great time to trade in a MacBook, since Apple is more likely to offer new trade-in deals that can help save even more — a popular method of saving if you want to buy from Apple directly.

When processors get a big upgrade

A new generation of processors from Intel or AMD is also a sign deals are going to hit in the near future. As older laptop lines are updated with new processors, the older models often receive discounts to clear them out. Or, if you don’t mind paying more, you can enjoy the latest performance benefits of the new processor refresh immediately. Intel, for example, is currently on the 11th generation of mobile processors and is unlikely to start selling the 12th generation until late 2021.

If you need new ports badly for a project

Sometimes, the cost isn’t as important as getting the capabilities you need right now. A handy example is the recent upgrade to USB-C ports that many laptops went (and are going) through. USB-C-only accessories aren’t directly compatible with older USB ports, especially when it comes to charging, so new accessories that you recently bought may not work with older laptops without a clunky adapter workaround. That’s a sign that it’s time to get a new laptop, sooner rather than later.

This may be more likely to happen in professional settings, where accessories and devices ordered for business work require certain connections. If your laptop is incompatible with the tools you need to work with, start talking about devoting money to a laptop upgrade.

When to avoid making your big laptop purchase

Early summer

May and June are typically off months for laptop discounts, where deals are less likely to appear and there’s no immediate consumer demand to respond to. If possible, wait until July for Amazon Prime Day and the start of back-to-school sales.

Between Labor Day and Thanksgiving

Unless Apple has a big MacBook release ready to announce, these are dead months where your focus should be on upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday instead. If you really want to get a new MacBook, it’s worth waiting until Black Friday weekend anyway, since some MacBook deals do occur at this time.

When a price tracker shows an unfortunate cost history

Price trackers allow you to check the price history of specific products and create alerts so you know when the latest deals hit. Camelcamelcamel is a popular app for Amazon products, and Hover Hound is a great app for Newegg.

These are useful tools, and not just for finding the right time to buy: Check the price history of a laptop and watch for warning signs like a sudden price spike recently or a gradually increasing price that’s now much higher than it used to be. Pricing decisions, inventory levels, and manufacturing issues can all play a role in price fluctuations like this. If you want to really save money while getting a quality laptop, avoid models that have recently risen in price.

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