Black Friday 2018 laptop sales in Australia: how to snag a bargain

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Purchasing a new laptop or MacBook can be a daunting task, not to mention an expensive one. You’ll need to figure out the specs you want and whether a machine that powerful will fit into your budget.

For something like a new laptop, there’s no better time to go shopping than on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to score a great bargain. During this big sale period, retailers will be competing with each other to deliver the lowest prices to attract customers. And that’s great news for shoppers, as there'll be plenty of excellent laptop and MacBook deals to look forward to when Black Friday rolls around in November.

Keep in mind, however, that no matter how awesome a deal on the day appears, purchasing a new laptop is a major investment – and you’ll need to make sure that what you're buying will suit your needs.

Scoring the best laptop deals on Black Friday/Cyber Monday

In the lead up to Black Friday 2018, we’ll help you figure out how to get the best laptop for your needs for the best price possible.

There are usually so many laptops being discounted during the Black Friday sale period, chances are you’ll be bombarded with a lot of jargon. And while some machines might seem like a steal, they could be older models that don’t have enough power to keep them running for years to come. Laptops like that could fall short of your needs.

To help you avoid this, we’ve put together a short guide to help you make an informed decision and get the best laptop deals when the 2018 Black Friday sale period arrives.

Features to look for

So, what specifically should you keep an eye out for when buying a laptop on Black Friday?

Start with the brand name. Something like the Microsoft Surface Laptop is a pricey option, but there are other, more affordable 2-in-1 convertible options also available if you have the time to look around.

Be careful not to run into the dark with a brand name you neither know nor trust simply because there’s a cheap device on offer.

If you want a machine that will last you a few years at least (and gives you the satisfaction of money well spent on quality and technical support) you should make a purchase from well-known PC manufacturers you recognise, like Acer, Apple, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, 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 currently available in Australia.

It's also worth looking into the websites you're purchasing from. Many websites will have customer reviews, and we'd particularly recommend steering clear of stores where customers have complained about long shipping times. Remember to avoid any sites you're not too sure about giving your credit card information as well – if in doubt, shop elsewhere.

Sizing things up

If you already have a particular PC manufacturer in mind, you’ll need to consider the overall size of the machine you want. The most common sizes for laptops are 13 inches, 14 inches, 15 inches and 17 inches.

Smaller notebooks are not only more portable, but are often cheaper as well. Larger devices, on the other hand, offer more screen real estate and, with the increase in space under the hood, you’re likely to find more powerful internal components alongside a bigger battery.

Then there’s the weight consideration. If you need to carry your laptop around for work a lot, you’ll want to opt for a lightweight, compact notebook that weighs less than 2kg – and ideally, less than 1.5kg.

Laptop on desk

(Image: © Image Credit: PhotoMIX Ltd. / Pexels)

The spec sheet

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 discount 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, it’s important to consider the core parts of the machine – the processor (CPU), system memory, storage and, to a lesser extent, the graphics processor (GPU).

When it comes to the main processor, the most commonly found CPUs will be manufactured by Intel. While the latest generation of the Intel Core i5 is a decently powerful model, the Core i7 is the most powerful choice in every case.

The average user won’t need the kind of oomph the Core i7 offers unless you're deep into gaming, video editing or other heavy-duty tasks. This makes the Core i5 the ideal mid-range option, although the entry-level Core i3 processor can give you an affordable machine that you won’t use for anything too demanding; they're ideal for tasks like browsing the internet and drafting documents.

Slim laptops are likely to house a Y series Intel processor, as they can run without fans for cooling. 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 your only choice, however – you could easily opt for an AMD APU (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 a little cheaper than Intel-toting laptops while offering similar levels of performance.

Store that memory

The next thing to consider is system memory. Ideally, you want 4GB of RAM, though 8GB is the preferable option for future-proofing and any kind of gaming. Cheaper laptops still run with 2GB of RAM, but these days that really isn’t 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 quoted in MHz but don’t worry about that too much; it’s the quantity that’s the more important factor in terms of performance.

These days, you’ll find that many laptops use an SSD (solid-state drive) for storage. SSDs offer very reliable performance and you’ll find that apps and programs will load very quickly. 

Cheaper models are more likely to have eMMC drives and though these use flash memory just like an SSD, they’re considerably slower. eMMC is an effective way for laptop manufacturers to cut corners and costs, which is exactly why you’ll often find it in budget laptops. 

Traditional hard drives (which you’ll often find referred to as an HDD or hard disk drive) are the slowest medium of storage. Their strength lies in the fact that they usually have far bigger capacity – you can find storage of up to 2TB even in budget hardware.

A speed in RPM may be quoted with a hard drive, and the faster ones run at 7200 RPM, with slower drives pitched at 5400 RPM. The latter may be rather sluggish but, once again, bear in mind that as with SSDs, performance will vary across individual drives.

Reviews are your friend here, so don’t be afraid to Google a particular model and look for an evaluation or two (and again, you can check out TechRadar’s review section).

Person reading on laptop

See clearly

Most laptops will have integrated graphics, meaning the GPU is built into the CPU and you’ll usually find that performance is pretty limited as a result. Integrated graphics – referred to as Intel HD Graphics, or Intel Iris, when it comes to Intel processors – is more for the casual gamer, but nothing more than that. For anyone who wants to play more heavy-duty games, you’ll need a discrete GPU – a graphics solution that sits separate from the processor. 

For example, the GeForce MX150 is Nvidia’s current (Pascal-based) entry-level mobile GPU, but you may find you need to fork out for something a little more powerful than that for really good performance, like the GeForce GTX 1060. However, it’s worth noting that prices can soar quickly when it comes to powerful GPUs.

As far as screens are concerned, most mid-range laptops will offer a Full HD display as standard, which is a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. 

However, when you slide down the price spectrum towards more budget models, you’ll find there are plenty of machines which only offer a resolution of 1,366 x 768. Don’t let this put you off, though. This resolution is perfectly fine, especially on smaller screens. Indeed, a lower resolution is often a benefit to a laptop with lower specs as it means there are fewer pixels for the CPU and graphics solution to shift, making things more likely to run smoothly.

This is something gamers might want to remember, too. Though a 4K screen looks and sounds like a great idea, it’ll take a serious toll on your machine’s core components and sometimes it’s worth sacrificing a bit of image quality for a smoother frame rate. 

4K displays will also drain your laptop battery faster and, given this is an area where gaming laptops already struggle, you may want to consider what you’re losing to gain 4K.

Know what you want before Black Friday

Draw up a list of what you want from your laptop before the Black Friday sales begin, and take note of any models or brands that have caught your eye. This means your deal-hunting can be narrowed down and more successful, not to mention quicker.

This will also help to stop you spending money on impulse buys which you may regret later, especially if a deal for something you actually do want crops up later, and you've already blown your budget.

Keep the receipts

Make sure you keep hold of your receipts in case you're not happy 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 may offer longer warranties than others, which could be a deciding factor when buying a laptop or MacBook on Black Friday. Most PC manufacturers offer a two-year warranty, but under Australian consumer law, you’ll typically be covered for three years.

Stick with TechRadar to get the best Black Friday deals

Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales can get a bit overwhelming, with numerous retailers vying for your custom at the same time. While this means there are very competitive deals to be had, it also unfortunately means there are some deals that aren’t as good as they first appear.

That's why you should visit TechRadar to ensure you get the best Black Friday deals. We keep an eye on all of the top retailer's Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, and highlight the very best savings on the best laptops.

The best Black Friday laptop deals from last year

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 i7 / 8GB / 256GB + 1TB  2-in-1 laptop | down to $1,379; was $2,299 

This was one of the best deals we saw during Black Friday last year, with a whopping $920 shaved off this convertible to make it a powerful and affordable option if you were looking for a 2-in-1 with plenty of storage. You also got a Full HD screen with an infrared camera for facial recognition.

Lenovo X1 Yoga (Gen 2) i7 / 8GB / 256GB 2-in-1 laptop | down to $1,699; was $2,599

This seriously premium 2-in-1 from Lenovo also dropped in price last year. With $900 saved on a machine featuring powerful innards, it became another excellent hybrid laptop option for buyers.

Dell XPS 13 laptop | down to $1,599, was $1,999

For anyone who wasn’t after a 2-in-1, Dell was offering our favourite Ultrabook for $400 less than its usual RRP. This particular configuration featured a 7th-gen Intel Core processor and 8GB of RAM, making it a veritable powerhouse for a nice low price.

Best laptop sales predictions for 2018

Black Friday in Australia is still relatively new, but given we covered what happened last year, we can with some authority predict what could be up for grabs on Black Friday 2018.

Big name brands like Dell, Lenovo and HP should all see price cuts to their range of laptops, both budget and high-end. Last year, Dell's XPS 13 and XPS 15 laptops saw generous price cuts, and we hope to see similar discounts this year. They are two of the best laptops money can buy, so if you find those two getting discounted on Black Friday, definitely consider buying them.

Price cuts to Microsoft's excellent range of Surface devices could also see generous price cuts on Black Friday. Microsoft just announced the Surface Pro 6, and while Black Friday will be too soon for that new device to see discounts, it means that its predecessor, the Surface Pro 2017, has a good chance of being reduced in price. Keep an eye out for the budget Surface Go as well, as we think Microsoft may make some small price cuts there.

So what about Apple? Apple's MacBook laptops don't often get major price cuts. Last year there was only a 10% discount on selected MacBooks, and we could potentially see the same again, although we’re hoping for 15% off this year.

  • Can’t wait till Black Friday? We round up the best laptop deals available each week.