[Alternative Title: How I saved a bundle on my latest laptop purchase...]
If you happened to have read my article yesterday, you'd have caught this little tidbit:
I think that I got a really good deal on a new-to-me (refurbished) laptop this week. My previous computer, a Dell Inspiron 1525 with a low-end Core 2 Duo chip, is actually still quite fast for my purposes, but one drop about 14 months ago hit a hinge pretty hard. Repeated opening and closing over the year lead to it almost falling off this past Friday.
The previous computer that I mentioned above is about two years old. At the time it cost me around $600 from Dell's Outlet store. I remember being ecstatic about having a laptop with a computer with a mid-range processor (a Core 2 Duo T5750) and the boost from 1GB of memory to 4GBs. I was also excited to make the jump from Windows XP to Vista. (That was obviously before I heard about all the issues with Vista.) I think that my excitement about the new computer was justified as just about 6 weeks ago, my work was shelling out $1200 to outfit software engineers with Mac PowerBooks with slower processors and a smaller screen.
So what about the new computer that I bought? I went to the same well as before... Dell Outlet. Why do I keep going there? Dell's Outlet store seems to liquidate top performing computers for cheap prices. When I looked at Comp-USA's website (they have a lot of refurbished computers now) or HP, I couldn't find similar deals. For several months, I had been eyeing the Dell Studio XPS 16... specifically the 1645 model. The Dell Studio XPS 1645 that I purchased is outstanding for a few reasons:
- Processor - They had an Intel Quad-Core i7-720QM available. That's tech speak for amazingly fast for a laptop. The PassMark benchmark (a measure of speed) of that processor is 3235. In comparison the same benchmark test for my current computer is 1113. When more is better I'm a fan of 3235 vs. 1113.
- Screen - I splurged a little (very little considering my $600 purchase) on my old Inspiron 1525 to get a 1440x900 resolution on a 15 inch screen. My new computer will have a 1920x1080 resolution on a 15.6 inch screen. If you've looked into getting the same full 1080P (1920x1080) on a very small television, you know how expensive and how impressive such a screen can be. The technology to squeeze more pixels into a smaller space is fairly cutting edge.
- Memory - My new computer is coming with 6GB of memory. That's not a huge upgrade from my 4GB - if I stuck with a 32-bit operating system. However, in jumping to a 64-bit version of Windows 7, I'm hearing that 6GM of memory will be a solid improvement.
- Hard Drive - I didn't opt for a huge hard drive... instead I opted for a fast hard drive. It spins at 7200RPM, which is a very rough measure of hard-drive speed (apologies to gamers who may look into seek times, write times, and more). The 320GB size is large enough to hold all the basic business applications I need... and a lot more.
- Battery - In getting my new computer I'm trading in my 6 cell battery for a 9-cell battery. In layman's terms that means that I'm getting about 33% more battery life at the expense of a little weight.
- Operating System - I'll be moving from Windows Vista, which I've had a couple of problems with to Windows 7. Everything that I've read about Windows 7 is that it is great.
The final cost of the computers... $998. I told a friend who is very on top of prices of computers and he thought it was a pretty good deal. Then he realized that I was talking about a laptop and not a desktop (desktops are much cheaper), where he upgraded it to a Keanu-esque "Whoa..."
So how did I get this deal? Let me break down all my tips:
- Go Refurbished - You usually get a decent warranty and if anything goes wrong with a computer (excusing stupid drops like my own), it happens in that first few days. This is a good way to save 30-50% off a new computer.
- Go Cheap - I normally wouldn't recommend a person buy a computer this high end. Many people should be happy with what $400-$500 can buy. I consider myself as an exception because I use a computer a lot, and I occasionally need it to develop software on.
- Get Coupons - Before I made my purchase, I searched the web for "Dell coupons", and found that there was a 15% off coupon (and free shipping) available. So a computer that was going to be $1050 or so, dropped to around $900 before California tax and environmental fees jumped it back up to $998. That 30 seconds saved me $150, which is a tremendous return on just about anyone's time.
- Track Prices - I have been looking at this computer for months. It had gotten close to $1000 in the past, but I didn't pull the trigger. Then one day it jumped up to around $1400-$1500 and I figured I missed my opportunity. So when it fell back to what I considered a very good price (top-end laptop under $1000), I didn't hesitate to buy it. If you are looking for a good way to keep track of prices over time, I highly suggest Evernote. It's amazingly simple to just select some text and save it as a note for later.
What tips to you use to get the best prices on computers?
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