The Best Laptop Deals from Cyber Monday 2018 So Far

Follow our Guide to Cyber Monday for all the best deals this holiday season.

If you need a laptop and you’ve been waiting for a Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal to get it, good news! Although most holiday deals aren’t deals at all, we almost always see a few great prices on great computers at this time of year, and we’ll be posting the best ones throughout the holiday season.

Good laptop deals can be a little hard to spot through the haze of supposed sales that don’t actually save you money and low prices on computers you shouldn’t buy. Over thousands of hours of testing laptops (and half a decade of scouring for Black Friday deals, specifically), here’s what we’ve learned about how to find a great laptop deal, what specs to look out for, and—maybe most important—what to avoid.

Some Black Friday deals have already started, and we’ve seen good price reductions on some laptops we’ve tested and recommend. We’ll be updating this post in the lead up to and during Black Friday when we find good deals; let us know in the comments if you have questions or suggestions. (You can also use our feedback form or hit us up on Twitter.)

Cyber Monday and Black Friday laptop deals we like

Four pc laptops open on a table

MacBook Deals

  • Adorama has a deal on a powerful 2018 MacBook Pro, featuring a six-core Intel Core i7 2.6 GHz processor, 16 GB RAM, an AMD Radeon Pro 560X graphics card, and a 512 GB SSD. This model includes a Touch Bar, and only the space gray model is discounted. At a cost of $2,500 (normally $2,800), you’re essentially getting the 512 GB model for the 256 GB price. Discounts on newer Apple hardware are rare, so this is a good opportunity to save on a MacBook with strong specs.
  • B&H Photo has the 2018 MacBook Air on sale for $1,070, a $130 discount. But since the laptop is new, orders are now on a first-come-first-served basis. This configuration comes with a 128 GB SSD, 8 GB of RAM, and a 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5 Dual-Core processor. This is the top pick in our guide to the best MacBooks.

Windows Laptop Deals

  • Want a laptop for gaming? The Asus ROG Strix Scar II GL504GS-DS74 Gaming Laptop, the top pick in our guide to the best gaming laptops, is on sale for the first time with a $110 discount, taking it down to $1,840.
  • The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (6th Gen) with an i5-8250U Processor, 8GB RAM, and a 256 GB SSD is the upcoming runner-up in our guide to the best Windows ultrabook. Use coupon code THINKBLCKFRI to get it for $987 directly from the manufacturer.
  • Costco has a high-end configuration of the New Dell XPS 13an ultrabook we like, even though it lacks USB-A ports, for $1,350. It has a a Core i7 CPU, a 4K screen, 16 GB RAM, and a 512 GB SSD, and normally goes for $1,700. The New XPS 13 has only USB-C ports, and the 4K screen will mean battery life in the five- to six-hour range without much increase in utility. Even so, it’s still a lot of computer for the money
  • Our runner-up pick for the best cheap gaming laptop, the Dell G5 15 Gaming Laptop, is down to $1,050 after a $200 discount from Dell. This laptop comes with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics, an Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid-state drive, and a 1 TB hard drive.

How to shop for a laptop on Cyber Monday (or any other time)

A laptop is a big purchase, and anytime you’re spending a lot of money, you should also spend some time to make sure you’re buying the right thing for your needs. Don’t impulse-buy.

First, as a general rule, any Windows laptop under $300 is not worth buying. At that price, get an iPad instead, or a Chromebook. Beyond that, here are some things you should do before looking for a deal:

  • Do your research beforehand and figure out what type of laptop you want. A slim and speedy ultrabook? A big but powerful gaming laptop? A Chromebook? Something for video and photo editing? If you’re not sure, take a look at our best laptops guide, which includes a handy flowchart.
  • Once you know what you want, make a list of the models that look good to you. It’s fine to know exactly which model you want, but if your purchase is time- or price-sensitive, you’re more likely to find a really good deal if you have several acceptable options.
  • Note the particular configurations with the specs you prefer, the specs you’ll settle for in a pinch, and the normal prices for each configuration, as well as the price you’re hoping to find. (The specs we generally recommend, and where you can compromise, are below.)
  • If possible, go to a physical store to touch the laptops you’re considering, especially if a model isn’t one we’ve tested. Cheap laptops especially can be prone to clunky trackpads, mushy and unresponsive keyboards, or dim, washed-out screens, so it’s good to get hands-on time if you can, to avoid the pain of a return.
  • Be realistic—it’s not uncommon to find good discounts ($300 to $400) on good laptops, especially around the holiday season. You probably won’t pick up a $1,500 laptop for $500, but retailers often have great deals on high-end computers, so this is a good time to pick up a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon for the price of a Dell XPS 13, for example, or an XPS 13 for the price of an Asus ZenBook.

When you’re shopping for deals online, stick to major websites like those of Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, or the manufacturer itself (or look out for walk-in deals at local stores like Micro Center). Avoid sketchy-looking sites, retailers you haven’t heard of, or sellers with deals too good to be true, like BuyDig. The major sites tend to have the best sales on good laptops, and they have good return policies.

Those policies come in handy when you can’t touch a computer before you buy. As soon as your laptop arrives, open the box carefully, keep all the parts and accessories, and give the computer a thorough test drive. If you spot anything you don’t like, return the laptop to the manufacturer or store as soon as possible. Wait too long, and you’ll be stuck with it—some manufacturers give you only a two-week return window.

Wirecutter Deals editor Adam Burakowski told us that the best deals on laptops come around Christmas, but buying a refurbished model is an excellent way to save money year-round. When you’re shopping for a refurbished laptop, buy from the original manufacturer or an authorized dealer—Apple is especially good for refurbished options. Adam warned against seller-refurbished models from places like Amazon, saying, “It’s questionable whether they’ll come through.”

Laptop specs to know

We’ve tested hundreds of laptops in nearly a dozen categories, and most of our laptop guides include recommended specs for our picks, but if a laptop you’re looking at isn’t one of our picks, or if you’re eyeing a configuration we haven’t tested, here are some general guidelines for what you should look for.

CPU: The best choice is a seventh- or eighth-generation Intel Core i5 or better. Cheap Windows laptops can go down to a Core i3 if necessary, and some Chromebooks with Celeron processors are fine (unless the processor has an N in the model name; avoid those). Laptop manufacturers and sellers love using deals season to unload old stock. Check the part number for the CPU: Intel CPUs use a naming convention like Core i5-7xxx, where the 7 refers to the processor generation. Anything lower than a 7 is more than two years old and should be avoided.

Storage: Storage is the first place cheap laptops cheap out, and nothing makes a computer feel slower from day one than a traditional spinning hard drive. Don’t choose a laptop without an SSD. You can get by with a 128 GB SSD if you use a lot of cloud storage or stream most of your media and augment that with a flash drive, an SD card, or a portable hard drive for more storage. The cheapest Windows laptop we recommend, the $400 Asus VivoBook Flip 14, has 64 GB of eMMC flash storage. It’s not great, but it’s still better than a 500 GB hard drive. The one exception to the storage rule is Chromebooks, which use barely any local storage and can go down as low as 16 GB of eMMC storage.

RAM: Get at least 8 GB. The more RAM a computer has, the more things it can do at once—browser tabs, gaming, almost anything benefits from more RAM. Right now, 8 GB is the sweet spot for most people. Chromebooks can get away with 4 GB; Windows needs more. Gamers or video or photo editors should aim for 16 GB.

Display: Aim for a resolution of 1920×1080 or better. A 4K panel is nice but not necessary, and anything lower than 1920×1080 will be pretty cheap and often have visible pixels. IPS panels display more colors more accurately, with better viewing angles than TN panels. Note: Don’t buy any laptop that lists its resolution only as “HD.” Unfortunately, in laptop land “HD” means 1366×768, not 1080p—that’s FHD. (No, this doesn’t make sense to us either.)

GPU: Unless you’re gaming, you don’t need a discrete GPU; the graphics processor in your CPU will be fine. For gaming laptops under $1,200, look for an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti or 1060. In the $2,000 range, look for a GTX 1070.

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