Back to School Laptop Buying Guide: How to Score a Bundle Deal

By , dealnews Senior Feature Writer

Now that summer is in full swing, retailers are gearing up for their annual back to school sales, and that means one thing: Discounted laptops. However, you may want to think twice before jumping on the first laptop deal you find.

Based on previous back to school sales, we've found that laptop bundles can provide a better value than traditional laptop deals, if the extras appeal to you and your student. Last year we saw back to school laptop bundles from the likes of the Microsoft Store, Apple, and Best Buy, to name a few. Typically, these deals combine a well-equipped laptop with a gift card, gaming console, or both. Based on last year's archives, the best bundles went on sale in August.

Below, we've created a buyer's cheat sheet that lets you know ahead of time which bundles are worth looking for and what you can expect to pay for them.

Get Your Laptop and Gaming Console in One Shot

August is a killer month for laptop / gaming console bundles, and the one store responsible for many of those sales is none other than Amazon. Last year, the online retailer bundled a 15" Dell XPS laptop with a $100 Amazon Gift Card and a Microsoft Xbox 360 Slim 4GB console for $900. We expect to see teasers like this sale from Amazon in July, but we recommend holding off till August when the bundles might become cheaper; the aforementioned example dropped an additional $100 a month later.

You'll be able to save even more money if you're an Amazon student member. Last year, Amazon student members paying with an Amazon Visa card were offered a 14" Acer laptop with an Xbox 360 Slim 4GB Console for $699.99. (A similar offer ran in early September via the Microsoft Store, this time with the purchase of a $504 Acer Aspire 11" laptop). The catch? In both instances, a valid .edu mailing address was required, so make sure your child has his or her college email address set up and working.

Already have an Xbox 360? Fortunately, Amazon doesn't play favorites when it comes to gaming consoles. Last year it offered $200 off a Sony PlayStation 3 160GB Console or Sony PlayStation 3 320GB Move Bundle with the purchase of a $799.99 (or more) Sony laptop. We expect to see this bundle again come early August.

Amazon isn't the only retailer to offer bundled consoles. Last summer, the Sony Store took $200 off the purchase of a Sony PlayStation 3 160GB Console or Sony Internet-connected Blu-ray player with the purchase of a $799.99 (or more) VAIO laptop. (newegg also mimicked this deal by bundling a PS3 with select VAIO laptop purchases.) And we've already seen five different laptop configurations bundled with an Xbox 360 from Microsoft Store this past month, starting as low as $699. However, the bottom line is this: August is when you'll want to buy your laptop / gaming console bundle, as many of these deals will drop in price next month.

Student Freebies & Discounts for the Apple Fan

Apple's back to school sale kicked off in early June offering a $100 Apple Gift Card with the purchase of a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or iMac. Even better, this year Apple added its iPad to the sale, bundling iPad purchases with a $50 Apple Gift Card. (This promotion runs through September 21, and unlike the above-mentioned sales, prices do not change.)

The downside to Apple's bundle is that, while you'll pay the education rate for your Apple computer (which is around 5% to 8% off list price), it's still quite easy to find other aggressive deals on Apple products. For that reason, we recommend looking at deals on Apple's previous-generation products or current models sold through resellers before jumping on the manufacturer's back to school sale. Some products, such as the previous-generation MacBook Air, are currently seeing all-time price lows through such resellers and will yield bigger savings than any bundle Apple can offer.

Get a Bundled Printer or Loyalty Program Perks

Getting a printer bundled with your laptop purchase is nowhere near as sexy as getting a gift card or Xbox system. But for students heading off to college, a free printer can come in very handy as it surely beats running to the computer lab late at night to print off a term paper. To secure yourself a laptop / printer bundle, we recommend keeping an eye on back to school sales at stores like newegg during August.

Other stores might reward back to school shoppers via their loyalty or rewards programs. For instance, last year OfficeMax offered $200 in MaxPerks rewards with the purchase of an HP or Toshiba notebook. However, keep in mind that come late August, the rewards points dropped down to just $150, so jump on this deal fast when you see it.

Tying Up Your Bundle: The Best Time to Buy

Like previous years, this summer will see an abundance of laptop deals. As far as bundles are concerned, we recommend you skip the July sales and opt for buying a bundle in August as these will provide a better value. And, once August arrives, we highly recommend buying the first bundle that suits your needs. Unlike Apple's promotion, which runs till late September, it's rare to see good bundle deals repeat throughout August.

Also, regardless of when you buy, keep in mind that these bundled deals are largely going to apply to laptop systems priced at $700 or more; you won't find the extreme-budget notebooks bundled with a free Xbox, so this type of deal is best-suited to a student looking for a well-equipped computer.

Ready to put this information to use? Set up an email alert now for the bundle of your choice, so you'll be notified the second deals for that item hit our site. And for more price trend information, check out our consumer shopping research page.

An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisRamirez.

Follow @dealnews on Twitter for the latest roundups, price trend info, and stories. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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I love dell's refurb. I have not bought "scratch and dent" models though. I only buy the refurb ones. It is well worth the money if you get it when the coupons come out. I paid 999 for my alienware m14x that was literally fully loaded and costs 2499 new. It is perfect in every way. I have also bought many other lines from there to resell for profit because the prices were so low somtimes. I have had xps, inspirons, and adamo. They all worked like new.
Dan de Grandpre (DealNews)
I had a bad experience with a Dell refurb — it was a broken piece of junk — but that was something like 7 years ago. atlantafalconsfan89, you've had a good, recent experience?
The best way to buy laptops, I have found, is to wait for refurbished sales through dell. Typically they have a computer already marked down a large amount just by the fact its refurbished. Then every so often you will see coupons ranging around 25 percent off. For those who are really on a budget, that is the way to go. You can get very nice laptops with more features for much much less than just buying a new laptop on sale. The beauty is you still get the 1 year warranty. To all the parents out there, give this idea a shot, your kids wont be dissapointed.
Dan de Grandpre (DealNews)
$400 for a 2GB 300GB laptop? Office Depot ripped you off! :D dealnews listed a similar Lenovo laptop for $229 at Fry's pretty recently.

Also, you're comparing an extremely basic laptop to a Dell XPS with a free Xbox 360. That's like comparing a Toyota Yaris to a BMW 300-series.
These are deals?  Office Depot consistently has better deals than the above.  I walked in their store last August or such and paid $400 for her Lenovo Dual-Core, 2 GB of ram, 300 GB  hard-drive, Windows 7, etc... 

I could probably find better deals on Dealnews than what I see above right now.