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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.