Every year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, shoppers scour retailers looking for the best deals on computer parts. Those two days are well known for having the largest sales and best discounts. But is it really the best time to buy?
PCPartPicker tracks prices for over 10,000 computer parts across dozens of retailers. To find out if the holiday season is the optimal time to purchase parts, I plotted out historical prices across different part categories.
Should you wait for the holiday sales? It depends...
First, let's look at Solid State Drives (SSDs) limited to the SATA interface and sized between 60GB-120GB.
For each part retail prices are plotted as blue points, creating an intensity plot. Gray banding represents the span from lowest to highest price. The vertical blue line represents Thanskgiving, and the vertical red line represents Christmas. The thick black line shows the overall average price.
SSD prices dropped slowly during Summer 2011, but then held steady from roughly October through January. Holiday sales showed up as week-long dips on the gray lower bound immediately after Thanksgiving and right before Christmas. Therefore, if you are looking to buy an SSD and aren't locked into a specific model, your best bet to is to buy the week after Thanksgiving or the week before Christmas. If you are locked into a specific model, however, it may not matter; prices generally hold steady well into the next year.
In 2011, flooding in Thailand took several hard drive manufacturing plants offline, resulting in significantly reduced production. The effect began to take hold in October 2011, when inventory shortages caused prices to rise. Because of limited inventory, sales were extremely scarce during the holiday period. As production resumed, prices gradually dropped. Looking forward to the 2012 holiday season, I expect to see much better hard drive deals as production and inventory has largely been restored.
Next, let's look at LCD monitors between 20"-27". It's a very different story here.
From the plot we can tell that LCD monitor prices are slowly trending upwards. (Monitors were added to PCPartPicker mid-July 2011.) The real surprise is during the holiday shopping period. Prices rose quickly leading up to Thanksgiving. Immediately after Cyber Monday, prices rose sharply again. Roughly a week before Christmas, there was yet another rise in prices. There is evidence of spot sales a few days after Black Friday, but overall if you are buying a monitor it is better to do it sooner than later. Waiting for specific deals could end up costing you more.
For CPUs, I first restricted the selection to the most popular segment - Intel CPUs using an LGA1155 socket (excluding Extreme Editions).
Intel LGA1155-based CPUs held steady in price over the last year, even amid the introduction of Ivy Bridge. During the 2011 holiday period, prices were relatively immune to sales, suffering only a small price increase the week before Christmas. Therefore, if you are in the market for an Intel CPU, timing should not have much of an effect. It is worth noting that combo deals are not reflected in this plot.
Next I took a look at AM3 and AM3+ socket based CPUs from AMD:
Like Intel LGA1155 CPUs, AMD CPUs saw steady average prices with few lower-end sales.
With video cards, the introduction of Radeon HD 7000 and GeForce 600 series chipsets caused quite a bit of average price fluctuation. To get a better look at 2011 video card pricing, I chose to look at two previous chipsets - the Radeon HD 6000 and GeForce 500 series. The price trends are different between the two, making for an interesting comparison. GeForce 500 series cards dropped in price slowly throughout the holiday period, with spot sales at the usual times. Radeon HD 6000 series video cards also saw a steady reduction in price throughout the holiday period, in addition to typical spot sales.
When is the best time to buy? It depends on how picky you are about buying specific models. If you don't have specific parts in mind, you should be able to pick up significant savings. But be warned: for several part types, waiting until the week before Christmas could prove costly.
To make your holiday computer shopping easier, PCPartPicker closely tracks part prices. If you have specific components in mind, subscribe to price alerts to be notified when prices drop below your predetermined thresholds.
I'm pleased to announce that PCPartPicker now supports Newegg combo deals for US and Canada!
Combo deals are important when trying to find the best deals, but with thousands available finding the best savings can be tricky and time consuming. To help with this, PCPartPicker automatically searches over 3,000 combo deals to find the permutation of deals that offer the greatest overall savings for your part list.
For a given part list, there may be a hundred or more different permutations of combo deals available. PCPartPicker evaluates each permutation of deals, factoring in the effects of those deals, prices from your preferred retailers, nearby local-only deals, promotions and coupon codes, mail-in rebates, taxes, and shipping. The best combination of deals is presented and broken down part by part, with a list of which promotions and combo deals offer the largest savings.
When you choose parts, combo icons indicate which parts offer combo deals - both in general and in combination with parts you've already picked out. Part detail pages also list which available deals.
With the initial rollout for this feature, it is currently limited to Newegg.com and Newegg.ca combo deals of only two items. Once I have a better idea of the extra load this will add on the server, I intend to support deals with three or more parts.
A number of highly requested features have recently been added:
In addition, over the last few weeks over 1,000 additional parts have been added to the database. Well over 3,000 custom parts have also been linked up to newly added parts in the database (and more custom parts are being added/linked up at a fairly rapid rate).
If you live in the same state as a major retailer, the addition of sales tax can make a big difference in the total price of a build. With Amazon now charging sales tax in California (and starting in several other states soon), finding the cheapest prices is no longer a trivial task.
To solve this problem, PCPartPicker now provides fair price comparisons by allowing you to factor in sales tax rates for price calculations. On your preferences page, you can enter the sales tax rates for in-state retailers. Once those values are saved, all part pages, part lists, category lists, and markup will reflect the updated prices. When PCPartPicker chooses the cheapest price for a given part, it will automatically factor sales tax into account depending on the retailers and rates you have entered. (Note: sales tax rates are stored with your user account, so you will need to be logged in to have it included.)
A couple new power supply features just went live:
For the power supply calculator, it shows estimated wattage in the part list view (and also in the mini part list on category list pages). The wattage is a link, and if you click on it you'll get a dialog that explains the calculation breakdown. That way if you are curious how I arrived at the number provided, you can see it part by part.
I know that power supply calculation is an area of dispute and controversy... so I figured I'd dive right into that. But that's also where I would love to get your input and help. Is it overestimating? Underestimating? Does it need any need particular tweaks? I'd love to hear your thoughts!