Get The Best Price When Shopping Tablets

2/5/2013 9:04:59 AM

Buy your tablet direct from the manufacturer and you’ll always pay top-whack. Here are some tips to help you get the best price.

Shopping for tablets can be an expensive business, full of pitfalls for the wary. Here we offer simple tips to help you get the best value when you buy technology products, as gifts or for yourself.

It sounds obvious, but if you want to get value for money it’s important to do some research. And the start of that process is researching which product is best for your needs. Remember that ’cheap’ doesn’t always equate to ‘good value’.

Description: Get the best price

Get the best price

Recently, we were challenged over our assertion a year ago that the iPad was ‘well-priced’. Surely, said the reader, Android tablets were cheaper and product tear-downs had shown that the components were worth a lot less than Apple charged for the iPad. A tear-down of the components of a device will show how much they cost, but it bears only a small relation to the value of that product.

The iPad is well-priced, although the argument is more nuanced now. Back then, the only products that came anywhere near to the quality of the iPad weren’t as good, and cost at least as much. And they ran an Android smartphone OS          that wasn’t fit for purpose on tablets, with nary a tablet-optimised app or decent source of music and movies to be found.

The market is very different now. With the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD, Android hardware is getting close to iPad-quality, and these products cost a lot less than Apple’s tablet. Android Jelly Bean is a proper tablet operating system, with good music and movie options, although there is still a lack of apps for tablets on Android.

The Microsoft Surface RT tablet adds a decent Windows option, but it costs the same amount as the entry-level iPad.

The cost of the Nexus devices, and the tablets from e-reader makers, is subsidised to encourage content sales. As such they are instantly attractive to consumers, but those who purchase them are making a deal: the Nook HD and Kindle Fire are locked down to the extent that they are useless bricks unless you’re happy to purchase content via their respective stores. The Nexus devices are subsidised because Google’s main customer is advertisers, and it wants you to purchase apps and music, while delivering data to advertisers.

None of these things makes these tablets bad products, but it does put the iPad’s price into perspective. They are different devices for different needs. So, before you decide on a product to buy, work out what you need it to do. Then read as many reputable reviews as you can.

Use price comparison

Price-comparison sites have a bad name in some quarters but, used well, they can unearth the odd bargain. At the very least, a visit to Google Shopping, PriceRunner, Reevoo and the rest will let you know what sort of price you should be paying for your selected product.

Description: Google Shopping website

Google Shopping website

Don’t limit yourself to price-comparison websites, either. Hit the high street with a smartphone and you can utilise a raft of comparison apps while physically checking out gadgets. One of the best is Skinflint for iOS, which lets you compare the cheapest prices for tech products from more than 850 UK technology retailers. If you’ve done your research you can shop by specification and compare prices from major chains, online retailers and hundreds of independent retailers. And because Skinflint includes Geolocation services and a barcode scanner you can find out who has what offers in stock, wherever you are.

Of course, the business model of most comparison engines is that the company doing the comparing gets a small cut of any sale made. Given the already small margins most resellers make on technology products and the relative ease of access to the market for online retailers, this can lead to some sharp practice. It’s also why some big manufacturers and vendors make a point of stating we are not on price-comparison sites.

We recommend finding the best deal on price comparison, then comparing it to what is available from the manufacturer or vendors from whom you have previously purchased, and who you know will be around to fulfill any support requirements. Bear in mind that some products are available only, or primarily, from their makers.

Description: Skinflint for iOS lets you compare the cheapest prices from more than 850 U K technology retailers

Skinflint for iOS lets you compare the cheapest prices from more than 850 U K technology retailers

Check all options

eBay is no longer a flea market, and Amazon is not just a book store. These days, savvy online retailers will have a presence on eBay and Amazon Marketplace as well as the open web and price-comparison sites, and they may have different prices and special offers across all these portals.

Also look at deals sites such as HotUKDeals, in which users spread the word about voucher offers and time-limited deals.

Don’t be upsold

Retailers and manufacturers often make very little margin on tech products, so they’ll try to claw back some profit by selling additional software, warranties or next-day delivery. These can be useful, but don’t buy them if you don’t want to.

The final word

So, there you have it: research the product, research the price, and shop wisely with care and imagination.

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