Monitors prices have remained fairly stable
over the past year, mainly because the size and technology of monitors has
itself stopped changing in any substantial way. Prices are starting to drop at
the absolute top end as the best 3D monitors approach affordable levels, but
for the majority of monitors, your money goes no further today than it did last
A more pressing problem with monitors is
that the price can fluctuate wildly from outlet to outlet. Consider, for
example, the ViewSonic V3D241, a 24” display that was one of the cheapest 3D
monitors available in May last year. All reviews written around that time quote
the price at around $450. You can still buy it from various outlets today and
the results show that the price varies massively: it costs only $357 from the
BT shop, but the same model is $626 from Expansys.
This doesn’t even account for the other
problem you face when buying a monitor: the sheer number of models available. Constant
revisions and minor differences in product specifications can make it hard to
tell whether you’re buying something newer or older than its line-mates.
Officially speaking, the ViewSonic V3D241 has been superseded by the Viewsonic
V3D245, but the technology in both is broadly identical; the latter just has a
different shaped stand. The V3D245 currently costs between $487.5 and $525 –
over a hundred pounds more than the cheapest V3d241. Ask yourself: what are you
really paying for?
The good news is that even though it’s easy
to spend more than you should, there are plenty of opportunities to make
savings on your monitor of choice. You can easily get a better price not just
by shopping around, but also by seeking out slightly older stock with near-identical
specs and extra discounts. It does mean that if you’re not careful about where
you buy from and don’t have comprehensive adive, you could end up paying over
the odds, but as long as you pay attention to Micro Mart, hopefully you won’t
have that problem!
That said, one wild card in the mix
concerns a recent Korean anti-trust lawsuit, which fined top monitor
manufactures Samsung and LG for price fixing on their mobile phone handsets.
There are echoes here of 2008, when both companies were fined for price fixing
on their LCD displays. With fines totaling several hundred million dollars
handed out to Samsung, LG and their partners, the consumer might yet feel the
effects. It’s worth keeping an eye out on the fortunes of both LG and Samsung
to see how they respond.
‘There’s even talk that the price of an
average desktop PC will actively rise.’
The varying prices of components detailed
in this article is, of course, going to cause the average price of a desktop PC
to remain fairly static as retailers and manufacturers look to balance savings
and cost increases against one another. There’s even talk that the price of an
average desktop PC will actively rise.
But a more interesting factor in pricing in
the changing face of the desktop PC. As all-in-one computers (where the main
unit houses both the screen and the components, iMac-style) become more
desirable, companies will look to charge a premium for these trendier products.
The growing popularity of touch-screens retail prices. The almost drastic
predictions suggest that the average price of desktop PC will rise by as much
as a third as a result of this shift.
Luckily, that does mean that the way to get
a solid bargain when shopping around for a desktop PC is simple: while the
world is poking around all-in-ones and making impressed noises, you make a
beeline for traditional desktops.
Or better yet, build your own so you can
avoid the worst pricing mishaps. Since hard drives make up somewhere between 5%
and 10% of the price of any desktop PC, if you can build your own using an old
hard drive, you could quite easily save money that way as well.
The world of laptops is currently more
fractured than it has ever been, and there’s one good reason for that: pricing.
After dropping throughout 2010 and 2011, the retail price of a laptop found a
sweet spot at around $600 to $750 per unit (give or take a hundred quid). This,
not at all coincidentally, as about the point where the cost of an affordable
tablet tops out. Since then, the goal of most manufactures appears to be to
keep their basic notebooks at that price regardless of what their specs are or,
indeed, could be.
To see how laptop prices have changed (or
not), let’s look at some popular laptops from May 2011 and compare them and
their prices to the latest refreshed versions.
The Dell XPS 15z was a high-end laptop that
launched last year at prices starting at $1348.5. An average model had a 15”
screen, 2.7GHz Intel Core i7, 750MB hard drive and 6GB of RAM. A year later,
the refreshed model has dropped $150 of the low-end price, but with no clear
improvement in specs. Indeed, the cheapest XPS 15z is worse than the average
model, suggesting little movement overall.
Similarly, in May 2011, the mid-ranger HP
ProBook 4530s had a 15”screen, 2.3GHz Intel Core ị, 500GB hard drive and 4GB of
Ram. At the time, it cost $876. A year on, the cost of the same model with a
2.5GHz CPU and 650MB hard drive is only $825. It’s fair to say that if you
spent $876 on anything, you’d be fairly glad to discover it had depreciated by
only $45 after 12 months. Under any reasonable assessment, that means the price
has effectively risen since last year.
Which begs the question: when RAM prices
were in a slump and CPUs have only been getting cheaper and more powerful, why
are laptop prices barely fluctuating? You could argue that it’s because the
industry is taking steps to dry to class anything that looks even a little
different to a standard notebook as something else completely. Go any more
powerful and expensive, and they fall in a new ‘ultrabook’ class. Go cheaper
and weaker, and they’re called netbooks.
There is one thing on the horizon that’s
likely to cause laptop prices to drop, though, and that’s the launch of Windows
8. As the big day nears, you can expect to see retailers looking to offload
their Windows 7 stock and counteract buyer paralysis with a variety of deals
and offers. At the same time, August and September is always a good time to
scour Micro Mart for bargains as retailers attempt to take advantage of the
back-to-school rush for new hardware.
So don’t despair! Even though the situation
looks dire in some areas, the canny and informed buyer can still ensure that
the best deals are available to them. Spent properly, your money will still get
a better computer today than at the same time last year; you just have to be a
litter more selective about the time and place you spend it. Stick with us, and
we’ll make sure you know when and where the best deals are. You can’t say we
haven’t warned you!