The Price of Computer Components Is Going Up? (Part 3)

7/6/2012 5:40:20 PM


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 year.

Description: Monitors

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 Officially speaking, the ViewSonic V3D241 has been superseded by the Viewsonic V3D245, but the technology in both is broadly identical; the latter just has a different shaped stand.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.

Desktop Computers

Description: Desktop Computers

‘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.


Description: Laptops

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!

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