The pricing of computer parts is volatile, to say the least, and susceptible to a cluster of forces that when competing in unison cause fluctuations that can be difficult to track in search of the elusive best time to buy.
We’ll get to the crux of the matter. There’s objectively no ideal time to buy PC parts, but there are few principles you can follow to bag a financially sound bargain. That is, without delving into the life-consuming task of tracking price movements on a dusty Excel spreadsheet for months on end in a fashion reminiscent of the protagonist in the movie A Beautiful Mind.
Recurrent Yearly Sales
We are all intimately acquainted with sales that pop up during the same period every year such as the price slashing pre-Christmas bonanza, Halloween, and the feverish pinnacle of opportunistic consumer pandemonium that is the redoubtable Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday is arguably one of the best times to buy PC components in a general sense, especially as the sale has morphed into a week-long feeding frenzy with pre-Black Friday sales and similarly inventive extensions. Increasingly, larger retailers run sales uninterrupted from Halloween through to the new year in some cases.
In reality, it all depends on what you are buying and more importantly if you are set on a particular brand/model. Said hardware may not even feature among the devices being slapped with a price reduction, and the discount may be marginal compared to waiting a little longer for a more significant drop. Flexibility in component choice is paramount to benefit most.
Fortunately, if you’ve missed Black Friday, these types of sales are interspersed throughout the year as retailers latch on to any excuse, however tenuous, to flog their wares at lower prices and increase revenue. Back to school sales, Valentine’s Day, Labor Day, the onset of Summer, January sales – you name it there’s probably a sale you can take advantage of to pick up a coveted PC part on the cheap.
With this in mind and working towards the idea of the best time to buy hardware, these yearly sales are worth looking out for, particularly in the online retail space as giant sellers like Amazon and Newegg jump into the fray with gusto.
We also note a no man’s land of sales running roughly from March until the beginning of June. Prices tend to creep up rather than down with very few seasonal sales on the horizon.
Recurring sales aside, daily deals are well worth monitoring for a surprise bargain. Take for example retailer Newegg and its questionably named Shell Shocker exclusive deals. These tend to change every day and can offer anything from a recently released GPU to mid-tier RAM that’s a couple of years old. The site also runs this in conjunction with traditional daily deals.
Amazon has a similar gig with its Gold Box and Daily Deals. Sadly, these cover all manner of products from vacuum cleaners to gardening gloves, so these are sleepers to track for the occasional nugget.
Brick and mortar retailers like Best Best also have ”Deal of the Day” type offers that are more often than not complete PCs with the occasional product that will titillate builders.
Luck plays a part, but it is possible to save big through these types of deals.
A further good time to buy – especially if you aren’t too fussed about equipping your machine with the latest gear – is when a reputable manufacturer is transitioning to a new model, say for example a GPU. Nvidia’s recent shift from the GTX to the RTX has resulted in a drop in the price of the former lineage of GPUs. Intel and AMD operate similarly, as do peripheral makers.
Not only are manufacturers eager to shift lingering stock, but points of sales are just as enthusiastic about liquidating their current inventory of the previous generation in favor of the newer replacement, which invariably comes with a higher margin. The best way to get rid of a product is too lower the price and sellers wholeheartedly comply.
The tactic does involve staying abreast of the hardware scene and upcoming products to predict when the prices may drop. Unfortunately, this isn’t an exact science, and it may take distributors a few weeks to trigger reductions, but the effort is worth the outcome.
Finding The Best Deal At Any Given Time
Waiting a few weeks for a part may not be the end of the world to sum (heck, many builders accumulate hardware over long periods for the sole purpose of saving money), but when this morphs into bidding time for multiple months, then we venture into ridiculous territory. If time is of the essence, you don’t necessarily have to bite the bullet and pay full retail price for a part.
Sites like PCPartPicker and PriceSpy (for UK buyers) offer a breakdown of prices for a particular product from a list of vendors. For example, we eyed up an Intel i7 6700K on PCPartPicker and saw prices differences of nearly $50.00 from one retailer to the next. In the grand scheme of a DIY PC build, $50.00 isn’t negligible and can be used to fund a better piece of part elsewhere in the machine.
PCPartPicker also features a historical pricing timeline that you can push back up to two years to get an understanding of pricing trends over time. There’s a huge discrepancy in how prices vacillate depending on the specific part making these types of chronological logs a valuable resource.
The bitcoin mining craze meant GPU prices skyrocketed due to a widespread shortage of devices as industrial-scale farms popping up all over the world picked up all the graphics unit they possibly could. With the furor for cryptocurrency dying down somewhat as of late, GPU prices have returned to more familiar levels, and in comparison to the last few years, there’s never been a better time to buy a new GPU.
Watch out for these types of external variables that can affect pricing and buy accordingly at the opportune time.