Laptop prices are starting to come down, in a big way. The first Ultrabook computer to go under $600 has kicked off what are expected to be a series of savage price drops across every laptop category, as retailers try and get rid of older stock ahead of Widows 8’s arrival.
Microsoft’s new operating system introduces a new user interface that will work best with a new wave of touch-based laptops being readied by computer makers for launch when Windows 8 is released, on October 26.
As a result, we’re about to enter two months of discounting by Australian retailers as they clear older or about-to-be-superseded laptops. The first wave of price cuts will be to laptops with older, 2nd generation Intel Core processors. These computers were instantly dated in May when Intel launched the 3rd generation Core processors that went into the newest laptops now hitting the market, but they still make up a significant amount of retailer stock.
CUTS TO ULTRABOOKS
Ultrabooks are very thin and light laptops that so far have sold at a premium above normal-sized, thicker and heavier machines and have not met sales expectations as a result. But with the first Ultrabook to drop below $600, this category is now suddenly more affordable and could finally start displacing the bigger, clunkier battery-guzzlers which still make up mainstream laptop computing.
- Australia-wide retailer MSY Technology has put a 13.3in Acer S3 on sale for $599, which is around $120 less than the best price for this model previously. Powered by an older 2nd generation Core i3 processor, the Acer S3 is an entry-level Ultrabook that was highly recommended by TechLife reviewers as the ideal machine for students because of its extreme portability and affordability. But having now dipped under $600 and into budget territory, it should be even more compelling for anyone needing a lightweight laptop with good battery life (see more on this laptop deal at Notebook Hunter).
- Joining the trend, Dell is the first major vendor to charge less than $700 for a 14in Ultrabook, which is a size up from the Acer S3. On sale for $699, the Dell Inspiron 14Z Ultrabook is $90 cheaper than the previous cheapest 14in Ultrabook from a major retailer.
- At the higher end of the Ultrabook ranges, Harvey Norman is one of the first retailers to sell an Ultrabook powered by an Intel Core i5 processor for less than $1,000. At $998, the HP Envy 4 Ultrabook is around $300 less than the average price for a machine with similar specs.
CUTS TO STANDARD LAPTOPS
Ordinary (thicker and heavier) laptops are also being put on special and are ideal if you want bang-for-buck performance rather than the super portability and extreme battery life of Ultrabooks.
- Harvey Norman has the first 15.6in notebook with a 3rd generation Core i5 processor for less than $700. With 4GBs of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, the $698 ASUS K55A-SX005S means you can now can buy a powerful, current technology laptop at what’s essentially a budget price.
- And in yet another major price drop, Harvey Norman is also selling an ASUS A55A-SX060S powered by a new Core i7 processor for $894, the first to go under $900 with a 3rd generation Core i7 chip, from Intel's most powerful processor family. This laptop comes with 4GBs of RAM and a big 750GB hard drive, so it's easily the best-value laptop on the market if you are looking for out and out power.
- Meanwhile, if you're prepared to go with an older, 2nd generation Core i7, you can now get one for $777 at The Good Guys retail chain. With a 2.2GHz Core i7, 4GBs of RAM and a 750GB hard drive, the Samsung NP300V5A is one of the most powerful brand-name laptops you can buy for less than $800.
But this is only the first wave of price cuts. The second wave will affect current laptops that are not touch-based (so far, most of them, including the new ones with 3rd generation Intel Core processors), and will be felt later this year as touch-based machines start to flood the market.
So if you're looking for a good laptop deal, now's the time to start looking. After a year in which laptop prices have barely moved, the next few months will see them heading down as the Windows 8 juggernaut arrives.