Is it time to buy a new computer or tablet? It is for me. Frankly, I love my Lenovo all-in-one computer, but sadly, its Microsoft Vista operating system won't run the design software I need for my job. The only bright spot in this scenario is that Black Friday and subsequent holiday deals are a short six weeks away. What can we expect?
First off, laptops could fall as low as $170 for a budget unit, meaning a 15-inch display with a dual-core processor, and between $239 and $285 for the same size and a more powerful Intel Ivy Bridge processor, according to Mark LoCastro over at DealNews.
The price difference is a result of moving from an i3 to an i5 Ivy Bridge processor, which is a slightly older technology. Intel launched its Haswell processor last summer with the same three-step nomenclature as the Ivy Bridge: i3, i5 and i7.
To find the best value, look for the most powerful processor you can find in your budget. Like with big TVs, I've never heard someone complain their computer was too powerful.
You should also compare the weights and profiles of laptops that make your shortlist. Is it worth paying roughly twice the price for an ultra portable model? Looks aside, if you're going to use a laptop when you're traveling, slipping a lightweight unit in and out of your bag is something you may come to appreciate.
DealNews expects to see ultraportables with Core i5 Ivy Bridge chips and 12" displays as low as $519. However, if a laptop is more of a desktop replacement, there's little reason to splurge.
If it's been sometime since you last bought a PC computer, be prepared for a noticeable change from Windows 8 series operating system. Its tiled format may throw you for a loop, but keep in mind it was designed for touch-activated screens. (I predict all computing devices will be touchscreens in the near future, so prepare to say goodbye to your mouse.)
The first major update to Windows 8 will be released on Oct. 17. It will be available to existing Windows 8 users for free on Windows Update, so you don't have to concern yourself with which version is installed on your new computer. However, upgrade immediately to Windows 8.1 if necessary to condense the discomfort of adapting to a new system in one step rather than in two.
While laptops have largely replaced desktops over the past several years, all-in-one units have won a devoted following. I like a big screen and have found that moving an all-in-one from one room to another, or even to bring along on a road trip, is not that much more difficult than transporting a typical laptop.
Last year, Amazon offered an Acer 21-inch touch display all-in-one for $500 plus an extra $15 to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8. This year, I expect to find a 23-inch AiO with an i3 processor at about the same price and the same size display with an i5 processor or equivalent for around $700. (The latter are currently priced from $800.)
For me, the ideal combination is an AiO paired with a tablet -- an iPad or an Android such as a Google Nexus or Samsung Galaxy Tab. Bypass Microsoft tablets, despite discounts that will likely cut even deeper this holiday season. There are simply not enough apps to make a Surface tablet useful. Android buyers should be able to find the 2013 Google Nexus 7 16GB for $200 during Black Friday. But the big news will come from Apple.
Two new versions of the iPad will be revealed on Oct. 22: an iPad 5 and an iPad Mini 2 with a Retina screen, the same resolution as its larger counterparts. This means that previous models will be discounted. The iPad 4 should drop to $399, which means a Black Friday sales price of $339.
But don't go to Apple to find the best deal on iPads or any other Apple product. Rather, try authorized resellers such as Amazon, Best Buy and MacMall that usually offer 20 percent discounts to Apple's 10 percent. You may even find a price cut on the new iPad 5, but finding one for an iPad Mini 2 may be like looking for a unicorn.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about and reviewing personal technology for the past six years. She has designed and manages several international websites. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at firstname.lastname@example.org.