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Tech Matters: How to assess tech deals before making a purchase

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Feb 21, 2024

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Leslie Meredith

Just about every holiday in the U.S. sparks a slew of tech deals, from laptops to iPads and all things connected to the internet. Presidents Day was no exception and we have only to wait until Memorial Day in May for the next round. While sale prices may be tempting, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting — and not getting — for the price.

Retailers rarely discount top-selling, current models of anything. They use the traditional sale periods to move merchandise that’s been sitting in their inventories for too long. The exceptions are small items like Apple AirTags in which the lower price point is enough to generate sales from customers who would not otherwise buy that device. Note that Amazon dropped the price of a pack of four by $20 but did not put the single AirTag on sale, upselling customers to the multipack, another common sales tactic.

The sales on Apple iPads illustrate how retailers target older models. This week, the 10th generation iPad was $100 off at Amazon, selling for $349. This is a 2022 model and is Apple’s entry-level device. What’s missing compared to more expensive iPads? It does not have a cellular connection or Apple’s newer silicon chipset. It has only 64 gigabytes of storage and is not compatible with Apple’s second-gen pencil.

If you’re looking to spend less, you could opt for the ninth-generation iPad, released in 2021, which was on sale for $249, a savings of $80 off the regular price of $329. As you might anticipate, this device has a less-powerful chipset, a slightly smaller display due to the Home button that Apple removed the next year, an 8-megapixel-wide camera versus 12MP on other models, and the same 64GB of storage and compatibility with the older Apple Pencil as the 10-gen iPad.

But age is not the only reason retailers put a model on sale. The third model featured in the Presidents Day sales was the iPad Air with its newer M1 chipset, 54GB of storage and compatibility with the second-generation Apple Pencil. But here’s the catch: The $150 savings off the regular price of $599 applied only to the purple model. If that’s a color you can live with, this was a great deal.

The kicker is that Apple is due to announce a new lineup of iPads next month, so it stands to reason that it would like to get rid of its older models. Of course, Apple is not the only manufacturer to use a sale to clear inventory, which is why you must know what you’re buying. Here’s a checklist to walk you through the information you should find before you make a sale purchase.

First, check the year that the device you’re considering was released. Retailers often carry old inventory for several years. And while it’s often fine to buy last year’s model, you want to make sure that what you’re buying will last you another three to five years or more. In other words, future-proof your purchase so you don’t end up with a device that can’t handle your workload.

Second, determine how much processing power you need for the activities you do today and take into consideration the artificial intelligence-powered tasks of tomorrow. You’ll want to buy the processor or chipset for your budget and your work habits. It’s better to spend more on processing power beyond what you use now so that you can take advantage of advances to come.

Some of the best laptop processors include Intel Core i9 and i7 series, AMD Ryzen 9 and 7 series, and Apple M3 for MacBook Pros, but the landscape is changing fast with the rapid integration of AI into computing. Later this year, look for Intel Core Ultra, Intel Core 14th Gen HX, Ryzen 8000G and AMD Ryzen 8040. Do not expect PCs with these new processor types to go on sale any time this year. Only you can determine if an AI processor makes sense for you. If you plan to just use services like ChatGPT, you may find a “regular” processor is enough for you. While you may not need the most powerful processor, you want one that is current, not one that has already become obsolete.

Storage is the third feature to check and one you’ll pay for as you add more to a device. Take note of the storage on your current device and make sure the sale item has storage that is equal or greater than what you have now.

Finally, check that the operating system is up to date. If it’s not, have the retailer update it for you if possible.

And remember, there will be more sales — don’t let the lure of saving some money pressure you into making a decision to buy before you have researched your intended purchase.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.


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