Should you wait for Black Friday to upgrade your PC?

Here's what you should hold for in 2019.

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Ask the internet if you should wait until Black Friday to upgrade your PC, and you’ll get a stream of comments dismissing it as a time for good deals.

They’re not wrong, but they’re not exactly right, either. Even in 2019, which is an odd duck compared to other years because Thanksgiving falls so late in the month.

If you’ve got your eye on a very specific part, your chances of a deep discount are generally a toss-up. For most components, it's as likely you’ll get a better price at another time of the year as you will during Black Friday. The more niche it is, the rougher your odds.

On the other end of the spectrum, if all you care about is price and not so much specific models for your components, you can chain together Black Friday deals for ultimate savings. (In fact, you can go the full distance and build an entire budget PC for stupid cheap.)

So which way should you go? Because the situation gets particularly confusing in the early weeks of November, when everything’s on sale but it’s not clear what’s an actual bargain, I put together some general guidelines to help. These should allow you to find the best balance between sweet savings and waiting indefinitely for a discount that may never come.

Black Friday 2019: What to buy now, what to wait for

Below are my buying recommendations for the most common PC parts that people upgrade, tailored specifically for Black Friday 2019. Current supply and demand issues are incorporated into the advice.

For components not covered on this list, you can hone your own ability to figure out sales trends (and just how to spot deals) by following the advice in our Black Friday FAQ.

Let us help you: If you do decide to wait for Black Friday deals, we'll be tracking the best prices on PC parts during Black Friday, both in the lead-up and the week of. 

CPU

9th-gen Intel Core i9-9900K Gordon Mah Ung

Whether AMD or Intel, we recommend you wait.

Wait. In the last couple of years, AMD has taken no prisoners, slashing prices on both its consumer-focused Ryzen chips and its beefy Threadripper CPUs. At Micro Center, you could have snagged an eight-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 2700X for $250 [MSRP $330], a previous generation Ryzen 7 1800X for $200 [MSRP $500], or a 16-core, 32-thread 1950X for $480 [MSRP $1,000].

The trend continues this year, but unless you live near a Micro Center (which already has marked down its CPUs), prices won't fall until Sunday, November 25—when Newegg's sales begin. I expect Amazon to price match once that begins.

On the Intel side, sales are more modest, but you can still expect to see discounts between $20 and $40, depending on where you're shopping. But again, if you're not near a Micro Center, you'll have to wait for Black Friday week to see prices drop.

CPU Coolers

2g ryzen 7 17 Ryzen 2 Gordon Mah Ung

The likelihood of scoring a discount on a Wraith Prism cooler is low.

Toss-up. If you absolutely must get it for as low as possible, the week of Black Friday does offer better discounts on both air and closed-loop coolers. You’ll save roughly an extra $10 to $20, though there’s no guarantee a specific model you want will get a price drop.

Typically most discounts that spring up over the year are decent, so if the model you want is on sale, go for it.

Motherboards

motherboard intel biostar Thomas Ryan/IDG

Need just a motherboard? You can skip waiting for a Black Friday sale.

Buy. Because many builders have brand loyalties, specific features they want, and additional form factor requirements, getting a killer bargain on your motherboard of choice can be like waiting to win the lottery.

However, if you’re buying a CPU too, you might want to wait. That gives you the opportunity to score a deal on the CPU, and possibly also an additional combo or bundle discount. It also pays to wait if you’re flexible with your motherboard requirements. Just be prepared to abandon any hope of keeping to a particular aesthetic.

GPU

dsc00388 Brad Chacos/IDG

Buy an RTX card now if you're a Call of Duty fan—you'll save more overall if you get the game for free in the current promotion.

Wait. In general, graphic cards don't get the same dizzying discounts as CPUs during Black Friday. What makes them worth waiting for is the combination of a discount and (for the mid-tier and enthusiast-level cards) free games.

Two exceptions exist for this advice: The first is if you're in the market for an RTX card and you're also a Call of Duty fan who planned to buy this year's game straightaway. You'll save more overall if you buy that card now and get the game free as part of a promotion running until November 18th.

The other exception is the RX 580. Prices have dropped as low as $150 earlier in the year, and with the 5700 and 5700 XT now out on the market, we imagine that stock is finally starting to dwindle on these Polaris GPUs. If you see it for $150 or less, don't wait. Get it now, while the getting is good.

SSD

Samsung 960 Pro M.2 SSD Brad Chacos

Whether you wait or you buy now, SSD prices have been so good that you won't regret your decision either way.

Buy. Most people’s solid-state drive needs fall between 120GB and 500GB, and in those ranges, prices have been incredible for over a year. In fact, these days we wouldn't consider going smaller than 240GB because the bargain drives now regularly hit $30—or less. Want to jump up to 500GB? A Samsung 860 EVO drive of that size recently hit $60.

If you’re eyeing an NVMe SSD, or any SSD that’s 1TB or larger, you may benefit from waiting. The discounts so far on these types of drives have been okay, but the more expensive your taste (be it level of performance or capacity size), the better you’ll do if you hold out for the week of Black Friday.

HDD

acer aspire e15 m2 remove hdd caddy Gordon Mah Ung

Capacity will dictate whether you should buy a hard-disk drive now or wait for Black Friday.

Depends on capacity. Hard-disk drive prices stay fairly consistent throughout the year, particularly on drives that are 2TB or smaller. Yes, the best prices will be the week of Thanksgiving, but you won’t see a staggering difference between those and general sales throughout the year. Our rule of thumb is that a name-brand 1TB drive for $35 and a name-brand 2TB for $50 are excellent sale prices.

For higher-capacity drives, the longer time passes, the better the street price gets. It can be worth seeing what discount you get during the week of the 25th. A 20-percent discount is about the minimum for what I’d consider as a good deal, but take a look at sites like Camelcamelcamel.com and Slickdeals.com to get an idea of previous historical trends.

RAM

dom ddr4 06 100585385 orig Corsair

Prices on RAM are so much better than last year—enough so that waiting until Black Friday isn't necessary.

Buy. What a reversal of fortune since last year, when memory prices were the absolute pits during most of 2018. Already this month there've been sales where you could get 16GB of DDR-3000 RAM for $50. Plunking down about $30 more ups that to the RGB variety, allowing us with inner crows to also save handsomely. It's possible you can save a bit more by waiting, but not enough that you'll regret buying what you want now.

Cases

NZXT H700 Nuka-Cola teardown Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

Black Friday is a great time to catch a deal on budget cases, but you can also find discounts on select higher-end models.

Toss-up. Not all cases go on sale, so your buying mindset determines if it's worth waiting or not.

You can often save a nice chunk of change by waiting if you want a popular model that goes on sale often (see: Corsair 570X). The same applies if you don't care about brand and just want a super-budget case.

But if you want a particular case that doesn't often go on sale, and and it hits its last historical low (or near it), don’t hesitate. To determine if it goes on sale often or not, check out the data available on Camelcamelcamel.com and Slickdeals.com.

Power Supplies

power supply Thomas Ryan/IDG

Are your only requirements for your power supply that it be as cheap as possible without blowing up on you? Then you can wait until Black Friday to purchase.

Toss-up. In general, if you prefer a specific manufacturer (much less specific model), don't wait if you see what you want go on sale. If it's a good price relative to previous deals, pull the trigger.

But if your requirements are a little more flexible, you can save by waiting. Just be aware that power supply deals aren't numerous, and they tend to cluster toward the budget end of the spectrum. You'll save the most if you're looking for a power supply that's 550W or less, and don't need it to be modular or have higher than a Bronze rating (if that). You can also find bargains if you're in the the market for a 650W to 750W modular Gold-rated power supply, but the few models that get a discount tend to completely random.

Monitors

asus swift 4k monitor IDG

You can score a great deal on a monitor during Black Friday if you don't have strict requirements.

Toss-up. Most people end up zeroing in on specific models for monitors, and in such cases, it's not worth passing up a good deal on what you want in the hopes it'll get better during Black Friday. If your research says the deal is a solid one, go for it.

If you instead have a set of general criteria—e.g., 1080p, 144Hz, G-Sync, 24-inches—then it can be worth your while to wait. Like cases and power supplies, the monitors that go on sale tend to be scattershot, and you'll make out best if your criteria aren't too rigid or tied to a particular manufacturer.

Final tips

• Write down the parts and the features in them that you want. Even if you have a specific component in mind, you may still find yourself wondering whether a different sale option is better. This list will make it easier to compare.

• For 2019, cutthroat bargain hunters should have their shopping lists researched and set ASAP. A couple of jaw-dropping deals have already come and gone (like a Ryzen 7 2700X for $130 at Micro Center). I still don't anticipate any barn-burners during Cyber Monday sales, so don't hold out indefinitely thinking prices could keep getting better.

• You can hedge your bets by waiting to use your PC parts and shopping strategically: That is, at stores that allow returns of unopened items, have extended return windows, don’t charge restocking fees, and don’t cost you much in shipping or gas when returning items. Just be aware that if you make too many returns at some stores, they can ban you from shopping there, so don’t do it gratuitously or make it a frequent habit.

• Even if no killer deals show up during Black Friday on specific products you want, it might be still worth buying them at a more modest discount before the end of year. We're still waiting to see what the final effect of tariffs (if any) will be.

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