PC Components

In general, based on closely tracking prices from the day before Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday on the hundreds of components listed in our wide range of DIY PC Buyer's Guides, we know it was possible to save up to 20% on individual components, and up to 10% on a complete PC build. Unfortunately, this was in the context of a market that has seen vast price increases over the past 12 months, so the discounts just weren't as compelling as they might otherwise have been. As an example, the Samsung 850 Evo 1TB drive, which dropped to $220 on Cyber Monday 2016, was actually selling for $280 on Cyber Monday 2017, making it a pretty sad deal. That's despite the fact that it was one of the better SSD deals...

Here are our general impressions of PC component deals:

1. CPUs: Intel has been in the middle of perhaps the greatest tech charade of the century, "releasing" an entire line of CPUs on October 5, 2017 that it had no intention of selling in quantity for months to come. With just enough production run to provide engineering samples to a few tech review outlets, Intel brought the entire CPU market crashing down. We're quite confident that this had the intended effect of stopping AMD's meteoric rise, but it also meant that there was almost nothing you could buy from Intel on Black Friday. Its Core i5-8600K and Core i7-8700K simply couldn't be ordered at all until Black Friday itself (at which point the 8700K briefly appeared at $370, still $10 above its MSRP, immediately sold out, and re-appered at $415). Perhaps sensing that it didn't exactly make good business sense to sell so few processors during the biggest shopping days of the year, Intel showed up with a big discount on its Core i7-7700K, which sank to a low of $270 mid-day on Cyber Monday, down from the $330 it had been hovering around for months. Intel even threw in two brand-new games for free, making this the only mid-range Intel deal that mattered.

Ryzen

AMD, for its part, did its best to attract attention to its proven Ryzen line of CPUs, with tremendous discounts on the Ryzen 7 1700 (which at one point dropped to $240 from $295), the Ryzen 5 1600 (which hit $190, down from $220), and even its mesmerizing Threadripper 1950X, which dropped to $800 (down from its $1,000 MSRP), making it the most-discounted PC component we tracked. We should note that Intel also discounted some of its HEDT chips, including the Core i7-7820X, which dropped from $600 to $500, but its more recent ultra-high-end chips, like the Core i7-7980XE, continued to sell for $100 above its $2,000 MSRP, making it perhaps the worst CPU deal ever!

2. Motherboards: We saw a few discounts on motherboards from ASRock and Gigabyte, almost all in the $100-$200 market. Of note, Gigabyte feverishly promoted a few new Z370-based boards with $30-$50 discounts, despite the fact that there essentially no CPUs you could buy to use in them, and the ones that were available were selling for above MSRP, essentially negating the motherboard discounts. This is going to be an episode long-remembered by motherboard manufacturers - Intel truly threw them under the bus. By the way, the best motherboard deal we tracked was on the Gigabyte GA-Z270XP-SLI, which dropped from $125 to $105 during Black Friday week, making it an exceptional pick for buyers of the 7700K.

3. Video Cards: With most video cards selling for 10-20% more than they did at the beginning of 2017 due to the ongoing Ethereum cryptocurrency craze, deals here were few and far between. The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Windforce 8GB briefly dropped to $500 before selling out, but considering that it sold for $490 in May, this just wasn't that compelling. Perhaps the best deal we saw was on the EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, which dropped from $220 to $180, for a whopping 18% discount, by far the largest we saw on any video card. Note that most high-end GTX 1080 Ti models were selling for over their MSRP on Black Friday, as was every mid-range Radeon RX 570 and 580, which have been terrible deals ever since they sold out worldwide in June 2017. Cryptocurrency for the win?

4. RAM: In the midst of a massive DRAM shortage, it's not surprising that RAM was simply a terrible buy during Black Friday. Going into the biggest shopping week of the year, RAM was selling for well over twice what it went for the year before. Of all the RAM we track, just a single kit went on sale, Corsair's top-selling 2x8GB Vengeance LPX DDR4-3000 Black kit, which dropped to $160 from $195. We assume Corsair was simply used it as a loss leader to attract attention to its brand. For the record, this very kit sold for $70 in mid-2016, bringing into stark relief just how bad the RAM crisis has become.

5. Solid-State Drives: As noted, Samsung promoted its top-selling 850 Evo line, although the $10-$20 discounts it offered still didn't bring these drives anywhere close the prices they were selling for a year ago. Notably, Samsung didn't touch its 960 Evo and 960 Pro, which have been selling for around the same prices since their introduction a year ago. Crucial and Western Digital knocked a few bucks off their 850 Evo competitors, the BX300 and Blue 3D, respectively. As it always does, Crucial mysteriously saved its discounts until Cyber Monday, after the bulk of shopping has already been done. Its BX300 240GB dropped from $90 to $70, making it the only exceptional SSD deal of the year. Even so, this was about $10 more than 240GB drives were selling for a year ago, although the BX300 is admittedly a bit faster than those drives were.

Thermaltake

6. Cases: Most cases were not on sale, but Corsair runs company-wide promotions, so its cases were typically discounted between $5 and $45, with the top-selling Crystal 570X dropping from $180 to $140. While we don't think much of this particular case (it's much more show than substance), there's no denying that it's one of the top-selling cases on the market and likely the most talked-about case of the year. Thermaltake also got in on the discount action, with a few very large discounts on popular cases like the View 31 RGB, which went on "Lighting Sale" at Amazon for $90 (down from $116) at one point during Black Friday.

7. Power Supplies: EVGA, which has become the market leader thanks to its aggressive pricing, dropped prices on a few of its popular models,  including its budget-friendly 450 BT, which dropped from $40 to an eye-catching $18, as well as the older G2 series, which saw prices drop by as much as $40. Corsair was also very aggressive with its discounts, as it tries to claw back its #1 position from EVGA, and a resurgent Seasonic got in on the action with its popular new FX line of top-rated PSUs, with the 550W and 750W models discounted by $5 and $15 respectively before selling out.

8. Peripherals: this is an area where margins are probably pretty high, so there's a lot of room to cut prices. Logitech led the pack, as it does every year, with up to 50% discounts on some of its excellent mice, keyboard, and headset offerings. Of particular note, its G613 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard, which only hit the market in October 2017 (and which we reviewed here) dropped from $150 to $70. Logitech is dead serious here, folks... if you want its gear and it's anywhere near Black Friday, it pays to wait!

Conclusion

Overall, we can definitely say with authority that Black Friday is not dead, but that tech shoppers should be focusing on high-visibility items like TVs or high-margin items like drones and PC peripherals, as this is where it makes sense for manufacturers to actually provide significant discounts. On low-margin PC components, well, the age of big discounts is likely over. With most products not discounted at all, it's really not worth it for PC builders to wait until Black Friday to purchase their new systems. The items that are most likely to be discounted are those that make for good upgrades, like SSDs and power supplies. It used to be that video cards and RAM would also be discounted, but broader market forces (read mining and product shortages) are having an overriding effect on prices. AMD did do enthusiasts a solid with its CPU discounts, but based on our proprietary data, we know that shoppers just weren't buying them.

Notably, just a few weeks after Black Friday, Canadian-based PC component retailer NCIX filed for bankruptcy, and we believe this is going to be an ongoing trend as Amazon comes to dominate a shrinking market. We wonder how long US-based Fry's and MicroCenter will stick around, and as for Newegg (which was sold to a Chinese conglomerate in September 2016)... well, our advice is that if you have Newegg gift cards sitting around, cash them in soon!

 

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