Since TBG's founding in 2013, we've paid close attention to Black Friday promotions and sales trends, keeping track of the very best deals, but also noting where certain areas of the market demonstrate a clear lack of discounts. So how did shoppers make out in 2018?
We've always encouraged our readers to jump on deals early in the sales cycle, and deals on the 300 or so products we were tracking this year gave us no reason to change that advice, although certain deals didn't appear until Black Friday, or in some instances, Cyber Monday, which we were a bit surprised at given the general push to moving sales earlier.
TVs and Monitors
So, without further ado, here are the categories we watched, and the deals we saw (or did not see!):
1. HDTVs: This is where you see real discounts on Black Friday. Seriously, if you can be even remotely flexible in terms of timing a TV purchase, wait until Black Friday week. Sure, you could make the argument that if you buy when all the new models are released between February and May of each year, you'll get to enjoy them for that much longer, it will have cost you an extra 25% to do so. As a long-term purchasing strategy, it's not a particularly good one. In any event, a few of our favorite TVs dropped quite a bit, including the best mid-range TV on the market, the Samsung UN55NU8000, which dropped to $750 from $850 (it started at $1,100 in the Spring). Likewise, our faovrite high-end TV, the Vizio Quantum PQ65-F1, dropped from its retail price of $2,100 to $1,500, and was actually available for purchase, which it hasn't been practically since it launched in July (it has sold out again as of our publication date). LG also discounted its popular OLEDs, but not quite as aggressively. The 65" C8P, for example, dropped to $2,500 from $2,800, but only for a few days (it started at an absurd $3,800 in April). Vizio and Samsung, in contrast, maintained their equally impressive discounts all week long, and this applied to all home theater gear.
2. Monitors: The deals were few and far between on lower-cost monitors, with nothing that truly caught our eye. More interesting were the deals on ultra-high-end monitors. We saw the Acer Predator Z35P ultra-wide drop from $800 to $700, which we know a lot of TBG readers jumped on, while Samsung flexed its muscles by offering the amazing CHG90 49" super-ultra-wide for $900, down from the typical $1,000. At the very high end, we saw the most coveted of all gaming monitors, the Acer Predator X27, drop from $1,800 to $1,700, which wasn't nearly as compelling in comparison. We would have loved to see that one hit $1,500, but there's always next year...
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. Luckily, this was in the context of a market that has seen vast price decreases over the past 12 months, especially on RAM and solid-state drives. As an example, the Samsung 850 Evo 1TB drive sold for $280 on Cyber Monday 2017, while during 2018's Black Friday Week, its successor the Samsung 860 Evo 1TB was selling for $128! In fact, so was the M.2 version of the 860 Evo 1TB, but it actually sold out entirely on Tuesday, never to return!
Here are our general impressions of PC component deals:
1. CPUs: Intel has been in the middle of perhaps the greatest production challenge in its history, with far more current SKUs based on the old 14nm manufacturing process than it can possibly manufacture. Therefore, nearly all lower-end Intel CPUs were out of stock, including all Pentiums and most Core i5 processors. With that said, it did run promotions on a few of its popular models, including the Core i3-8100 that went for $115 (a measly $5 discount), and the Core i7-8700K, which dropped to $340 from its MSRP of $360. We also saw $10 knocked off the new Core i5-9600K, although that's nothing to write home about. Clearly, Intel was either unwilling or unable to provide serious discounts on its CPUs. AMD was doing a whole lot more to entice shoppers, with a massive $50 discount on its Ryzen 5 2600X, which dropped to $170 and immediately sold out. We also saw the Ryzen 7 2700 hit $250 (down from $280) and the top-end Ryzen 7 2700X hit an amazing $265 on Cyber Monday. Believe it or not, it seems AMD was in the driver's seat this year, commanding the bulk of the promotional coverage for CPUs.
2. Motherboards: We saw a few discounts on motherboards from Asus and Gigabyte, including a tempting $45 discount on the new Asus Z390-E Gaming board (which sold out) and a nice $15 discount on the Gigabyte B450 WiFi AM4 board, but overall, this wasn't where you were going to save major bucks.
3. Video Cards: With most Nvidia cards selling above their MSRPs due to low stock, the deals were few and far between, but we did see the EVGA RTX 2070 XC hit $485, down from $550, during an Amazon Lighting Deal on Black Friday, while Zotac made its RTX 2080 AMP available for $770 (down from $830) throughout Black Friday week. AMD's GPUs had even bigger discounts on its reference Vega cards, but of course they aren't worth buying at any price due to the terrible cooler. More interesting was the XFX Radeon RX 580 XXX 8GB, which hit $190 on Cyber Monday, down from $250. Now that was a deal!!!
4. RAM: In the midst of massive price cuts on DRAM due to oversupply, RAM was an extraordinary deal during Black Friday week. We saw 16GB of Corsair DDR4-3200 RGB RAM hit $125. Consider that this kit was selling for $220 last year and it becomes clear how much things have improved! Also on sale was Crucial's Ballistix 2x8GB Sport LT DDR4-2666 Kit, a favorite of AMD users, which dropped from $140 to $114 (it was selling for $190 at the beginning of the year!).
5. Solid-State Drives: As noted, Samsung promoted its top-selling 860 Evo line, and perhaps to the dismay of its competitors, started the sales the weekend before Black Friday, as it does for all its products (including TVs, sound bars, monitors, etc.). The discounts were so steep that the 860 Evo was actually hard to come by on Black Friday, so either everyone got their fill of SSDs, or Samsung simply didn't have enough to go around. Crucial and Western Digital mounted a delayed response, dropping their competing 1TB SATA drives (the MX500 and Blue 3D, respectively) to $130 later in the week, but the 860 Evo deal definitely stands out. We also saw 500GB version of these drives go as low as $65 on Cyber Monday, down from the $85 they'd be selling for just weeks before. These were all pretty impressive discounts, and certainly made it worth waiting until Black Friday week to buy a new SSD. And take note: SSD prices were twice as much per gigabyte of capacity during Black Friday 2017!
6. Cases: Most cases were not on sale, but Corsair put a number of its popular models on sale, including the top-selling Crystal 570X, which dropped from $180 to $140 (interestingly, this is the same discount it got in 2017). Its mid-range 275R Tempered dropped from $90 to $70, and actually sold out at that price. Cooler Master took its awesome H500P down to $135 (from $150) and its brand-new H500M to $170 (from $200), while Thermaltake also got in on the discount action, with a few very large discounts on popular cases like the View 71 View RGB, which fell to a jaw-dropping $135 during Cyber Monday. Thermaltake takes an odd approach and waits until CM to unleash its big discounts. We're going to tell our contact their that they really should start the deals earlier, as more PC component sales occurred on Black Friday this year according to our proprietary data.
7. Power Supplies: EVGA, which has become the market leader thanks to its aggressive pricing, dropped prices on all of its popular models, including a number of members of its older G2 series, which saw prices drop by as much as $40. Likewise, the 850 P2 Platinum hit $110 at one point, down from $140. But the most impressive deals were on its newest G3 series, with the 550 G3 hitting a shocking $40 on Black Friday (down from $80!), and the 750 G3 dropping to an eye-melting $60 (down from $120). While Thermaltake put one of its 850W Gold models on sale for $85 on Cyber Monday, that was clearly too little, too late. If you were picking up a PSU deal this year, it was coming from EVGA! On a percentage basis, this was absolutely where PC builders got their greatest savings on Black Friday.
8. Peripherals: this is an area where margins are probably pretty high, so there's a lot of room to cut prices. And yet, we didn't see the major discounts we've seen in years past. Perhaps these just sell so well that manufacturers were convinced to hold prices pretty stady, Corsair didn't offer any deals worth noting on its broad range of keyboards and mice, and while Logitech offered a few big discounts (notably the G502 and G403 mice, which both dropped to $35), the discounts didn't occur across the board.
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 and mobile phones (Samsung knocked $300 off its Galaxy S9, for example). PC builders should focus on specific categories like SSDs and power supplies, or specific brands, like AMD (which discounted some of its CPUs by 25%). That does mean, however, that while you might hear about 25-50% discounts on certain products, you most certainly will not save that much in total if building a full PC. The biggest discount we saw was on our $2,000 Premium Gaming PC Build, which dropped about $175 at one point, for a savings of around 10%. Put another way, while it may be worth waiting until Black Friday each year to score a few component upgrades, it really doesn't make sense to wait all year to build a complete PC. That's in stark contrast to our advice earlier in this article about TVs, which you should definitely wait on to score a discount!