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Top 5 Things to Avoid in a Laptop on Black Friday

Working in the K-12 Information Technology industry, Jeremiah supports both users and a variety of technology on a full-time basis.

Black Friday Laptop Shopping Tips

Black Friday Specials are Made to be Cheap

Many friends, family members, and co-workers approach me each year about the best laptop to buy on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Typically I send them a list of specifications to keep in mind. This list is of things they should avoid if they don’t want to take a disappointing purchase home as a gift for themselves or someone else.

You may have heard the common complaint that TVs that are on sale are typically models that are made just specifically for sales like Black Friday. This is absolutely true, and often many Black Friday specials use substandard components that are more likely to fail or are otherwise of poorer quality to enable them to be sold at eye-catching prices to entice us to purchase them.

The same can be said of laptops that are advertised for spectacular prices during holiday sales after Thanksgiving. I’ll share with you the same list of specifications that I’ve shared with friends and family to avoid picking a lemon of a laptop.

Tip #1 - Avoid Intel Celeron Processors

Any laptop that is advertised with an Intel Celeron processor should be passed up. I’m a firm believer in everything having a use case where it makes sense, however, the Intel Celeron range of processors are cheaper processors that didn't meet Intel's standards to be sold as one of their more popular models that feature better performance.

In fact, many Celeron processors just are a version of the popular i3, i5, or i7 series of Intel’s processors. The features that make those other processors more desirable are disabled, or otherwise limited in some other way. This limits their performance in comparison to better processors. As such, these processors are not suited for gaming, photo editing, or other tasks that place more demand on the processor.

A laptop with Intel's Core i7 processor sticker.

A laptop with Intel's Core i7 processor sticker.

Tip # 2 - Avoid Intel Pentium Processors

This is another budget-oriented processor that’s made to keep costs low and maximize profits for PC manufacturers and Intel. That being said, these are acceptable for a laptop or PC that might only ever be used for email, browsing, and YouTube, though these are not ideal for any gaming, casual or otherwise.

An Intel i3, i5, or an i7 processor is typically always a better choice compared to low-end processors like the Pentium or Celeron line.

Hard drives store files, music and photos in most computers. Cheap laptops don't always use a real hard drive or solid-state drive.

Hard drives store files, music and photos in most computers. Cheap laptops don't always use a real hard drive or solid-state drive.

Tip #3 - Avoid eMMC Storage

This is the biggest thing to avoid as eMMC storage is sometimes used by very cheap laptops. You definitely don’t want this as whatever storage amount a laptop using it advertises...is all you’ll get. There’s no way to replace the eMMC storage as it’s built-in, soldered to the motherboard in that device.

Often laptops that use this type of storage come with 32 or 64 GB of space. That’s not a whole lot of room considering that the OS, typically Windows 10, has to occupy some amount of that space. After installing several applications, games, or saving photos and movies on such a laptop, you won’t have much space left.

Manufacturers of these laptops often advertise that this space is expandable using a microSD card. While that’s true, that’s not a substitute for a hard drive or solid-state drive of the same size. Additional storage added in that manner will always be slower in practice.

Tip # 4 - Avoid Limited Storage

Another way corners typically get cut in cheap laptops that are on sale is to install hard drives or solid-state drives that have a limited amount of capacity. The less they hold the cheaper they are. This year, most laptops I’ve seen that cut costs in this manner typically only had 128 GB of storage, which is better than the worst offenders, but it may also not be enough room for someone that plans to use that storage for a lot of photos, videos or games.

At least with laptops like these that don’t use eMMC for storage, you can always replace the hard drive or SSD with one of a larger capacity, but at that point, it’s usually cheaper to find one that has at least the amount of storage you need instead of going through the trouble of purchasing and installing additional storage.

Tip #5 - Avoid Windows 10 S

This one may not be a big deal depending on your skill level or opinions. In fact, this item to avoid is mostly my opinion, so this may or may not be a deal-breaker for you.

Windows 10 S or Windows 10 Home in S mode are common descriptions I’ve seen on cheap laptops. The only difference between this version of Windows 10 and the usual that most are used to, is that Windows 10 S only allows you to install apps from the Microsoft Store.

For some elderly individuals, that’s probably a smart move, to keep them from getting themselves into trouble by downloading malicious software online (though this doesn’t completely prevent that). My views are that if I buy a product, I should be able to install any software I want to, whether that came from, as not everything I use at work or at home is available from the Microsoft Store.

Thankfully, this “feature” can be disabled by following Microsoft’s instructions, so laptops that have Windows 10 S preinstalled can still be a good deal if they aren’t compromised in some other way by having a sluggish processor or limited amount of storage.

Don't Throw Away Cash on Junk During Cyber Monday or Black Friday

I hope this helps you avoid some of the garbage that’s produced for holiday sales this time of year and find the best quality deal on a laptop that should provide you or a family member several years of use! As with most things, you get what you pay for, and sometimes a cheap deal is really bad.

Stay safe this holiday season and please shop online!

© 2020 Jeremiah Simpkins