Tech Shopping for Back-to-School

Back-to-School sales are a great time of the year to shop for a new computer. It follows the introduction of a new generation of hardware from companies like AMD, Intel, and nVidia. As a result, this is one of the most significant inventory-clearing event of the year for computer retailers.

I will first focus on students’ needs, and then we’ll look into how everybody else can benefit from the occasion.

Is it Time to Buy Yet?

Before we start comparing specific products, let’s take a look at the market’s pulse. Here’s a comparison of how this year’s prices are evolving compared to the same period last year:

This graph helps visualize widespread price fluctuations on smart devices. Sustained dips in prices reflect periods where rebates are abundant.

As a result, getting a good deal during those periods is usually easier. With that said, keep in mind that the computers you’re interested in could go on sale at a different time. If the computer you want gets a nice discount (you can tell because TekAdvisor will label the rebate as "Best price yet!"), it's probably not worth waiting for another sale.

Recommendations by Scenario

The right computer will change a lot depending on your needs. I won’t focus grade or age as computing needs won’t always increase as a student graduates. I also assume the computer is likely to be used by multiple family members.

For Typical Homework

If homework usually revolves around text and numbers (including using the web for research), the following are solid contenders:

For Creative Experimentation

Working on a picture, a piece of music or a video is more demanding of a computer than text and numbers. The following will let you experiment more freely with digital art.

You have to Carry a Laptop with you in Class

In some instances, you could be expected to provide your own computer and bring it to class. Your focus then should be on ease of transportation and battery endurance.

PC Gamers go to Class Too...

You might be tempted to indulge in gaming on your laptop. Sadly, those laptops are usually bulky, and their considerable power drains the battery much faster. If you’re really into PC gaming and have room for a stationary computer, you could get a portable laptop and a desktop gaming PC for the price of a single gaming laptop.

It's still a significant expense. If you can get your current PC to last you one more year, I would start by complementing your current gear. i.e.:

  • If you still play games on your PC, but you can't take it to class: focus on the classroom laptop first.
  • If your current laptop still has ok batteries but sucks at gaming: bring that one to class and get a dependable gaming machine for your room.

Portable Options

Those laptops are small and cheap enough to take in class. They're not great for gaming but will run smaller and older games.

I also set the performance bar a little lower on these because you have a kick-ass PC at home to do the tough work. They should still be able to handle anything you'll encounter in class.

Gaming Rigs

This computer stays home for gaming and working on tougher assignments.

Those are not the most powerful gaming PCs out there but will help relieve stress. If you need more power, the following lists might match your expectation better:

You need a Powerful Computer but don’t have Room to Dedicate to It

If you have to live in cramped quarters, you might not be able to devote space to a PC. In those circumstances, a laptop could be your best option.

Now, I wouldn’t expect to carry this kind of laptop around everywhere. They tend to be bulky and have short battery endurance. With that said, they excel as temporary workstations and are easy to stash away when you need your desk or kitchen table for something else.

Student Discounts for Card Holders

With a valid educational ID or email address, you can save a little extra at the following stores and providers:

Description Territory Available Online Available in Stores
Hardware and Software
Apple Store for Education Macs, iPads, iPhones and software such as Final Cut; available all year-round. All of Canada Yes Unclear
Microsoft Deals for Students & Educators PCs, Tablets and software such as MS Office; available all year-round. All of Canada Yes Unclear
Dell Back to School Deals High Quality Computers, delivered for free and with great support options. All of Canada Yes No
Best Buy Student Discounts From time to time, Best Buy has exclusive deals for students. All of Canada Unclear Unclear
Henry's Student deals on video and photography equipment. Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario No Yes
Adobe Student license for Adobe Creative Suite which includes Photoshop, Premiere and more. All of Canada Yes No
Services
Shaw Internet and television British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nothern Ontario Yes Yes
Telus Internet and television All of Canada Yes Yes
Videotron Internet and television Québec Yes Yes
Bell Mobility Mobile Network and Mobile Devices All of Canada Yes Yes
Eastlink Internet and television Maritimes, Northern Ontario Yes Yes
Amazon Prime for Students Free Two-Day Shipping, Unlimited photo storage, Twitch Prime, Prime video after free trial period. All of Canada Yes No
Spotify Premium for Students Unlimited ad-free music All of Canada Yes No

Most deals are available to everyone

You can take advantage of most back-to-school sales without a Student ID; so keep your eyes open for deals on computers, but also tablets and mobile phones.

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