Should you wait for Windows 8?
That’s the dilemma that you face if you’re torn between shopping for back-to-school deals on a computer now or waiting until October to buy a model that that has Microsoft’s newest operating system built in.
We believe that most consumers should buy now and upgrade to the new operating system when it arrives Oct. 26, 2012. The cost of buying a new computer before your return to school plus the $15 that you’ll pay for a Windows 8 upgrade later in 2012 likely will be less than what you’d pay for a Windows 8-ready computer in the months ahead, experts tell Consumers Digest.
Windows 8 is revolutionary for Microsoft in that it incorporates mobile-friendly elements, such as application tiles and a touch-screen interface. The operating system is part of Microsoft’s plan to create a universal platform for its computers and mobile devices.
Current personal-computer-based notebook computers and thinner, lighter ultrabooks that consumers purchase use Windows 7, which applies a traditional desktop-operating-system format. But those models’ operating systems can be upgraded to Windows 8, and the models have specs (hard-drive and memory capacity, for instance) that will be similar to what Windows 8-ready models will have.
It’s worth waiting for Windows 8-ready models only if you want an ultrabook that has touch-screen features, because the arrival of such models will coincide with the release of Windows 8, says consumer-electronics analyst Craig Stice of IHS.
Stice says you can expect to pay at least $850 for an ultrabook that has a touch screen. On the other hand, you can expect to pay around $700 for an entry-level ultrabook that’s available in stores now. Even if you pay $15 to upgrade to Windows 8 after October 2012, you’d save $135, compared with the price of a Windows 8-ready ultrabook that has a touch screen.
But the savings difference can be even greater if you find the right back-to-school deals, particularly if you want to buy a notebook computer. Retailers are motivated to drop prices now so they can clear shelf space for when Windows 8-ready models arrive, says analyst David Daoud of market-research company IDC.
“It’s a buyer’s market. All you need is $400 to get a pretty decent” notebook computer, Daoud says.
For example, we found that an HP 17.3-inch Pavilion g7-1358dx notebook computer (AMD dual-core processor, 320GB hard drive, 4GB memory) is being sold for as little as $380 at bestbuy.com. A Lenovo IdeaPad Z575 notebook computer (AMD quad-core processor, 500GB hard drive, 4GB memory) is selling for $390 at officemax.com. A Toshiba Satellite C855-S5236 notebook computer (Intel Pentium B970 processor, 640GB hard drive, 6GB memory) is selling for $400 at staples.com.
We also found attractive incentives for ultrabooks. For example, through Aug. 1, 2012, Sony is offering $320 toward an upgrade for its $770 VAIO 13.3-inch T Series Custom Ultrabook (Intel Core i5 processor, 320GB hard drive, 4GB memory. This means that you can install an Intel Core i7 processor, a 500GB hard drive and 8GB of memory free.
Apple has discounts and incentives on computers, too. You can save $50 on the cost of a 13-inch MacBook Air and $100 on a 13-inch MacBook Pro. You also will get a $100 gift card that can be spent on mobile applications, e-books, movies or music.
Before you head out to shop for a computer, be sure to read "Notebook Computers: Rise of the Ultrabooks," in the January/February 2012 issue of Consumers Digest. That report includes our Best Buy selections for notebook computers and netbook computers.
– K. Fanuko