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Cracking the gadget pricing code: Buy now or wait?

Tom Spring | Dec. 17, 2012
I get an uneasy feeling every time I belly up to the Best Buy cash register and fork over my credit card to buy a big ticket item. My worst fear? A sudden drop in retail pricing—one that occurs immediately after I make my purchase.

I get an uneasy feeling every time I belly up to the Best Buy cash register and fork over my credit card to buy a big ticket item. My worst fear? A sudden drop in retail pricingone that occurs immediately after I make my purchase.

Ever since I paid $250 for a Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader back in 2010and then saw it drop to $100 a few months laterI've become gun shy when buying anything more expensive than a thumb drive.

There's no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to anticipating price swings. Who knew that devastating floods would hit Thailand in 2011, and jack up the prices of hard drives nearly 50 percent in the following months. And now, as we all splurge on buying tech gadgets for the holidays, I scratch my head and ask a seamingly unanswerable question: What consumer electronics gear is dropping in price the fastest right now, and which purchases should be delayed a few months to best leverage pricing trends?

As a public service, I'm here to help other reluctant buyers like myself. I've spent the last week asking pricing experts the big, tough questions: Is now the best time to buy a PC, tablet, TV or camera? And what about game consoles, storage, e-readers and more? Here's what I found out.

HDTVs: Buy or wait?

If you're itching for a mammoth HDTV, you're in luck. While prices for sub-50-inch HDTVs are flat, prices for displays larger than 60 inces are already heading down, according to NPD research. NPD analyst Stephen Baker says TV makers are looking to stimulate sales at the high-end, where profit margins are the greatest, while keeping prices steady for sub-50-inch models that already have razor-thin margins. "On the low-end of the market, the margins are too small and pricing will stay flat," Baker says.

All that said, don't dismiss the value of a smaller TV, even if their prices do remain steady. Shopping site PriceGrabber says that while prices are flat for low-end HDTVs, you'll typically get a lot more for your dollar in this segment of the TV market. For example, a typical 46-inch HDTV may not be priced significantly lower than what it cost last year, but you'll get a lot more for your money today. "We are seeing more advanced 'smart' features and 3D bundled with HDTVs," says Rojeh Avanesian, PriceGrabber's vice president of marketing. "You're paying the same, but getting much more," he says.

Buying Advice: Wait until 2013 if you're interested in a sub-50-inch TV. You'll be able to buy "last year's model" at an even lower prices because retailers will be trying to clear inventory for new TVs.

 

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