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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.

Buying Advice: Suck it up and buy that aging tech gear. You aren't getting any younger either, and prices aren't budging.

Game consoles: Buy now

Holiday promotions on game consoles are currently a huge boon for bargain-hunting gamersbut take advantage of them now, because today's holidays pricing won't become permament until deep into 2013. "All of the price cuts for game consoles are for holiday only," says gaming guru Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities.

Pachter says Micrsosoft's Xbox 360 (with Kinect) and Sony's PS3 have each seen $50 cuts for their respected holiday hardware and game title bundles. Nintendo's new Wii U, he says, will remain steady in price for now, but should experience a $50 price cut by the summer of 2013.

Sadly, if you're holding out for a price cut on the PlayStation Vita, you might be waiting for a while. "I think that the Vita is going to stay expensive," Pachter says, adding, "The deals we are seeing now are about as good as it gets untill late next year."

Buying Advice: Buy now. Holiday sales will go away in a few weeks, and then you'll have to wait until mid-2013 for price drops to return.

Storage prices continue to drop

PriceGrabber says its pricing data shows a whopping 55 percent drop in pricing for solid state storage. "It's the steepest drop we have ever seen," says PriceGrabber's Avanesian. He says storage prices for everything from thumb drives to portable hard drives to internal SSD for PCs are following the downward pricing trend.

Price-comparison service Idealo concurs. It reports that prices of most SSD drives have fallen by 24 percent during 2012. Idealo also found that mechanical hard drive prices are not seeing steep declines, and prices are remaining flat. That said, Idealo points out, HDD storage is still nine times cheaper than SSD.

Buying Advice: If you wait, storage prices will drop even further. Can you afford to wait until they do? Only you can decide. But if you must buy storage today, you can at least do so knowing you weren't gouged by yesterday's prices.

A pricing tipping point for tablets? Nope!

Tablets are this holiday's hottest sellers, from the Kindle Fire HD ($199) to the Nexus 7 ($199) to the Nook HD ($199). But experts warn that if you're looking for bargains beyond what's already being offered, don't hold your breath. "There always room for cost-based reductions. However, what we're seeing now is tablets priced at cost," says NPD's Baker.

Baker says the low hardware prices are all keyed into the greater revenue-generation strategies of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google. Each company sells its devices at cost, and then makes all its money on the back end, selling digital content to people who need something to watch, play or listen to on their tablets. "They're basically giving the hardware away at this point," Baker says.


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