If you’re one of the millions who have recently found yourself displaced from work or school and now are living the remote life, chances are high that you’ve found yourself shopping for a new laptop to get your work done. Perhaps you’ve received your stimulus check or tax return and you’re looking for a much-needed replacement for an aging pc. If you’ve found it difficult to find a late model Chromebook at a reasonable price, you are not alone.
On any “normal” day, stores such as Best Buy would have dozens of Chrome OS devices at any price range discounted by 20% or more. Unfortunately, supply(or lack thereof) and demand have not only depleted inventories but driven prices up over MSRP in some cases and all but erased any decent sales that you’d normally find from sellers like Amazon, BH Photo, Best Buy and so on. While I’m not a market expert, it is not difficult to divine the cause of the now limited supply of Chromebooks. For starters, when millions of students and employees were driven into their homes, many were left looking for an inexpensive, lightweight device that could handle video conferences and tasks such as accessing Google Classroom, Drive, Gmail and other online products. Chromebooks are the perfect fit for such a need and therefore, they were likely the go-to for many a buyer looking to fulfill that need.
So, the demand is there and that has reduced on-hand inventory from most sellers. Supply, on the other hand, has likely been reduced for obvious reasons. A recent Fox Business interview with Acer’s Pan American president Gregg Prendergast revealed that the company had stockpiled EDU devices around the end of the year to prepare for the Chinese New Year when many manufacturers in that region would shut down for a week to celebrate the holiday. For that reason, the Chromebook giant was sitting on an armada of devices that were earmarked for schools but then, the pandemic happened. Production did not resume as usual and I presume that the devices that should be feeding the retail market simply weren’t being produced. Combine that with the fact that Amazon, a massive seller of PCs and accessories, shifted its focus to the housing of medical and essential supplies in the midst of the pandemic. This created massive shipping and inventory delays for the countless Amazon sellers that utilize the companies warehouses for the Fulfilled by Amazon program.
I’m probably not telling you anything that you don’t already know but I am sure that there are many who are still looking for a decent Chromebook and have been left out in the cold in that attempt. So, what do you do? Where can you shop to find a Chromebook that won’t set you back $1,000? When will inventories be back to normal? I’ll do my best to assist you with the first two inquiries but alas, the final query is anyone’s guess. If you need to get your hands on a Chromebook right now, we have a couple of suggestions to help you save at least a little cash and hopefully ensure you’re buying from a trusted source.
As I mentioned, Best Buy’s Chromebook inventory has been chopped significantly. Even the companies Geek Squad refurbished models are scant and most of them are priced near retail which makes them less than desirable at best. Still, there’s savings to be had if you play your cards right. If you have a student in your home or perhaps you are a student or school employee yourself, you may qualify for Best Buy’s Student Deals program. It’s free to join and oftentimes you can save 10% or more on select products to include Chromebooks. You can sign up for Student Deals here. You can also find the limited list of on-sale Chromebooks from Best Buy at the link below. Again, it’s a roll of the dice to catch a deal but they are there if you’re timing is right
Amazon is a little tougher to navigate than most of the retailers that also exist as brick and mortar stores. First, you want to make sure that you know who you’re buying from. If the seller isn’t actually Amazon and the product order isn’t being fulfilled by Amazon, I recommend taking a close look at the storefront before pulling the trigger. There are a lot of reputable sellers on Amazon that handle selling and shipping themselves but you will want to make sure and check the companies ratings, return policies and shipping times. If a seller has no ratings in the past 6-12 months, I’d steer clear.
Next, do your research on the device you’re buying. Many sellers like to append a year to the Chromebook they’re selling to make it appear that it’s the most recent device on the market. It’s not unusual to see something like “New, 2020 Acer Chromebook R11” in a listing. Well, it is 2020 and that Chromebook may be new in the box but it’s still a laptop that was originally produced in 2015 and it will stop receiving updates in 2022. It’s common to see listings such as these and the price tag will be $300 or more. Not a deal by any stretch of the imagination. If you’re interested in finding devices that we consider the best bargain in their perspective price range, check out The Chrome Shop.
BH Photo may not be your first stop when shopping for a Chromebook but the retailer has been an authorized Google and Chrome OS reseller for some time and they do have a wide variety of devices available at any given time. Currently, the companies website lists 33 Chromebooks in stock and they have a great reputation among buyers. You may not find any “killer deals” but you will find competitive prices, free 2-day shipping and 30-day return policy. BH is also one of the best places to find frequent deals on smart home devices such as Nest speakers and smart displays. You can find all of the available Chromebooks from BH Photo at the link below.
Last but not least, Walmart has a plethora of Chromebooks available when you shop online. This is thanks to the companies network of resellers. Like Amazon and eBay, Walmart has third-party sellers integrated into its online shop. You’ll find reputable names such as Electronic Express, Beach Audio and more. For in-store products, you can usually place your order and pick it up in an hour or less. Like Amazon, you will want to double-check the seller that’s fulfilling the order but if you must have a Chromebook, Walmart has just about any device you can think of or want. If you’re aren’t sure about a price, drop a comment below and we’ll be glad to help you price check.
UPDATE: I completely forgot to mention CTL. If a desktop solution would be a good fit, CLT offers the most cost-effective Chromeboxes on the market and you can even customize the storage, RAM and get a custom paint job. Check out CTL here.