Gone are the days when a major electronic purchase had required spending a day traveling to the various electronics stores trying out the products and comparing prices. In this day and age it's very possible to discover, research, and purchase electronics online without ever testing them in real life. Whether you're preordering a new device just hitting the market or you're searching for some steep discounts in the online abyss, we think we can help you with some tips we've learned along. This advice has continually helped us track down the items we need at the price we want.
Preorders: When you're dead set on ordering a device the day it is released, you'll need to take care to be available when the order date comes around. Preorders are often available in limited quantities and quickly run out (see Apple's recent pre-order of, uh, anything). And speaking of Apple, because they keep their release dates so hush-hush, you'll need to follow their events calendar and see when they're hosting a press announcement. Typically they use these events to announce the pre-order date of a new product (and sometimes it is available that same day).
Reviews: Reading reviews is going to be the most important aspect of the process if you don't plan on testing the product yourself in a store. We recommend looking at a variety of sources so you know you'll be getting a well-rounded understanding. For professional sources, we always visit Unplggd (of course), Engadget, CNet, andGizmodo's comparison charts. As far as user reviews, the two heavy-hitters we check are Amazon and New Egg. Both seem to have a customer base who are good at documenting their experiences with a device carefully and honestly. Be sure to read the good, the bad, and the ugly. But always keep in mind the people who have a bad experience are more likely to write a review than those that have a good one.
Shopping: When it comes time to purchase an item, our first stop is to go to Google Shopping and plug in its name. Google Shopping culls the Internet for sources and spits out its results of where you can buy the item and at what price (+ shipping). Typically, we always head to Amazon as well as New Egg since both sites are notorious for giving deep discounts. Additionally, flash sites such as Woot often have bargain prices with the drawback being the mystery products and stock that come and go daily.
Used: Buying used (or refurbished) is another easy way to find deals on electronics. We've used Craigslist classifieds with great success. The key is to choose your sellers delicately. If anything seems shady about the listing or the person's emails, back out quick. But there are tons of honest people genuinely just looking to sell their electronics out there that you can tap into. Proceed with caution and ask to test the device beforehand if you're curious. eBay is also a great way to find used electronics. Using their advanced search feature, you can find local listings within 10 miles of your location incase you're still interested in the 'try before you buy' method. Some authorized retailers sell refurbished electronics through eBay as well. Look for the ones that offer some kind of additional warranty to sooth your buyers worries. Lastly, some electronics should simply not be resold such as hard drives. Their fragile lifespan is already very short. It is best to buy new than pay the price of a failed drive later.
Emails: Many stores send email blasts with exclusive sales and specials. We recommend using Taryn's brilliant suggestion to pair Evernote with a unique email address which will capture your emails and deliver them to you in an easily navigable and searchable way.
Shipping: Finally, having electronics shipped is always a bit of a precarious event. We recommend having the shipment delivered to your work or a location where someone would be available to accept it. Leaving a box to sit in front of your home all day while you're at work is asking for trouble.