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Is Prime Day Worth the Hype?

How the deals stack up against Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Amazon Prime Day is a humble summer holiday that’s purely about shopping on Amazon. It’s basically the U.S. version of Alibaba’s Singles Day, which is the biggest shopping holiday in China. Prime Day, which kicks off Monday at 3 p.m. ET, is unlike Black Friday in that Amazon largely keeps deals under wraps until the big day—although it does start giving sneak peeks of some discounts the week before through the Amazon app. This year, it’s extending bargains to Whole Foods stores, too. Amazon’s aim here is for you to see deals, add them to your wish list, and then get notified the moment they go on sale so you can purchase them. But it also means that it can be difficult to gauge whether Prime Day bargains are actually worth your time and money or whether you’re better off waiting until another sale down the line.

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While a number of websites are aggregating the best 2018 Prime Day deals, we decided to compare some of last year’s best deals with the discounts available over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two of the other biggest shopping days on the calendar. Below are 10 mostly tech-related products that were either on sale during both shopping holidays or had similar counterparts on sale. Looking at the percent discount for each product, we could compare which day had the better deal.

Is Amazon Prime Day worth your money—or are you better off waiting to splurge?

Expensive Electronics

If you’ve got your eye on a big-ticket electronics item like a TV, Amazon Prime Day typically offers some decent discounts—but mostly not as big as the price cuts you’ll find later in the year. Unless you’re desperately in need of a new TV or entertainment hardware, you may be better served waiting.

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For example, last year’s Prime Day included a 75-inch Samsung Ultra HD Smart LED TV at 20 percent off, but on Black Friday you could get a 75-inch Sony 4K Smart LED TV at 60 percent off or a 65-inch Samsung 4K Smart TV for 40 percent off.

Smartphones, Headphones, and Tech Accessories

However, if you’re in the market for a new smartphone or other mobile accessories, the deals are comparable. Headphones, in particular, are an item where you’ll find similar or identical discounts.

For Prime Day in 2017, you could find an unlocked Galaxy S8-Gear VR bundle for 30 percent off; for Black Friday, you could get an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S8 64GB for 20 percent off. If you were in the market for some audio gear, like the Sony XB950B1 Extra Bass Wireless Headphones, you could find those at the exact same $98 price (23 percent off) during Prime Day or Black Friday.

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Smart Home

If you’re looking to outfit your home with Bluetooth- and Wi-Fi-connected gadgetry, you can find solid deals with Amazon Prime Day. For example, last year, you could get a Philips Hue starter kit and Bluetooth-connected sous vide for 30 percent off.

While the TP-Link Smart White Light Bulb was more heavily discounted for Black Friday at 40 percent off (versus 20 percent off on Prime Day), other items like the Nest thermostat were discounted equally for both shopping days.

Other Products

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For nontech products, the discounts were hit or miss. The Game of Thrones Blu-Ray Collection of seasons 1–6 was a steal last year at 46 percent off—but likely in part because Season 7 was about to debut. For Cyber Monday, the Game of Thrones Blu-Ray for seasons 1–7 was only 20 percent off. One of Amazon’s best-selling mattresses, the Zinus Memory Foam 12-Inch Green Tea Mattress, was equally discounted on Prime Day and on Cyber Monday, although in the queen size on Prime Day and twin size on Cyber Monday. A 19 percent discount on the Coravin Wine Preservation System wasn’t one of Prime Day’s biggest deals, but for Black Friday, you could grab it at 50 percent off through Coravin’s website.

Amazon Products

For Amazon’s own products, Black Friday proved to offer better deals than Prime Day for several items, including the Amazon Tap and Echo Dot. The Tap was 35 percent off on Prime Day versus 38 percent off on Black Friday, while the Dot was 30 percent off on Prime Day and 40 percent off on Black Friday. However, for other items like the Kindle (38 percent off), the discounts on both shopping dates were identical.

Conclusions

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After scouring hundreds of last year’s best sale items, we can come to a few solid conclusions—and some not-so-solid ones. First, it’s rare to find a discount greater than 40 or 50 percent. If you spot something that heavily discounted, there’s likely a reason (perhaps a new model is set to come out soon), but if that doesn’t bother you, the deal could certainly be worth taking. Most often, discounts fell in the 20 to 30 percent off range.

If you’re looking for expensive electronics like a TV, you’re likely better off waiting until Black Friday or Cyber Monday if you can. While Prime Day will have some deals, you’ll find greater variety during the holiday sales rush. For smaller tech purchases such as wearables, smartphones, headphones, or phone accessories, the discounts you’ll find are roughly on par no matter which sales day you choose to shop. Amazon’s Lightning Deals—items that go on sale only for a short time—are a total crapshoot. And while we focused largely on tech-related discounts, Amazon will likely have sales for all manner of items large and small.

However, there is reason to think that this year’s deals may be slightly more limited than in the past. In 2017, Amazon charged sellers a fee to participate in its daily, short-term Lightning Deals. This year, it upped that fee from $500 to $750 per deal. On one hand, this could filter out small sellers whose items aren’t going to be purchased en masse and improve the overall quality of its Lightning Deals. On the other hand, it could minimize the variety of those deals. That means, once again, some of the peculiarities of the Prime Day deals will remain a mystery.