It’s that time of year when our inboxes are flooded with discounts galore for Black Friday, Cyber ​​Week, and all of the promotions that follow.

But this year we are in a unique situation. We live in an era of scarcity driven by a global chip shortage, widespread unemployment and the impact of government-imposed lockdowns designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. That has disrupted global supply chains, made it difficult to manufacture and made it difficult to ship items around the world.

That is now affecting the types of tech products we can get for our loved ones this holiday season. Playground equipment like that Playstation and Xbox consoles that have been consistently scarce for the past year will continue to be a challenge to find. And the list of hard-to-get items just got bigger and includes WiFi routers, cheap laptops, and audio equipment.

Buyers looking to purchase consumer electronics will need to change their game plan. The biggest takeaway? Don’t wait until Black Friday.

“Buy early,” says Patrick Moorhead, CEO of Moor Insights, a technology research company. “Decide whether you want to save a little money or not get the product at all.”

Here’s a guide to consumer electronics that will be hard to find this year.

Let’s start with some of the most sought-after and hardest-to-buy tech products: Sony’s PlayStation 5, Microsofts Xbox Series X and Nintendo’s new Switch, which was virtually absent from store shelves last year.

In the past, some console manufacturers have curtailed production of the machines in order to build excitement for the products, game analysts said. But the chip shortage – and increased demand for playground equipment as many people are stuck at home during the pandemic – has only exacerbated the shortage.

Many major retailers sell the new consoles exclusively online, and when new PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch consoles appear they sell out in minutes. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have warned that the chip shortage could lead to delivery bottlenecks by 2022.

The shortage of chips and overwhelming demand for gaming products have also resulted in a constant shortage of high-end graphics cards that people use to upgrade their computers to run more powerful games, Moorhead said.

The game plan? Look at automation. Millions of people follow Twitter accounts, who scan and tweet trading sites as soon as game consoles and graphics cards are back in stock. You can set up your Twitter apps to send a notification on your phone as soon as these accounts are published. I recommend the following @mattswider, the editor-in-chief of TechRadar blog who relies on retailer sources to post inventory updates of game consoles and graphics cards.

New WiFi routers usually get deep discounts on Black Friday. But we should expect fewer of those deals this year.

This is due to a domino effect related to the lack of legacy nodes, a miniature chip used to make wireless sensors in network devices, said William Crockett, vice president of Tanaka Precious Metals, a component maker. Because this component is not readily available, companies may manufacture fewer routers. That then means retailers are less likely to price down routers to avoid running out of prices, he said.

Case in point: last year one of Amazon’s hottest Black Friday deals was a big discount for the Eero, his popular wireless router. This year the Eero is noticeably missing Amazon’s list of top deals for Black Friday.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company had planned promotions for Eero over the Christmas period. So far only the high-end Eero Pro models have received significant discounts.

So if you or friends and family want an internet router, buy it now. In the unlikely event that the product goes on sale that Black Friday, you can ask the retailer to adjust the price retrospectively, or you can return the item and buy it at a cheaper price.

Retailers typically launch a variety of low-cost laptops on Black Friday that cost under $ 400, including Chromebooks and notebooks from manufacturers like Acer, Dell, and HP.

Expect these deals to get scarcer this vacation. Computer manufacturers are grappling with a shortage of USB controllers, the chip that allows a computer to communicate on the USB port, Moorhead said. As a result, manufacturers are prioritizing these parts for producing more expensive laptops that generate higher profits, he said.

The result: you can expect deals on premium laptops like MacBooks, but fewer discounts on the cheaper stuff.

There are some rare offers online for cheap notebooks – you just have to be proactive. Last week, Walmart sold, according to Pete King, a maker of Slick deals, a website that tracks discounts online.

“If you haven’t started looking now, you will be late for the game,” he said.

Ultimately, the chip shortage has impacted analog chips, the circuitry that gadgets rely on to manage electricity. The tech products hardest hit are audio accessories like speakers and earphones, which rely on analog chips to reduce their power consumption and connect wirelessly to notebooks and smartphones.

However, the scarcity does not affect all audio accessories. Mr. Moorhead noted that Sony and Apple are developing their own chips for audio devices so people probably won’t have a problem buying fancy earbuds from the big tech companies this vacation.

That’s good news for AirPods fans, but bad news for TikTokers and Gen Zers who are actively trying make less popular headphones fashionable.

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