HDTV price drops: Black Friday comes early, stays late

With the nosedive in the economy and retailers facing increasingly bleak sales, HDTV prices are starting to fall early.

Black Friday is still 11 days away, but for TV manufacturers looking to jump-start sluggish sales in the midst of a recession, it's already here--and will likely continue in spirit right through the holiday season.

Word of current and impending HDTV price drops is spreading rapidly. The HDGuru reports, for example, that Sony, Samsung, and Mitsubishi are rolling out MSRP reductions across the board, with some cuts as high as $500 on expensive models like the Sony KDL-52XBR6. Samsung is offering $200 off rear-projection models like the HL61A750, which was already a solid value to begin with. Looking for hot-selling prices last Friday, the Guru found deals like the 42-inch Panasonic TH-42PX80U plasma for $649 (although when we checked Monday it was back up to $729 online--still a great deal).

Looking for more? The latest Black Friday price watch (PDF) over at TWICE includes advertised price drops that range from 11 percent for the Sony KDL-46Z4100 to a drastic 33 percent for the LG 32LG30--one of the best deals we've seen so far at $549 at Best Buy. When we saw that price, we immediately added the LG to our Best cheap LCD TVs list.

We suspect even better bargains are yet to come. In past years, the best deals were available after Black Friday, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, especially on name-brand TVs.

The combination of the holiday season, nosediving economy and the impending DTV transition may be creating a perfect storm of low HDTV prices, but are people actually buying new TVs as a result? So far the answer seems to be "no." Growth in shipments of LCD and plasma TVs are finally beginning to decline, showing the slowest rate by far in the past two years. As economic news worsens, it's anybody's guess whether the American public, historically hot to drop cash for HDTVs during the holidays, will choose to wait instead this year.

What do you think, American public? Are these deals too good to pass up, or are you going to wait out the storm? Sound off in comments.