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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Phones

Here's the tech you shouldn't buy on Black Friday

Wait! Before you fight the crowds to plunk down your hard-earned cash, make sure that a Black Friday deal is really a deal.

Black Friday Sales in New York City

Mohammed Elshamy/Getty Images

It's a truism that the best tech deals of the year happen on Black Friday.

It's also woefully inaccurate. Yes, there will be some bargains worth considering -- maybe even standing in line for -- but as you've probably discovered, stores large and small have turned a single day into an entire season of sales. (Check out our 2016 roundup of the best Black Friday deals for some examples.)

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In fact, I'd go so far as to say every day is Black Friday. As The Cheapskate, I see (and share) amazing deals all through the year, and I've developed a healthy skepticism when it comes to the day after Turkey Day. While marketing departments would love for you to think they're giving away the store, not every BF deal is really a deal.

How can you tell? Start with price-history site Camelcamelcamel, which shows you the historical highs and lows for just about every product Amazon sells. Even if you're shopping elsewhere, you can use this to determine if a Black Friday price is really an "all-time low" or just plain "low."

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Bottom line: If any given product has been priced lower (or the same) during the past year, it's a safe bet it will be again.

In the meantime, don't fall for the Black Friday hype when it comes to these tech items:

Mobile chargers, phone cases, selfie sticks and other accessories

These things are on sale all... the... time. There's simply no way Black Friday can improve on a 10,000mAh mobile charger for $10 -- unless you're getting paid $10 to take it.

Wireless speakers

Same story: Although you might be able to score a deal on really high-end speakers -- the rarely discounted Sonos Play:1 ($185.00 at Amazon.com), for example, typically sees a Black Friday price cut -- which have more room for discounts, you're not likely to find a better price on BF than you will during other sales.

No-brand tablets

Let's be blunt: When it comes to entry-level tablets, there's no better option than Amazon's $50 Fire. It's not perfect, but it's definitely better than any no-brand tablet you're likely to find at the same price -- if not in specs, then in support and ecosystem. And Amazon will almost certainly offer a Black Friday deal -- probably for $30-$35 -- which is too good a deal to pass up if you want a dirt-cheap tablet.

High-end PCs

Sure, you'll see some low-end laptops priced to move, but high-end models -- gaming laptops, ultraportables and the like -- don't usually see big Black Friday price cuts. Rather, history suggests that these machines sell for less in the summertime, during back-to-school sales.

Anything super-new

Hot new products -- the Apple Watch 3 ($471.90 at Sam's Club), the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 ($917.64 at Amazon.com) -- are exactly that: hot and new, meaning they'll be in high demand. Therefore, stores have little incentive to lower their prices. There may be exceptions here and there, but as a general rule, premium products don't see big cuts on Black Friday. 

Instead, look for deals on previous-gen models, like the original Apple Watch Series 1 ($279.00 at Apple), which Target discounted last year and will likely do again.

A 4K TV

apple-tv-4k-remote-topdown

Apple

Black Friday does deliver its share of good TV deals, I will say that, and most of those will be 4K models. But despite my colleague Geoffrey Morrison's claim that 4K TVs aren't stupid anymore, which originated in 2015, I maintain my opinion that they're pointless.

There's still precious little content to actually watch, even if you splurge on a 4K-capable streaming box (another product I recommend skipping -- see below). And the technology behind 4K remains in a state of flux. Maybe in 2018 it'll make sense, but if you can get a 1080p TV for less, that's the way I'd go. 

High-end streaming boxes

Speaking of 4K, what makes more sense: an Apple TV 4K ($197.84 at Sam's Club) that's been discounted to, say, $159 from $179, or a Roku Streaming Stick+ that's $70 all the time? The latter can do 4K, assuming you even want that, and thanks to the new Movies Anywhere, you no longer need an Apple TV to watch movies you've purchased from iTunes.

My point, simply, is that even a discounted high-end streaming box will still cost you more than a perfectly capable midrange or even low-end streaming box. 

What are your thoughts on the state of Black Friday and whether or not there are any real deals to be had? Hit the comments and let me know if you've scored any major tech deals on Black Fridays past. 

Editors' note, Oct. 16, 2017: This article was originally published on Nov. 21, 2016, and has since been updated with new information. 

The Cheapskate: Fabulous deals on tech, every day of the week.