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The best Black Friday computer deals of 2014

There are lots of cheap laptops and tablets in stores, but these are the ones that are actually worth checking out, from $99 laptops to rare price cuts on MacBooks.

Dan Ackerman
1 of 12 Sarah Tew

[Updated 11/24 with new and updated deals.]

Black Friday deals on laptops, desktops, tablets and hybrids are notoriously tricky to navigate. A rock-bottom price may lure you in, but the scant descriptions and overblown promises offered by retailers might leave you with an underpowered system that makes a better doorstop than a productivity tool. We've scanned the flyers to find a handful of sales that won't leave you with bargain shoppers' remorse.

But note that most of these prices, found on various sale leak websites (including BlackFriday.com) won't be live until the day after Thanksgiving.

2 of 12 Sarah Tew

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 ($899 and up at Microsoft Store)

This high-end tablet, one of our favorite hybrids, will be available for $100 to $150 off, on November 27. That brings the basic Core i5/128GB SSD configuration down to $899, although you'll still need to buy the keyboard cover ($120) separately.

3 of 12 Sarah Tew

11-inch MacBook Air ($779 at Best Buy)

The MacBook Air gets my vote as the single most universally useful laptop you can buy. The 11.6-inch version is normally $899, and at $779 at Best Buy, it's a rare chance to pick one up for even less than that.

The 13-incher is also currently discounted by at least $100 from its usual $999 price at Best Buy.

4 of 12 Sarah Tew

15-inch HP Envy ($499 at Best Buy)

The Envy line is a really underrated laptop series from HP, and the 13-inch version of this is one of my favorite laptops. This deal has nice mainstream components, and a touch screen for under $500 at Best Buy. I'd call this a go-to midsize laptop for the price.

Costco will have an upgraded version (Core i7, with more RAM and bigger hard drive) for $650, which is $150 off the usual price.

5 of 12 Sarah Tew

Dell Inspiron 15R ($549 at Walmart.com)

The Dell Inspiron line is never particularly exciting, but usually dependable and a good value. This Walmart online-only deal (while supplies last!) is for a fairly tricked out 15-inch laptop, with a Core i7 CPU and a big 1TB hard drive for $549, or about $180 off the usual price. Staples will have essentially the same system for the same price.

6 of 12 CNET

Asus X205TA ($99 at Staples)

I usually advise Black Friday shoppers to stay away from the cheapest of the cheap PCs, as even spending around $200 on an underpowered laptop will end up disappointing everyone involved. This bare-bones 11-inch has an Intel Atom processor and 2GB of RAM, but only a 32GB SSD, of which Windows 8 will probably eat up half. That said, if you need something that won't do much more than a Chromebook, it's half the price of HP's super-cheap 11-inch Stream.

7 of 12 Josh Miller/CNET

Microsoft Surface 2 ($299 at Best Buy)

No one is really making Windows RT devices any more (it's a stripped-down version of Windows 8), but the Surface 2 is still holding on. It's not the most useful slate ever, but at a discounted price of $299 at Best Buy ($150 off the usual price), I can see this being a premium-feeling travel system. Microsoft Office is included, but the keyboard is sold separately.

8 of 12 Toshiba

Toshiba C55 ($399 after rebate at Staples)

Basic, plastic 15-inch laptop, but with a mainstream Core i5 CPU from Intel and a 1TB hard drive. It's actually on sale for $550, but there's a $50 "easy rebate," so -- depending on how easy it is -- it's a potential steal. Update: Office Depot will have a lower-end Toshiba C55, with an Intel Celeron processor (which we frankly don't recommend for a 15-inch laptop) for $159 (regularly $279) on Friday.

9 of 12 Sarah Tew

Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro ($999 at Best Buy)

This is a higher-end configuration of the excellent Yoga 2 Pro, one of our top PCs of 2013. It's a year old, but has a powerful Core i7 processor and a big 256GB SSD. It's also a hybrid that can fold down into a kiosk or tablet, and very well-made. This config is regularly $1,200.

10 of 12 Sarah Tew

Origin PC (free Steam gift card)

Origin PC makes some excellent but expensive gaming PCs, including laptops and desktops. You won't find a doorbuster-level deal, but any built-to-order computer will come with a $50 Steam gift card to help kick off your PC game collection, plus free ground shipping, which can run $50 and up (the free shipping code is Fall2014).

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Dell Inspiron 15 ($189 at Dell)

This is a very basic Celeron processor system, but paired with a standard 500GB hard drive. With a larger 15-inch display it's going to feel very underpowered, but it's hard to argue with the price as a dead basic system for simple websurfing or for setting up as a tabletop Netflix player. Check the Dell site for pricing updates.

12 of 12 Sarah Tew

More to come

We'll keep this list updated with new computer deals,  so check back, or add any you find in the comments section below.

In the meantime, check out:

>> CNET's full holiday gift guide

>> CNET's PC holiday gift recommendations

>> CNET's complete Black Friday coverage

>> Every Black Friday deal we've found

>> CNET's complete Cyber Monday coverage

>> CNET's Deals & Promotions page

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