Every year the Black Friday online circulars hit the Web and lots of sites round up every tech deal under the sun. That's great, but it's always hard to tell the real deals from all the crap that's being advertised to lure you into the stores. The truth is, a lot of the so-called superbargains are already available online from stores like Amazon and others.
However, a few items do stand out. Alas, many of these are "doorbusters" available in very limited quantities, and only the people who arrive long before the doors open will get a chance to buy them. But at least they really are deals, and some of them are actually worth getting excited about.
Amazon has unveiled Black Friday deals for its own line of Fire and Kindle devices. Given the already low prices on most of those e-readers, tablets, phones, and video streamers, this includes some truly great deals for anyone looking for gadget gifts. And many of the deals start Thanksgiving Day and run through Saturday (or later). In fact, some of the deals are already in place.
The price cuts and timing are as follows:
2014 Kindle e-book reader for $49 (Thursday, November 27 through Saturday, November 29): This is a $30 price cut on Amazon's latest low-end Kindle. It's a great deal for anyone looking to replace an older reader, so long as you don't need built-in illumination (see below). For an additional $30 ($79 total, or the usual price of the device), Amazon will throw in six months of its subscription e-book service, Kindle Unlimited.
Kindle Paperwhite for $99 (Thursday, November 27 through Saturday, November 29): Need built-in lighting? The Paperwhite is getting a $20 price break too, putting it at the same price as its backlit rival, the Barnes & Noble Nook Glowlight. Add $30 ($129 total) for a six-month Kindle Unlimited subscription.
Fire HD 6 for $79 (Thursday, November 27 through Saturday, November 29):Amazon's 6-inch tablet is already an insanely great deal for $99, but you can get $20 knocked off that price this weekend.
Fire Phone for $199, contract-free (now through Monday, December 1):Amazon's first phone was a dud at its original price -- $649 off-contract or $199 on-contract -- but at this price, it may be worth a second look for AT&T customers.
Fire TV Stick for $24.99 (now through Saturday, November 29):Amazon's streaming stick is a nice option for Prime subscribers, and it's available for $10 off at Best Buy and Staples for the next few days. (It's still out of stock at Amazon.)
The MacBook Air gets laptop editor Dan Ackerman's 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.
Although we've never reviewed it, Sony's been churning out solid interchangeable-lens mirrorless models for a while now. At $300 for the kit with the 16-50mm power zoom lens in Best Buy and other stores on Black Friday, last year's A5000 is well-priced.
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 touchscreen 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.
The plastic Pebble smartwatch is selling for around $100 these days, but on Black Friday some stores will have discounted it down to $80. That's a pretty decent deal for one of the better smartwatches out there with a reasonable selection of apps.
The Netgear R6200 is a great choice for an entry-level home Wi-Fi router that supports the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. You'll find it on Amazon for just $60 during the Black Friday sale, significantly less than the regular price of over $200.
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.
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.
Basic, plastic 15-inch laptop, but with a mainstream Core i5 CPU from Intel and a 1TB hard drive. It's currently on sale for $529, and a $50 "easy rebate" brings it down to $479. Tack on an additional $80 in savings on Black Friday and you're looking at a decent deal.
We put this Vizio above myriad other cheaper TVs at this size for the simple fact that it's actually good. Very good, in fact, earning one of the two 7 scores in picture quality on this list. At 25 percent off today's price, it's a clear winner.
50-inch runner up: Seiki SE50FY10 (Amazon, $229). If our review of this upstart Chinese brand's 50-inch 4K TV is any indication, the 1080p SE50FY10 is not good. But it sure is cheap.
Been on the fence about getting an Xbox One? Well, you'll see some of the best deals of the year on Black Friday. Just be aware that the bundled games are digital downloads, not the physical games (sorry, you can't trade them in or sell them).
If you're interested in a PS4, are some nice Black Friday deals out there. Just be aware that the bundled games are digital downloads, not the physical games (sorry, you can't trade them in or sell them).
PlayStation 4 + Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us: Remastered - $399.99 (GameStop, Best Buy)
PlayStation 4 + Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us: Remastered or Lego Batman 3 and LittleBigPlanet 3 -- $399.99 (Toys R Us)
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 at Best Buy.
Editor Scott Stein is a fan of this entry-level activity tracker, which normally retails for $50. On Black Friday, a few stores will have it for half that price, including Walmart, Target and Best Buy.
Starting November 27 and running through December 1, Best Buy will offer the Nest for $200 instead of its usual price of $250. Meanwhile, the price of the entry-level Dropcam HD (aka Dropcam) will fall by $49, down to $100 from $149.
Note: Shoppers should be aware that this latest generation of the Nest has been out for a while and the product may be due for a refresh in 2015.
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 Web surfing or for setting up as a tabletop Netflix player.
If you want something better than the typical entry-level model, the T5i equipped with the 18-55mm STM and the 75-300mm lenses is a steal at $700 from Walmart on Black Friday when you see that many other "deals" will offer the single-lens kit for $650.
The T3i, with the 18-55mm and 75-300mm lenses is editor Lori Grunin's second favorite pick for a $500 starter SLR kit, available from Best Buy and Amazon. You'll see the T5 dual-lens kit for $450 at Best Buy and Target, but the T3i is definitely worth the extra $50 over the stripped-down T5.
The D7000 is a past Editors' Choice Award winner -- way past -- but this former midrange champ is now priced to compete with less powerful newer models. Kitted for Black Friday with the better-than-average 18-140mm lens for $800 it makes a great deal. Available at Best Buy.
When it comes to solid-state drives (SSDs), Samsung has been one of the best vendors. And if you've been waiting to upgrade your computer to the best performance possible, your chance is coming up this November 27. All recent Samsung SSDs, including the 840 Pro, 840 Evo and 850 Pro, will be available for up to 60 percent off at Samsung's online store.
Widely available now from Samsung.com and elsewhere for this new low price, the F4500 is the sole plasma TV on this list, and one of the few we didn't review this year. Geoff Morrison loved it in his review at The Wirecutter, however, and even pitted it against a 4K LCD. Guess which won?
We know this isn't the only sub-$100 32-inch TV on sale for Black Friday, but we're betting it's the only one you won't have to camp out for. Don't worry about the rest. It's $98. Available at Amazon.
32-inch runner up: Samsung UN32EH4003 (widely available now for $227) Just in case you agree with me that it's worth spending more to get a better TV, this guy offers the same picture quality as the UN32EH4000 we liked so much last year. And once again, you don't have to wait until Black Friday.
Indeed, though perhaps not as high-profile as the $199 iPad Mini or $29 Android tablet also listed in Walmart's Black Friday circular, this marks the first time that a Windows tablet has sold new for under $100.
The Nextbook 8 features an Intel Atom Z3735G processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of expandable storage, and an 8-inch screen with a 1,280x800 resolution. Other specs include front- and rear-facing camera (both fairly low-resolution), Bluetooth 4.0, and a Micro-HDMI port.
In addition to running full Windows 8.1 (and not ill-fated Windows RT), the tablet comes with a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal, which includes 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage. (In theory, that license should extend to one PC or Mac desktop installation as well, as a regular Personal subscription includes "1 PC/Mac, 1 tablet, and 1 phone.") That's a $70 value all by itself.
Beats has discontinued the Solo HD (the new Solo 2 and Solo 2 Wireless are now available), so you can pick up a pair for a reasonable price ($79.99), which is about $90 off what these on-ear headphones usually cost. Best Buy has them listed as a doorbuster while Staples is selling them now for $79.99 in limited color options).