Choosing a Black Friday Short List
Thinking of braving the mall mobs to take advantage of the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving Black Friday retail extravaganza? If so, you might want to have a shopping list.
We've scoured the ads leaked to Black Friday Web sites (such as Black Friday Ads and Black Friday Info) to identify bargains that could make rising before dawn to stand in line worthwhile--as well as some online deals that you can grab with just a few mouse clicks.
We didn't necessarily put the least expensive items on the list; we wanted products that we liked, at prices we liked. We included closeouts as long as we found them appealing and appropriately priced.
A final note: We can't guarantee that prices won't improve further in the weeks ahead--or, for that matter, that you haven't already missed the best deals available (this year has seen a lot of pre-Black Friday sales). But on the eve of Thanksgiving, these were some of the most interesting prices that had been leaked.
For more Black Friday information and guidance, read our "Insider's Guide to Black Friday Bargains."
Samsung 46-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV (LN46A500)
At $1100 from Best Buy, BJ's, Circuit City (a "doorbuster" special), and Sears, Samsung's 46-inch 1080p LCD HDTV is probably worth the effort. Though we haven't reviewed this specific model, which is available only from certain big-box retailers, it's apparently similar to (but with fewer inputs than) the LN46A550 (shown in image), which was one of the top-rated models in our recent roundup of 46- and 47-inch HDTVs. (That model's price when reviewed: $1699.)
Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS (Digital Elph)
It's easy for me to recommend this midrange point-and-shoot camera: I bought one myself in early September for $178, and have been delighted with its feature set (including its image-stabilized zoom), its petite profile, and its beautiful, crisp images (you can read more details in our review.) The SD1100 comes in several metallic colors (I bought it in gold; the slide here is of the brown edition). On Black Friday, Office Depot will be selling the silver and blue models for $150. That isn't the steal of the century, but currently it is the lowest price around for a first-rate camera in this class.
Samsung BDP-1500 Blu-ray Disc Player
This is the first holiday season since HD DVD exited the next-gen optical-media market, leaving the field to Blu-ray Disc. Sales of the latter haven't exploded, perhaps because people are still reeling from HDTV sticker shock (or, more likely, income loss as the economy continues its slide). Prices still seem high compared with those of DVD players, too. The Samsung BD-P1500, however, is priced at $199 at Circuit City--not dirt cheap (we've seen it advertised online for $209), but a good deal. A major plus: The BDP-1500 is BD-Live ready, meaning it will support available online features if you hook it up to the Internet via your home network.
Bargain-Basement Blu-ray Player: Magnavox NB500MG9
When Wal-Mart began selling the Magnavox NB500MG9 Blu-ray Disc player for $298 last spring, many enthusiasts were thrilled to see a decent player for less than $300. On Black Friday, Wal-Mart will sell this player for $128--but apparently you'll have to head to a brick-and-mortar store to get the deal. We haven't reviewed this unit, but a glance at forum posts suggests that while it lacks frills, isn't elegantly designed, and has some playback issues with specific discs, it gets the job done with components from reputable manufacturers. A Blu-ray Disc player for less than $130 might even get me out of bed early the day after Thanksgiving.
Panasonic 42-Inch Viera Plasma TV (TH-42PZ80U)
This handsome 42-inch 1080p plasma from Panasonic is being phased out, but it's still listed at $1300 on Panasonic's Web site, and it's a great set. With plasma TVs, Panasonic has been a consistent and solid performer.
The $900 Black Friday price tag at Circuit City, however, will save money primarily for people who can pick it up in person: Though several online retailers are already selling the TH-42PZ80U at that price (or lower), shipping invariably adds $100 or more, so even with local sales tax you'll probably do better if you can get help carting the set home.
Dell Inspiron Mini 9
Although some observers had predicted great Black Friday deals on netbooks, we've seen only one of note: Dell is offering the Ubuntu Linux version of its Mini 9 for $299 (normally it goes for $349). It isn't my favorite netbook--the keyboard has some odd space-saving tweaks--but it looks adorable (people gawked when I removed it from my smallish purse), and the price is right: The Windows XP version we tried out cost $474, and most recently the Ubuntu edition was $350.
Dell's Laptop-GPS Bundle
At the opposite end of the laptop food chain from the Dell Mini, the high-performing Dell XPS M1330 portable isn't cheap, even on Black Friday: Decked out with a Core 2 Duo T5850 CPU, a 13.3-inch screen, 4GB RAM, a 320GB hard drive, a built-in Webcam, and a fingerprint reader, it will cost over a grand ($1029, to be precise). But that's less than half what it cost when we reviewed it last year--and to sweeten the deal, Dell will throw in a free Magellan Roadmate 1400 GPS. Yes, these are closeouts. But they make a solid bundle for someone who's in the market for products in both categories.
HP Color LaserJet CP1215
Color laser printer prices have been plummeting for some time now, but Staples is bringing them to an impressive low by offering the CP1215 for $150 on Black Friday. Even no-name retailers weren't matching that price as of late last week. We haven't reviewed it, but the user ratings look good, and if you've been waiting for a deal on a reputable company's color laser, this could be it.
Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Our games blogger, Matt Peckham, likes Kmart's offer of an Xbox 360 Pro and a 12-month Xbox Live Gold subscription so that you can play online against others. The subscription card is free, a $50 value.
Matt also likes Best Buy's $400 bundle of a PlayStation 3 with a Ratchet & Clank game, and "Casino Royale" on Blu-ray Disc. "This is a steal of deal, especially as Ratchet & Clank is an A+ title, and 'Casino Royale' is A+ James Bond," he says.
Garmin Nuvi 200 and TomTom One 125
Prices for GPS navigation devices continue to plummet, and Black Friday delivers a couple of no-frills but solid brand-name devices for less than $100--terrific deals. Walmart shoppers will have the Garmin Nuvi 200 (currently going for $125 or so) for $97, a real steal--and you can even pick it up online.
Meanwhile, TomTom is offering a new model, the TomTom One 125, for $99.95. This is a variant on the TomTom 130, which only a few short weeks ago was going for $150 (you'll see this noted in our November 8 review of the pricier and more full-featured TomTom 130S); basically, the 125 is the 130 (shown above) without maps for Canada, the company says. The One 125 will be available at the $100 price both online and at big-box retailers through the weekend.
Stocking Stuffer: A Good $5 Mouse
I swear by Logitech's cordless optical mice, and at $5 for the V320 (leaked in the Office Depot ad), I'm considering grabbing a few. Though these capable laptop mice are listing for $40 on Office Depot's site, they can be had for $25 or so elsewhere. But $5 is much better.
Speaking of stocking stuffers, I saw a slew of offers for memory and storage media. Those are definitely worth stocking up. Keep an eye on the last-minute ads, too, and may you find the deal of your dreams.