You know the holidays are a great time to buy electronics, and this Black Friday will be no exception. But finding the best deals can be difficult. With a little research and preparation, you can score a great bargain on that tablet, computer, TV or other tech gadget in 2014.
Usually on sale throughout the year, tablets haven’t traditionally been among the best deals on Black Friday. But recent years have seen a reversal of this trend, with a growing selection of bargain tablets available on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, particularly from Microsoft. Last year, there were 59% more tablet deals than in 2012, and Walmart doubled its selection of tablets in its Black Friday inventory. In 2014, this trend is only set to increase, so if you’re on the hunt for a tablet, keep your eyes open.
If you’re fine with a no-name brand, you can find tablets for $20, and used and refurbished items for even less. When it comes to name-brand products, Microsoft’s Surface tablets are expected to be among the best deals, especially used and refurbished items. If you’re looking for Amazon’s Kindle Fire, wait until Cyber Monday for the biggest discounts. Popular tablets such as the Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy Tab and LG G Pad will also be available, with prices expected to be at least $150 for 7- or 8-inch models.
Shoppers looking for tablets should check out eBay, A4C, Newegg and Walmart for the best prices, according to DealNews.
Among its predictions for this year, DealNews expects budget laptops to sell for as little as $178, mainstream laptops for $325 and high-end desktop replacements for $674. Thirteen-inch ultraportable laptops are expected to be among the best deals of the season, with prices around $450. This class of laptop, which is thinner and lighter than the traditional notebook, has seen major price drops around Black Friday. You’re also likely to see a flood of touchscreen laptops on the market. As they have become more popular, the price of these laptops has dropped, showing a $50 decrease since last year in non-promotional prices.
When it comes to brands, you’ll find better deals on Windows-based machines than Apple products. Last year’s selection featured low-price products from Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Samsung. Apple offered free gift cards to shoppers who purchased a range of Apple products, including the MacBook Air, iMac and MacBook Pro. With the gift cards, which ranged in value from $25 to $150, consumers received a slight discount but were better off purchasing Apple products at other retailers, such as Target and Wal-Mart.
But a good purchase isn’t only about low prices. Make sure to buy a laptop you really want and need. Before you go shopping, consider what kind of computer you’re looking for. How big should the screen be? Does weight matter? Do you want a touchscreen? How much hard drive space do you need? Once you’ve identified the specs you’re looking for, research computers in that category to familiarize yourself with their pros, cons and prices. That way, when you hit the stores on Black Friday, you’ll be well equipped to evaluate deals and find your perfect machine.
TVs rank high among Black Friday’s traditional bargains. When it comes to finding a good deal on a new television, size is everything. This year, the best doorbuster of the season will be the 60-inch LCD TV, according to DealNews, which is expected to sell for as little as $420. Beyond the doorbusters, prices are expected to be at $460 for more basic models and $725 for higher quality televisions.
Among smaller TVs, shoppers will have a harder time finding deals. When it comes to 42-inch TVs, prices have flattened out since 2008, so the category is unlikely to offer record-breaking deals. So if you’re not looking for a big screen, consider getting a 32-inch TV. Unlike the prices of their slightly larger cousins, the prices of 32-inch televisions have continued to drop and are expected to continue this year.
If you’ve been eyeing 4K TVs, you’re in luck. Prices for Seiki’s 4K televisions are expected to drop this year, with prices as low as those of standard 55-inch LCD TVs.
Even as bargains on TVs abound, be cautious when you buy. No matter how low the prices, you won’t be grabbing a great deal if you plunk down a pile of cash for a substandard television. Look out for no-name brands, such as Apex, Element, Funai and Magnavox. Even when it comes to brand-name televisions, make sure you’re getting the real thing, not a derivative product designed especially for Black Friday and missing key features, offering a limited warranty or equipped with a lower resolution. Before you buy, check the model number to see whether you’re getting a derivative model, unless you don’t mind trading quality for a lower price.
If you’re looking for a new smartphone, Black Friday is a great opportunity to snag one for under $100.
Apple fans should be on the lookout for the iPhone 6, which is likely to drop down to $99. Refurbished models of the iPhone 5s, on the other hand, are expected to hit $1.
When it comes to Android smartphones, you can get even better deals. If you’re willing to sign a two-year contract, you can find a range of popular phones for free, an arrangement known as getting a “subsidized” phone. Top brands expected to offer such deals include Samsung, HTC and Motorola. Last year, some retailers featured the Samsung Galaxy S4 for free with a contract, and this year shoppers are likely to find the phone’s successor, the S5, for the same deal. For subsidized Androids, be sure to check out Amazon, Wirefly and Walmart, as well as major wireless carriers.
Phones that bargain-hunters should avoid include the iPhone 6 Plus, which is not expected to feature any significant discounts, and unlocked phones, which are better purchased at other times of the year.
When it comes to buying a phone, timing is everything. Amazon tends to offer its best prices on smartphones right before Black Friday, while Walmart introduces them on the shopping holiday itself. If you’re looking to shop at Best Buy, visit the store immediately after Black Friday. And if last year offers any indication, keep an eye on AT&T, which featured its lowest prices on smartphones during its Black Friday pre-sales, including the iPhone 5s (16GB) for $99.99.
Laptops, tablets, TVs and phones aren’t the only items on the market during Black Friday sales. Other popular electronics sure to be marked down this year include Blu-ray players, DVD players and accessories, including headphones and speakers. Apply the same caution for these items that you would when purchasing a computer or television. If you’re planning on buying big and small items alike, look for headphones bundled for free with a phone or computer.
Electronics illustration via Shutterstock