Gizmo Guy: Make the Black Friday madness worth your green
Charge your Apple Watch, snapped up with a $100 gift card at Target or Friday-only discount at Best Buy. Grab a cool drink out of your Kenmore stainless French door fridge bought as a $949 door-buster delight (saving $1,050) at Sears.
Charge your Apple Watch, snapped up with a $100 gift card at Target or Friday-only discount at Best Buy.
Grab a cool drink out of your Kenmore stainless French door fridge bought as a $949 door-buster delight (saving $1,050) at Sears.
Crank up the music on a super bargain ($5) Bluetooth speaker from H.H. Gregg.
Then dive again, head over heels, into the holiday shopping madness now summed up as Black Friday.
Yes, the once limited (time and quantity) sales bonanza has already begun with run-up offers in stores and on-line. And it will carry on to Nov. 30's Cyber Monday - online's biggest shopping day - then Giving Tuesday, the guilt-assuaging day-after when charities hope you'll cough up for good causes. (PayPal is pushing for a Guinness World Record in donations.)
Gizmo Guy used to laugh scornfully at the Black Friday business - as did Philadelphia police credited with coining the term in the early 1960s to describe the Center City traffic madness on the day after Thanksgiving.
But three years ago, while working through my first Turkey Day (in many years) as a single person, I found good distraction and amazing "Lightning" deals at Amazon.com for such things as (don't laugh) high-grade Japanese-style kitchen knives to replace equivalents that had gone "missing."
Later, after a Thanksgiving feast with friends in Villanova, I found myself driving the wrong way (intentionally) out I-76, then Route 422, toward the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick, where the special sales were redunkulous; the party was going on all night. I was hooked on BF fever.
But not as a shopping fool, especially with gadgets. As a product tester and consumer, I'm continually tracking the ups and downs of prices for TVs, headphones, computers, smartphones, and more, just as others track sports stats or the stock market. I take care to understand why brands and items are "slashing prices to the bone!" Sometimes it's a clue the maker is radically revamping its line or exiting the market, as Sharp recently did in TVs, licensing the name to another producer.
Computer jollies. This BF season, you'll find lots of super deals (think $200-$250) for perfectly fine but not fashionable Windows 10 laptops from the likes of HP, Toshiba, Acer and Lenovo. That's because makers are falling in line behind thinner, sexier, "flip-over" or two-in-one designs that transform a keyboard-controlled laptop into a touch screen tablet.
On the dedicated tablet front, Amazon has dropped a new, holiday-timed 7-inch Fire tablet for $50 - make that $34.99 on Friday - that takes a decent bite out of Apple's tabs selling for $200+ and may be more desirable to your young 'uns than a dedicated kids tablet from VTech or Leapfrog. (Walmart will have a $29 RCA-branded Android tablet on Friday, but I'd stay away.)
For gamers, a variety of $300 packages this Friday (and perhaps longer) will bundle an XBox One system with such games as Activision's Gears of War - Ultimate Edition and accessories or gift cards ($60 at Target). Microsoft's multimedia player has taken a backseat to Sony's PS4. But if Microsoft can quickly move a couple million more, sideline-sitting software developers will likely pick up their, um, game.
Tele-portations. Want to explore the wonderful world of streaming video content - Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Sling TV, and MLB.com - that's rarin' to be pulled down to a receiver via your home WiFi network?
Original over-the-top TV "playa" Roku is re-asserting leadership with a $25 Black Friday special-edition web TV box called the Roku SE. It's the uncommon model suitable for connecting to both old-school CRT and flat-panel high-def TVs - with both analog (yellow, red and white) and digital (HDMI) outputs. And Roku boasts far more special-interest channels (good, bad and strange) than such rivals as Chromecast, Apple TV and Fire TV.
Black Friday ads reek again of crazy cheap TV pricing. Retailers traditionally use TVs as a lure-'em-in loss leader; Walmart alone has stockpiled one million for the week.
Cheapo prices also reflect on the over-abundance of HDTV factory production capacity and bad bets by makers of Ultra-HDTV, the new best thing in telly with a four times higher ("4K") pixel count per panel.
It turns out that the public won't pay a steep premium for a curved-screen UHD set, as Samsung and LG were hoping. And very few Ultra High Definition sets today can fully reveal the expanded color gamut and brightness range of Ultra Blu-ray video discs and 4K set top (cable/satellite) receivers due next year. So set makers need to thin the inventory.
For compatibility's sake with tomorrow's TV content, be sure the UHD set you buy has HDCP 2.2 security coding and at least one (or better, two) ports marked HDMI 2.0.
And if the set can take the latest HDMI 2.0a communications standard (top-line "9 Series" Samsungs are upgradeable) to reveal "High Dynamic Range" image enhancements, so much the better.
Gaming the system. Pricing is a fluid thing on such websites as amazon.com, ebay.com and overstock.com. Put an item in your "cart" but don't buy, and when you return, it could be a few dollars more, or less. During this gonzo-crazy week, with wild price fluctuations, it makes sense to pack everything you possibly want into your virtual shopping basket, then return often to look for price adjustment alerts and the best moment to hit the "buy" button.