Black Friday 2010: One Day Deals or Trend-Setting Price Drops?

It is not a secret that it is possible to acquire various electronics at huge discounts on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. What is not common is to find a compelling deal on electronics that is trendy, popular and pretty expensive on regular days. In this article we will try to explore the most interesting deals from large store chains and try to guess whether those discounts are just "doorbusters" or have chances to become regular in the next few months.

by X-bit labs team
11/24/2010 | 12:00 AM

Traditionally large store chains in the U.S. attempt to attract maximum amount of consumers to their stores on the so-called Black Friday, the next day after Thanksgiving. On Black Fridays shops offer incredible discounts and allow users to get desired products for massively lower prices. Naturally, not all visitors get what they want since the qualities of products are limited, but they are attracted to stores and usually make spontaneous purchases that they have never planned.

 

But does it make a lot of sense to get up at 3AM so to get to a story by 5AM to purchase a device at a discount? Electronics is getting less expensive constantly and maybe in a couple of months there will be better products selling at affordable prices. In this essay we take a look at some of the hottest  Black Friday deals and try to understand whether it makes sense to rush to stores early in the morning with a hope to get something at a discount or whether it is smarter to wait a couple of months to get a similar offering.

E-Book Readers Dip Below $100

Electronic-book readers have indisputably got more popular in 2010. Unfortunately, for average mass consumers those devices are still pretty expensive as Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook start at $139 and $149, respectively. During the Black Friday Amazon's second-generation Kindle 6" with 3G module will be available for $89 from Amazon, whereas B&N's 6" Nook with E Ink screen and Wi-Fi will cost just $99 at Best Buy. The price-points below $1000 are likely to catalyze loads of people to jump onto the e-book bandwagon.

Barnes & Noble Nook e-book reader is based on Google Android platform, features black and white 6'' e-ink Vizplex screen as well as 3.5'' colour touch-screen for navigation, 2GB of onboard flash memory for books or news-papers (microSD port also available) and up to 10 days of battery life with wireless connectivity off. Unfortunately, the model available from Best Buy will not support 3G module and will only rely onto Wi-Fi.

The second-generation Amazon Kindle is not as sleek as B&N's Nook and is not currently sold by Amazon itself. However, a limited amount of second-gen Kindle 6" 3G+Wi-Fi for $89 will be available for order from Amazon.com on Black Friday, the company recently announced.

"Black Friday Deal: Limited number of previous gen Kindle (same E Ink as current Nook) for just $89! Deal starts 11/26 at 9 am PST," a statement by the company reads.

Some other stores are also going to offer its customers Sony's PRS-300SC e-book readers for the same price, but given that it  has 5" screen and is out of date, it does not seem to be an interesting deal.

Considering the fact that neither of leading suppliers of electronic book readers - Amazon, B&N and Sony - did not reduce prices on their current generation models, but offered previous-gen e-book readers at discounts, it does not seem that they are ready to drop their up-to-date products to below $100 level just now. It is logical to expect them to do that sometimes next year. What is important is that during Black Friday companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble will be able to test the demand towards e-book readers at below psychologically important $100 price-point. Based on the response from the end-user, the companies will make their decisions whether to impose lower price-points onto third-generation Amazon Kindle 6" and inevitable second-generation Nook 6" sometimes early next year or in the second half of 2011.

2TB Hard Drives for $69 - $89

Large external hard drives are not only good for keeping data that is not required daily or holding back ups, but are one of the easiest ways to transfer large collections of files from one computer to another. Unfortunately, they are not really affordable.

On Black Friday Seagate and Best Buy will sell Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex External 2TB USB hard disk drive for $89, which is a nice deal, considering that its usual price is between $120 and $150. The drive sports 7200 rpm spindle speed and 32MB cache, hence, it is not very slow too.

On the same day, Target will sell Western Digital 1TB Elements portable and Western Digital 2TB Elements desktop USB hard drives for $69.00, which is a rather unbelievable price, considering that even Amazon sells the 2TB model for $89, whereas the portable 1TB version goes for $104.

If Best Buy or Target are out of reach, then Wal-Mart plans to sell Seagate's FreeAgent 1.5TB drive for $70 and Target intends to sell Seagate 2TB "expansion external USB hard drive" for $89.99.

It is pretty noteworthy that manufacturers of hard disk drives and store chains are making rather huge discounts during Black Friday from their regular prices. The reasons for such drops are hard to explain, but generally the models which are sold considerably below their regular price-points do not belong to the latest generation that is either on the market or is about to enter. We would not expect decently-performing external 2TB hard drives to cost $70 in the next six to nine months. Moreover, since the upgrade market will be limited with 2.2TB capacity point (due to necessity to utilize 64-bit OS and UEFI instead of BIOS), prices of the 1.5TB and 2TB models are likely to stagnate for a while despite of availability of 2.5TB and 3TB drives.

Laptop with Blu-Ray Drive for $499

Although Blu-ray technology can hardly be called brand-new, personal computers with a BD drive are still not available absolutely everywhere. While there are a number of sub-$800 personal computers with Blu-ray, there are still no systems below $500 with a BD drive. Sony and Best Buy will also correct this for Black Friday.

Only on the 26th of November, 2010, Sony will presumably offer Vaio EB-series notebook PC with Intel dual-core Core i3/Pentium microprocessor, 4GB of memory 15.5" screen with 1920x1080 resolution, a Blu-ray drive and all the other necessary hardware (like HDD, Wi-Fi, etc) for $499 in Best Buy stores. The machine, which usually costs starting from $649, will be also equipped with a free Sony bag and a free Karate Kid Blu-ray movie will be included.

At present it is unclear whether the Vaio EB laptops with BD drives for $499 will be available in all Best Buy stores across the U.S., but the fact that notebooks with Blu-ray and full-HD screens at $499 price-point are possible is definitely noteworthy. The notebook is not ideal, it weighs 5.95 pounds, or 2.7 kilograms, but for a user looking forward a portable multimedia center this one will be a good choice.

Thanks to major improvements in multimedia performance of laptops next year due to releases of Intel Sandy Bridge microprocessors as well as AMD Fusion "Llano" accelerated processing units (APU), it is completely logical to expect Blu-ray disc drives in mainstream notebooks at below $500. Consumers may get their inexpensive BD-equipped machine on Black Friday or wait for several months to get something with even better hardware inside.

Sub-$200 Mobile Computers: Performance or Portability?

Just like in previous years stores offer ultra-cheap personal computers as "doorbusters". Those systems are not meant to perform really well, but may still be a nice purchase if the only requirement from them is to work well within the house, support Web browsing and productivity applications.

This year the cheapest personal computers possible will be available from Best Buy and Radio Shack:

Acer Aspire One AOD255 for $179 at Radio Shack: Intel Atom N450 1.60GHz processor, Intel integrated graphics core, 1GB of memory, 160GB hard drive, 10.1" screen with 1024*600 resolution, Windows 7 Starter operating system.

Toshiba Satellite C655D-S5089 for $189 at Best Buy: AMD V-series 2.30GHz processor, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250 integrated graphics core, 3GB DDR2 memory, 320GB hard disk drive, double-layer DVD±RW/CD-RW optical drive, 15.6" screen with 1366*768 resolution, Windows 7 Home Premium operating system.

It is completely clear that the laptop from Toshiba is a fully-fledged machine for office applications that was not designed for a road warrior. The Acer offering from Radio Shack does not offer any really interesting features, but it is just a traditional light netboook.

Both Best Buy and Radio Shack offer nearly 50% discount from normal prices and both deals seem to be very interesting. Unfortunately, neither of the systems is truly innovative. 

Performance and other qualities of ultra low-cost personal computers are getting better very slowly as manufacturers' primary concern is to maintain cost and stay profitable, not to make considerable improvements. Thanks to emergence of platforms like AMD Brazos (Ontario, Zacate APUs) as well as Intel Oak Trail (Lincroft SoC), small netbooks will become a little smaller and will inevitably gain performance and features next year. The problem is that it will take the new netbooks several quarters to actually drop to below $200 price-point. That said, it is not possible to expect to get a well-balanced personal computer powered by new chips at a low price till Black Friday 2011. In the meantime, netbooks will continue to cost $400+.

Blu-Ray Players: for $59 - $99

Blu-ray technology has not yet become mainstream, but it is definitely on track to. As a consequence for manufacturer, nobody is truly astonished by Blu-ray anymore; and as a result for the consumer, there are numerous Blu-ray disc players available on Black Friday for less than $100.

Here is a just a short list of inexpensive Blu-ray players that one may find in various stores on Black Friday:

Blu-ray disc players at below $100 price-point are not something extraordinary. The first such devices showed up Black Friday 2009 and it was predictable that this year manufacturers will start to sell Blu-ray profile 2.0 devices at a discount.

Since everyone in the consumer electronics industry is interested in adoption of Blu-ray standard, inexpensive Blu-ray players should be available all the time. This means that it hardly makes sense to rush to Best Buy or Target on Black Friday: the  Toshiba BDX1100 Blu-ray disc player costs $79 on Amazon, whereas Sony BDP-S370 is available for $99 from CompUSA, CircuitCity, TigerDirect and many others.

Samsung 32" HDTV + Nintendo Wii = $399, Wii Available for $169

Usually game consoles and cheap 720p-class high-definition TV-sets are hardly attract a lot of attention primarily because their prices during special times do not significantly differ from normal. But Best Buy decided to change stereotypes and offer a rather unbelievable package: a Wii console with a Samsung HDTV for $399.

From 5AM till 9AM on Black Friday the store chain will offer its visitors to buy a Nintendo Wii game console (usual price is $199) and a Samsung 32" HDTV (~$330 ~ $399) for $399. As the Wii game console does not support high-definition output, it is hardly important that the television hardly supports full-HD resolution and other advanced technologies. The package seems to be aimed primarily at kids rooms. The bundle will be available in all Best Buy stores, but the amount of them will be limited to 40 per ship.

Separately, on the Black Friday the largest retail chain in the U.S. will offer Nintendo Wii game console separately (with Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort and Wii Remote Plus) for $169, a $30 discount.

Thanks to availability of Microsoft Kinect and Sony Move that make X360 and PS3 platforms more appealing to casual users, it is time for Nintendo to reconsider the price of Wii game console. It is unlikely that Nintendo will officially reduce the price of Wii this holiday season from $199. However, already now Amazon sells white Wii game console for $179.

It is reasonable to expect price-drop of Nintendo Wii after the end of Japanese financial year on the 31st of March, 2011, in the meantime, Amazon and Best Buy seem to be the best sources for discounted Wii systems on Black Friday.

Better, Bigger, Cheaper HDTVs: 50" 1080p Now Starts at $699

High-definition televisions are not uncommon these days. In fact, all the TVs these days offer high-definition resolution and the question is not whether it is a 720p or 1080p HDTV, but how big it is. 42" and 46" TVs are definitely not small, but since it is 2011, maybe it is time to look at 50" and larger models. After all, they now can be found at around $1000 or much less on Black Friday.

Multiple stores will offer huge 50"+ 1080p HDTVs at rather affordable prices on Black Friday, so, here we go with the list of offerings that will be available in stores:

There are not a lot of Black Friday deals for TVs with 50"+ diagonal, which can be explained by two reasons: such devices are still rather expensive in manufacturing and not a lot of companies can afford selling them for a $1000 or something; not a lot of people who actually need that large HDTVs visit electronics stores on Black Friday. Anyway, the prices look good and it is unlikely that they will be on their levels until mid-2011 at least.

 

Interestingly, but we also did not find any hot deals on stereo-3D HDTVs anywhere. Sony does offer a couple of S3D bundles (which include Bravia NV810 46" or 55" 3D TVs, PlayStation 3 160GB, two pairs of active-shutter glasses) for $2299 or $2899 on its web-site, but those prices are not something one would expect for BlackFriday. 

Wrapping Up

For Black Friday 2010 the store chains do offer a lot of deals that are interesting to take as they bring huge discounts and numerous offerings that are a waste of time as actual price difference are negligible.

If you are on the market for an external hard drive, an electronics book reader and ultra low-cost laptop, then it makes sense to visit one or two of the large retail stores the next day after Thanksgiving so to save several hundreds of dollars. If you are looking for a Blu-ray player and Nintendo Wii, just order them via the Internet as a $40 saving that is even not guaranteed is probably not worth the issues.