Black Friday 2011: One-Day Price-Drops Set Future Trends

The Black Friday and Cyber Mondays are ideal days to get desired goods at low prices if you are lucky enough. In this article we are going to explore price drops on today's most popular items - such as tablets, SSDs, game consoles, HDDs, stereo-3D players and HDTVs, notebooks and more. Let's check out "doorbusters" as well as massively discounted items and will try to guess, which of those devices have chances to lose their general pricing in the following months.

by X-bit labs team
11/24/2011 | 03:02 PM

The Black Friday and Cyber Monday solve a number of important tasks: they allow retailers to get rid of previous-generations of products, attract large amounts of customers to their stores and attract their attention to different types of products. Since not all consumers manage to buy all the things they want during two days of huge discounts, they come back later and get their devices at full price.

 

But what these two days also show the smart customer are abilities of retail chains and hardware makers to lower prices on certain hardware. In some cases, a couple of months after holidays default prices of certain goods collapse to the levels on Black Friday. In other cases, manufacturers redesign their products so that to lower their production costs and be able to sell those devices to larger masses of people.

Let's take a look at this year's "doorbusters" as well as special offers from large companies.

Media Tablets: Starting at $79...

Without any doubts, media tablets are among the hottest items these holiday season. Consumers nowadays not only want to read books, but also watch videos and consume different types of content while on the go. Therefore, tablets face a massive demand.

But unlike personal digital media players or electronic book readers - bestsellers of the previous years - tablets offer vastly different experience depending on the screen sizes, installed version of software and hardware. There is renowned Apple iPad 2 (which is not truly affordable and which will cost from $41 to $61 less their official prices in Apple's stores on Black Friday) that provides very consistent and well-known user experience , and there are tens of various models based on Google Android operating system that are very different.

The least expensive Google Android-based tablets are models with 7" screens, dual-core or single-core microprocessors and without 3G connectivity. For the best possible experience, one should get something with Android 3.* since they will provide much better user experience than those based on the previous-gen operating systems.

The cheapest model that will be available this Black Friday will be Maylong M-250 tablet with 7"/800*480 screen that requires stylus, 800MHz processor, 256MB RAM, 2GB internal storage, 802.11b/g network controller and Google Android 2.2. The device will be sold for $79 at Target. Another inexpensive model will be SVP TPC7901m4GB for $89 at Buy.com featuring Google Android 2.2 operating system. The product has 7" display with 800*480 resolution, single-core 1GHz by InfoTM and 4GB of NAND flash memory. Yet another ultra low-cost tablet, Velocity Micro Cruz T301, will be sold for $99 at Walmart and RadioShack. The device boasts 7" screen with 800*600 resolution, dual-core MIPS 528MHz processor, 4GB of flash storage, Google Android 2.0 operating system and so on. All products resemble electronic book readers more than tablets, even though all are positioned to be tablets.

Fortunately, there are proper tablets selling at huge discounts as well. For example, Best Buy will have Dell Streak 7" with 800*480 resolution, Nvidia Tegra 2 system-on-chip, 16GB flash storage, two cameras and Google Android 3.2 "Honeycomb" operating system for $159, which is not bad. The same retail chain is expected to have Acer Iconia 7" Tab A100 with 1024*600 resolution, Nvidia Tegra 2, 8GB of storage and Android 3.2 for $189. Even without Black Friday, it is possible to buy Amazon Kindle Fire 7" with custom Android OS for $199.

Google Android-based tablets with 10.1" displays offer considerably better hardware and since the majority of them have 1280*800 resolution and powerful hardware, they should offer much better user experience than 7" devices.

Among most affordable 10.1" tablets will be Asus Transformer 10.1" for $249 and Toshiba Thrive 10.1" for $279 at Best Buy. Both media tablets are based on dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 system-on-chip, 1280*800 screen resolution, 16GB or 8GB of storage, 802.11n network controllers, Google Android 3.2 or 3.1 operating system and other advantages that "full-size" tablets have to offer.

Those, who are not satisfied with Google Android tablets and who are not too excited by Apple iPad 2's official price drops may be interested in acquiring iPad 2 with 3G at Target with $75 gift card. While iPad has 9.7" screen with 1024*768 resolution, the device still has a number of advantages over may offerings when it comes to quality of software. Best Buy offers $45 off any iPad.

While it is easy to expect tablets with 10.1" screens to cost less than $299 or less next year, fair price of 7" tablets are completely unclear. Devices that are available today for less than $100 can hardly be called fully-fledged tablets. Better models are sold for $300 and higher. It is logical to expect 7" slates to cost $249 or $199, like Amazon Kindle Fire or B&N Nook Tablet.

Electronic Book Readers: Now From Only $49

While media tablets offer considerably more functionality, electronic book readers continue to be popular among many customers. Owners value their dedicated e-book readers for extremely long battery life, high-contrast screens and light weight. Let's see what the main suppliers of e-book devices offer this Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

With its "Special Offers" initiative started earlier this year Amazon can sell its affordable 6" Kindle e-book readers at $79 by default. Apparently, the company decided not to provide any significant discounts on Black Friday on its own web-site. Nonetheless, large retail chains like Best Buy, RadioShack, Walmart will also carry Amazon Kindle 6" with SO for $79. Target and some other stores will also carry Kindle 6" with keyboard for $85.

The least-expensive Barnes & Noble 6" e-book reader typically costs $99. On Black Friday only B&N and its partners (such as Best Buy or Wallmart) will sell its Nook Simple Touch 6" for $79. The company will also continue to offer its Nook Color e-book reader for $199 and Nook Tablet 7" for $249.

A little known maker Pandigital plans to sell Novel 6" e-book reader for $49 at RadioShack. The device does not have a special service to download books, but those, who already have an e-book collection and just want to have an e-book reader, may find it a good option. Pandigital will also offer Android-based e-book reader with 7" colour-screen for $69 at Best Buy. Ematic also has a similar product for $69 at Best Buy.

It is rather evident that the pace of price-drops on e-book readers slowed down. Nonetheless, it looks like both Amazon and B&N will be looking forward bringing the price of their e-book devices down to $49 levels next year. 

Blu-Ray Players: $39 for Standard, $89 for 3D

Blu-ray disc is now officially a mainstream high-definition standard, it simply makes no sense to buy a DVD player now that BD devices (profile 2.0) with video streaming from Netflix, CinemaNow, YouTube, Vudu, Pandora, Blockbuster or Picasa are available starting from $39. What is even more interesting is that there are Blu-ray 3D (BD 3D) players are now available for as low as $89!

 

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

Even though stereo-3D high-def TVs are not yet widespread, Blu-ray 3D disc players are already available less than $100: 

The standard Blu-ray disc players with video streaming support at around $50 plus or minus $10 will become common next year as they are already heading towards such price-points. Stereo-3D BD 3D players still cost more than $100 in general, but they will clearly become more affordable next year and sub-$100 price will become frequent.

Hard Drives: 3TB for $99 Anyone?

After deadly flooding hit Thailand, large manufacturers of PCs as well as manufacturers of hard drives pulled inventory in and a lot of hard disk drives either disappeared from the retail completely or got substantially more expensive. Nonetheless, we have found a number of sweet or noteworthy deals for Black Friday.

Seagate and Best Buy will offer Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 750GB portable HDD for $59 and Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 3TB USB 3.0/USB 2.0 external drive (with 7200rpm spindle speed) for $99. Both offerings completely ignore the HDD shortage situation and will be rather excellent choices for those, who want to expand their storage capacities. Toshiba and Best Buy will also offer Canvio Basics 320GB external USB 2.0 portable hard drive with 5400rpm spindle speed and 8MB cache for $29.

Radioshack will also offer Toshiba Canvio 500GB USB 3.0 portable drive for $49, whereas Walmart plans to sell Seagate small form-factor external 640GB HDD for $54.

Due to the situation with flooding, it is hard to expect hard disk drives to get less expensive in the next six to nine months. Those, who need a hard drive now, should find the lowest price possible, and simply get it. New capacity points will barely be introduced shortly and with production constraints in Thailand prices will also not going to get a lot lower even in traditionally slow first quarter.

Video Game Consoles: PS3 for $199, X360 + Kinect for $199, Wii Drops to $99

Video game consoles are traditional doorbusters for many retail chains, which is pretty natural: game consoles are nice gifts and are always welcome by kids. This year manufacturers of game systems introduced new low-cost bundles which prices most probably represent 2012 official price-cuts by Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony.

Microsoft along with its partners from retail chains decided to bundle the Xbox 360 4GB with Kinect motion sensor for $199 (the bundle is currently available at CompUSA, RadioShack, Walmart and a lot of other venues). Besides, a number of retail and e-tail stores offer Xbox 360 250GB for $199 (Best Buy), which is $100 off; as well as Xbox 360 4GB for $139 (Target). Kinect sensor itself will drop to $99 in many locations.

For many years gamers have been waiting for PlayStation 3 to hit the $199 price-point. For at least one day the PS3 160GB system with two video games will cost $199 from a large number of stores, including Best Buy, Game Stop, Target, Walmart, RadioShack, etc..

The epoch of Nintendo Wii is clearly over. Recent major declines of its sales all around the world just prove the point that Nintendo needs to get Wii U on the market as soon as possible. On Black Friday (and on Cyber Monday) Nintendo and its retail partners (Best Buy, Walmart) will offer Wii with New Super Mario Bros video game and a music CD for $99.

Based on rumours, next-generation of consoles from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are just around the corner. Therefore, it will be very logical for those companies to cut official prices of PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360 to the Black Friday’s levels to keep sales on high levels until the future systems arrive. Besides, Sony and Microsoft will have to do the price-cuts to successfully compete against Nintendo Wii U.

Sub-$200 PCs: from Netbook to Ultra-Portable to Full-Size

Traditionally, retail stores offer ultra low-cost personal computers (ULCPCs) as "doorbusters". As technologies get more advanced, ULCPCs gain premium features like high-definition video playback and DirectX 11-class graphics even though their primary tasks remain simple: web browsing and productivity applications. So, do not expect serious performance from such systems.

Partly due to general improvements of specifications, partly because of new platforms and partly because of increased prices of hard disk drives, but there are not a lot of sub-$200 systems advertized for Black Friday and the whole Thanksgiving weekend. We managed to find only a few interesting sub-$200 mobile computers that belong to different classes of systems: a netbook, an ultra-portable notebook and a full-sized laptop.

The lowest-cost netbook that will be available this Black Friday is Acer Aspire One 10.1" (AOD25713404) for $157 at Target stores. The system is based on single-core Intel Atom microprocessor N455 (1.66GHz), is equipped with 1GB of DDR3 memory, 250GB hard disk drive (5400rpm), Wi-Fi and other necessary equipment. The PC sports 10.1" screen with 1024*600 resolution as well as Windows 7 Starter and Microsoft Office Starter.

CompUSA plans to offer Acer Aspire One 11.6" (A180-116402) ultra-portable notebook for $199 (flyer) in its stores on Black Friday. The system is based on AMD C-60 (1GHz) accelerated processing unit (APU) with integrated Radeon HD 6000-series DirectX 11-class graphics processing unit and is equipped with 2GB of DDR3 memory, 320GB hard drive, 11.6" display with 1366*768 resolution and integrated webcam, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n etc. The laptop is powered by Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.

The most powerful among the lowest-cost laptop PCs is Lenovo model 438343U laptop with 15.6" (1366*768 resolution) screen and AMD dual-core E300 (1.30GHz) accelerated processing unit, which Best Buy will sell for just $179 in its stores on Black Friday only. The system has 2GB of DDR3 memory, 250GB hard drive, DVD±RW/CD-RW optical drive, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, webcam and so on. Like any modern PC, this one runs Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.

Those, who will not manage to get the Lenovo machine, may try their luck at Walmart, which will offer HP Compaq Presario CQ57-319qm laptop with AMD dual-core C50 APU, 2GB DDR3, 250GB HDD, ODD, Wi-Fi webcam and so on for $198. The system will offer slower performance than the Lenovo model 438343U, but similar general features and capabilities.

In spite of claims by manufacturers of personal computers, they hardly really want to produce PCs that cost less than $200. Moreover, end-users customers can see the difference between a $200 system and a $400 machine and recognizes indisputable advantages of the latter. The past twelve months already brought low-cost systems high-def video, DirectX 11 graphics and GPGPU acceleration. Better mobile computers for $200 (with improved screens, larger HDDs, etc) will further reduce profit margins of PC makers and this is not something they want. Therefore, it is hard to expect tangibly better sub-$200 PCs than the notebooks mentioned here in the next twelve months simply because neither AMD nor Intel intend to introduce substantially better platforms for ULCPCs shortly. All-in-all, we would not expect a lot of sub-$200 PCs to emerge going forward and with shortages of hard drives, such computers may simply disappear from the market for a while. If you need one of such PCs, get it now.

Televisions: Stereo-3D TVs Now Cost Less Than $1000

TV-sets with high-definition and large screens are very widespread these days, yet retailers continue to offer them as doorbusters with large discounts. All the large retail chains offer 50" or larger HDTVs with or without LED backlight technology at below $1000, whereas 42" - 46" devices cost in the range between $199 and $699, whereas incredible 60" TV-sets can be obtained for $1499.

Slowly but surely, stereoscopic 3D televisions are heading to the mass market. They are not yet truly affordable, but they are dramatically cheaper than they were back in 2010. This year a lot of stores offer noticeably discounted stereo-3D HDTVs  and many of those models can be considered very interesting.

Here is a short list of S3D TVs that cost around $1000 that you may find this Black Friday or Cyber Monday in various stores:

The HDTVs are gradually getting less expensive as manufacturers of their components find new ways to trim production costs. As a result, next year we might see reasonably-priced 50"-class TV-sets. However, it is more logical to expect substantially more affordable stereo-3D TV-sets next year as the technology is clearly pushed by both TV makers and content producers. In fact, large S3D HDTVs for about $999 are reality even today and in the coming months there will be more of such TVs available as manufacturers standardize 3D glasses technology and other factors come into play.

Solid-State Drives: Decent SSDs for Less Than a $100 Become Real

Despite of all the performance and reliability advantages, solid-state drives (SSDs) have failed to become consumer products, primarily because of pricing and some complexities with installation and usage. As a result, not a lot of retailers decided to offer discounts on SSDs for Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend. Nonetheless, we have managed to find a number of interesting offerings.

As about eighteen months ago all solid-state drives were rather expensive, numerous manufacturers decided to release SSDs with limited capacities to hit the right price-points. As a result, the market saw various 30GB or 40GB models that were intended only to install Windows in order to speed up boot up process. But technology develops, solid-state drives are getting more affordable and on Black Friday it will be possible to get a contemporary SSD with 60GB or even 90GB capacity for around $100 or even below!

Here are some deals we have managed to find:

As prices of multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash memory are gradually decreasing and SSD controllers become more mature and robust, pricing of solid-state drives will continue to get lower. In two or three months from now the majority of MLC-based drives with 60GB or 90GB capacities will cost less than $100. Maybe it is time to offload operating system and frequently used programs onto an SSD?

Summary

This year's Black Friday's price drops seem indicate very well where the market is going. While there are very sweet deals on select items that are exceptions, the majority of offerings represent substantial price-cuts that manufacturers will have to undertake to keep going forward.

Next year, the prices of mainstream Google Android-based media tablets will drop to the range between $199 to $499 depending on the screen size and capabilities. Given Apple's dominance on this market, it remains to be seen whether the company will attempt to further increase popularity of iPad by slashing prices a bit. E-book readers will follow tablets and will most likely cost starting from $49 next year.

Game consoles that are available today will also likely drop in pricing towards the middle of the year. The competition between Sony Computer Entertainment and Microsoft is intensifying as life-to-date sales of PlayStation 3 are approaching LTDs of Xbox 360, therefore Microsoft may cut prices on the Xbox 360 shortly after the holiday season. Besides, both Microsoft and Sony will have to fight Nintendo Wii U in the second half of 2012 and price reductions are an instrument in such fight.

Blu-ray disc players and stereo-3D TVs that are on sale during Black Friday will not lose their usual price tags shortly, but the general trend is very clear: both are heading mainstream, therefore gradual decrease of prices is fully expected.

Manufacturers are not really enthusiastic about ultra low-cost personal computers and therefore such systems are evolving slowly. On Black Friday there is a chance to get a very affordable ultra-portable 11.6" notebook or full-size 15.6" laptop for less than $200, but do not expect such systems to become widespread outside of Thanksgiving weekend or Cyber Monday.

Even though it is not easy to predict the prices of hard disk drives for the next several months, it is clear that the best time to get affordable drives is to get them on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. By contrast, consumer SSDs are on-track to cost $1 per GB next year and it is a matter of several months before Black Friday's SSD prices will become regular.