1. Looking for deals?
– Gizmodo has one of the most sophisticated deal databases around, which allows you to sort by store and dealworthiness, then print out your wish list of BF deals. Gotta Deal is incredibly comprehensive, and it goes beyond gadgets and electronics.
– The Wirecutter has a fantastic hand-curated list of gadget deals, mostly sorted by the quality of the gadgets and the deal.
– Cheap Apple stuff isn’t going to be very common, but MacRumors has a running list of Apple-related deals.
3. Want to grab a tablet?
– So, almost none of the tablets you want to buy are on sale. Exceptions: The Nexus 7, which is a little older than the others, can be had for modest discounts in some places, like Office Depot. Apple’s also giving a modest discount on the retina iPad. But the others, like the Nexus 10 and the Kindle Fires, are already sold for as cheap as they can be. So expect to pay full price or pretty close to it. Some are selling tablets with a gift card thrown in, though: Walmart’s got the iPad 2 with a $75 gift card included (I’d get a Mini instead), and Staples is selling the Fire HD with a $20 gift card.
5. Thinking about a smartphone?
– Again, the phones you want to buy probably aren’t on sale. And a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale can be a poor reason to commit to a contract and phone ecosystem that you’re stuck plunging money into for the next two years. So don’t be hasty! (The Verge’s picks for the best phones on every carrier are a good place to start.)
– But again, there are a couple of exceptions, notably the two flagship Windows Phone 8 phones: HTC’s Windows Phone 8X is free here, and AT&T’s doing half off of the Nokia Lumia 920. The app selection on Windows Phone isn’t great yet, but I enjoy the phone itself a great deal. Also, refurbished iPhones 5 start at $100 off from AT&T, which is pretty great.
– Lastly, please don’t buy a phone for somebody for Christmas. It is one of the worst things: It’s kind of like buying somebody a razor they can’t get rid of for two years, and the replacement blades are VERY expensive. Phones are a commitment, like a puppy.
7. Planning on a TV?
– If you were looking for the best TV pricing, you’re already too late. (Sorry.)
– The thing about the ultracheap TVs that look mighty tempting — besides the fact each store probably only has one and a half of them — is that they’re not going to be very good TVs. They’ll be offbrand and they’ll be fine, probably, because the baseline level for TVs is pretty good now. Just not great.
– The discounts on big-name, high-quality TVs are modest. The Wirecutter points out $200 off a $2,000 Sony set.
– Remember that it’s very hard to evaluate TVs in the store because of the way they set up the TVs and the lighting — and it’s even harder when you buy online, obviously! — so you’ll definitely wanna have your phone on you to spot-check reviews on places like Cnet and Reviewed.com. And I doubt you wanna learn how to grade viewing angle, motion resolution, black levels, and the other things you want to look for in a set, so definitely lean on the professionals.
9. Need a hard drive? Or speakers?
– This is the best kind of stuff to buy this time of year: commodity goods. Where you can still find killer deals on seriously quality — not mediocre — gear is when you start looking at the stuff that isn’t a phone, computer, tablet, or TV. They’re the electronics you need, but not the things you necessarily touch every day.
– For computers and gadgets, things like: a Samsung 240GB SSD, a $100 3TB Seagate HDD, a 64GB MicroSD card for $40, Kensington’s Performance Case for the iPad for $40, Microsoft’s Wireless Comfort DT 5000 keyboard and mouse combo for $30, a top-of-the-line Netgear router for $115 instead of $200, or a 27-inch LG monitor for $200. The deals go on and on, so I’d scan Gizmodo’s list to see what you need.
– There are a lot of decent camera deals, actually. (Scan the two-star and above camera deals on this Gizmodo list — most of them are not linkable, unfortunately.) Also, Wirecutter points out that Canon’s doing its annual 20% off of refurbished lenses sale, a great way to score a killer lens for cheap.
– DVDs and Blu-rays are often offered at awesome deals, like the complete Six Feet Under for $55, Firefly for $10, the complete Lord of the Rings on Blu-ray for $60, this amazing Coen brothers set for $20, all of Harry Potter on Blu-ray for $70, etc., etc., etc.
11. Skip the gaming console this year.
– If you don’t already have a gaming console, I’d probably tell you to skip buying one this year. The Wii U doesn’t have a killer launch title (and we honestly don’t know if it’s going to be a great console, so I’d avoid hopping on that train for at least six months). The Xbox 360 is now seven years old, and it’s likely going to be replaced by a brand new Xbox next year. If you’re looking for a great Blu-ray player that does other stuff, though, the PS3 is still pretty good if you can snag a great bundle. I’d generally advise against the portable consoles, which are increasingly niche devices.
– Games and accessories, of course, are another story. They’re some of the best deals around, bar none. Polygon has a great list of gaming-oriented software and hardware deals, organized by system. And here’s a list of PC games from EA and Steam on sale.