It’s nearly Thanksgiving, the time of year when families gather around the dinner table to give thanks for what’s truly important — and then speed to the nearest Walmart and scissor-kick an elderly man for a 60%-off TV.
That’s right, Black Friday is almost here and that means you’ll soon hear the sweet siren song of tempting tech deals. But before you hit the store, take my advice and avoid falling for these offers.
We’ve all seen the images of people dragging trains of ridiculously low-priced televisions through Best Buy (BBY), Target (TGT) and Walmart (WMT), but the truth is you don’t have to go nuts buying a new TV on Black Friday. Sure, there are some worthwhile deals, but much of what you see are TVs that just aren’t worth your money due to a lack of features. It’s not as though Black Friday is the only time of year you can get a good deal on TV, either. The days leading up to the Super Bowl are a particularly good time to buy a television, as retailers try to clear space for the new models announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
You can also find plenty of bargains on TVs year-round. The key is making sure that the set you’re buying meets your needs. And while a 4K model might sound impressive, remember 4K resolution only matters for TVs with screens that are about 55 inches or larger. Anything smaller and you won’t be able to see the difference.
The true game-changer for TVs is high dynamic range, or HDR, which creates deeper blacks and brighter whites, allowing a set to show more vibrant colors.
Computers, like TVs, are usually marked down as doorbuster items at major retailers. And like those televisions, those PCs probably aren’t worth your time. Much of what you see on Black Friday will be outdated or under-powered machines you’ll end up having to upgrade or replace far sooner than you originally hoped. Nothing is worse than unboxing a sweet new desktop or laptop, loading up Chrome and then watching as it struggles to handle the number of tabs you have open.
My advice when buying a computer is to go big or go home. If you spend too little on a new system, you’ll inevitably have to update it sooner than a machine that you spent a little more on.
As with televisions, there are some computers out there on Black Friday that could be worth your money. But to find them, you’re going to have to do a good amount of research. And remember, if it’s a doorbuster deal there are likely limited quantities — so don’t bank on grabbing one unless you’re among the first people at the door to your favorite retailer.
Again like TVs, there are plenty of sales on desktops and laptops throughout the year depending on the kind of specs you need. One of the best times to grab new computers is the back-to-school season, when retailers typically mark down even their best devices.
Smartphones are a weird category of gift for the holiday season. You’re not likely to see any big deals on the handsets themselves, but you could get discounts on items including accessories, cases, and more. There are also bargains like Target’s, which gets you anywhere from $150 to a $300 gift card depending on which device you buy.
Walmart, meanwhile, will give you a $400 gift card with the purchase of an iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone XR. But there’s a catch: to get those Target gift cards, you have to activate the phones on a specific carrier, whether that be Sprint (S) or Verizon (VZ). The ad doesn’t mention T-Mobile (TMUS).
If you’re buying a smartphone for someone like a spouse or child and you’ll be splitting or paying for their monthly phone bill, then hey, that’s a decent get. But if you’re purchasing a phone as a gift for a nephew or niece, aunt or uncle or cousin, then that can get kind of tricky since you don’t want to be the person who foots the bill for their services, too.
Chances are you’re going to see some deals on tablets this Black Friday. The sixth-generation iPad, for example, is $80 off at Walmart, which is a great buy. But then there are those super-low-cost tablets that are just priced too good to be true. I’m talking about tablets that are underpowered and off-brand.
If you’re purchasing a slate on Black Friday, my advice is to make sure it has a recent model Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, at least 4 gigabytes of RAM and more than 16 gigabytes of storage. There’s no sense spending $50 on a tablet you’re going to regret buying the moment you power it on.
That’s my best advice for what to skip during Black Friday shopping. And remember, stay safe out there.
More from Dan Howley:
- The best Black Friday tech deals
- ‘Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu’ and ‘Let’s Go, Eevee’ review: A little old, a little new
- Apple Mac mini review
- Don’t freak out about Apple’s iPhone sales numbers
This story was originally published on November 16, 2018.