When a retailer has a now-retro name like Micro Center, it should come as no surprise that its Black Friday specials require in-store pickup. That's not bad news for those close to one of its locations that dot the country in various states (California, Minnesota, and Virginia, amongst others), though it's unfortunate for the rest of us.
That especially appears true when you see that Micro Center's Black Friday ad is 50-plus pages with scores of computers listed. But not everything is a deal -- many systems don't appear discounted at all -- so we've slogged through it all to present you with some highlights.
Black Friday 2014
Micro Center is one of the few retailers thus far who has a full roster of deals on Apple products for Black Friday, though it won't provide spectacular savings. It doesn't offer any discounts on the latest versions, and its sales on older models are modest. It takes $40 off the base 16GB first-generation iPad Air ($359.99) and $50 off the 32GB edition ($399.99), while shaving $20 from the price of the 16GB iPad mini ($229) and iPad mini 2 ($279.99). You can find better deals elsewhere -- the iPad mini for $199 at Walmart, the iPad Air for $299 at hhgregg, the iPad mini 2 for $239 at Staples -- but you may have to miss Thanksgiving dinner to have a chance at securing them, whereas Micro Center is offering these prices now through the Black Friday weekend.
The retailer's Mac strategy is similar to its iPad one. Some of the latest and greatest -- the 5k iMac, MacBook Pro with Retina display laptops -- continue to be sold at full price, but most others get something lopped off. That means the new Mac mini desktops are $20 less than normal, while $50 is taken off the price of MacBook Air notebooks (meaning the cheapest model is currently $849.99, compared to Best Buy's $779.99 doorbuster price). You can also get $100 off both 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs (again, save for the 5k version) or a non-Retina MacBook Pro, which knocks the price down to $999.99. Oddly enough, Apple's most expensive computer -- the Mac Pro -- gets a $100 price reduction as well, meaning you can pick one up for as little as $2,899.99.
As is the trend this year, Micro Center has its $99.99 Windows 8.1 tablet for Black Friday -- in this case, the WinBook TW800 with 8-inch screen, Intel Atom Z3735D processor, and 16GB of storage. Other decent tablet deals include another 8-inch Windows slate, the Toshiba Encore 2, with 32GB of storage for $149.99 ($30 less than on Toshiba's site). You can also get Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet with 64GB for $449.99 -- the price Microsoft is currently selling the 32GB version for.
The Dell Venue tablets being advertised have better pricing than what's currently available on the Dell site, but the Micro Center models have slightly older Atom CPUs than the latest versions. One exception: Dell is still selling a special red version of the Venue 8 Pro 5000 for $229.99, but Micro Center has a less colorful model with the same Atom Z3740D processor for $30 less.
In terms of laptops, there are a pair of sub-$200 Windows 8.1 machines as we're seeing everywhere: The Acer Aspire ES1-111M-C3KJ comes with an Intel Celeron N2840 processor, 2GB of RAM, 250GB hard drive, and an 11.6-inch display, while the Asus X551MAV doubles the RAM and hard drive space, but is a lot heftier with its 15.6-inch screen. Both are $199.99. Unfortunately, the Chromebooks advertised -- the 13.3-inch Toshiba CB35-B3330 and the 11.6-inch Samsung Chromebook 2 are either the same price as (the Toshiba) or more than (the Samsung) the companies are selling them on their respective websites.
A much better deal is the $279.99 Acer Aspire Switch 10 two-in-one device, which is at least $30 lower than the price elsewhere online. Another good Acer special is the Aspire E5-571, which offers a Core i3 Haswell processor, 4GB of RAM, and 500GB hard drive for $349.99. But then there's the Toshiba Satellite P55T-B5360, which Micro Center lists at Toshiba's suggested price ($1,149.99), but is being sold for $100 less on Walmart.com.
There's likewise a huge collection of desktops in Micro Center's Black Friday ad, though again not everything listed is a true sale. At $159.99, the HP Chromebox CB1-014 is $20 less than what HP sells it for, but you can purchase the Asus Chromebox M004U for a little less elsewhere online. The Lenovo IdeaCentre H500s (Intel Celeron J1800, 4 gigs of memory, 500GB hard drive) is the requisite Windows 8.1 desktop for less than $200 -- at $199.99, it's $30 less than at Best Buy. More powerful is Acer's Predator AG-605-UR1C gaming tower, thanks to its Core i5-4440 CPU, 8GB of RAM, terabyte hard drive, and Nvidia GeForce GTX 745 graphics card for $699.99, or about $25 cheaper than Amazon is selling it.
You'll have less luck with all-in-one PCs. For instance, the Lenovo C260 with Celeron J1800 that Micro Center is selling for $329.99 is currently on sale from Lenovo's site for $299.99, while the 23-inch HP Pavilion TouchSmart that's $799.99 at Micro Center is about $35 less through Amazon and Walmart. Deals or not, the thing the retailer does have in spades is Windows 7 systems if you still can't stomach Windows 8.1.