Since TBG's founding in 2013, we've paid close attention to Black Friday promotions and sales trends, looking for (and posting) the very best deals, but also noting where certain areas of the market demonstrate a clear lack of discounts. You can see last year's coverage right here, when we highlighted how great the discounts were on Samsung, Corsair, and Logitech products, and how bad they were on everything else. We've always encouraged our readers to jump on deals early in the sales cycle, and deals on the 300 or so products we were tracking this year gave us no reason to change that advice. But there were a few surprises this year, and for the sake of completeness, we'll highlight the exceptions to the rule that we tracked this year (i.e., prices that dropped after Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday).
Another thing to keep in mind is that Black Friday deals are clearly being driven by manufacturers, not retailers. That means if you see a good deal at one store, it's extremely likely you'll see the exact same deal at every other major store. There are exceptions to that rule as well, as we'll point out, but generally, what this means is that going to Amazon is almost always the very best bet, as it matched or beat just about every deal we saw this year. In terms of the tech manufacturers with the very best discounts, a few truly stuck out for us: Samsung deeply discounted a huge array of items well below any previously-seen price, Intel tossed around some tempting CPU price cuts, and Logitech, Razer, and Corsair, which compete hard against each other to attract buyers to their respective lines of PC peripherals. Logitech also unveiled some amazing deals on its Harmony line of home theater remote controls, providing discounts of over 50% in the case of its premium Harmony Ultimate Home, which dropped down to $170 at Best Buy. It wins the unofficial award for biggest BF discount we saw this year.
So, without further ado, here are the categories we watched, and the deals we saw (or did not see!):
1. Smart Phones - The carriers and Amazon completely ignored this market, but Best Buy ran some absolutely shocking pre-Black Friday deals, offering $450 in gift cards to anyone trading in an old phone for a new Samsung model. That was so good we jumped right on a Samsung Galaxy S7! The deal cooled off during Black Friday, when AT&T was dropped from the promotion, and Verizon users got $400 and a Samsung Gear VR headset instead of $450. Note that there was no actual price reduction on the phones themselves, and this is becoming a trend, as far as we can tell. Second-tier brands like ZTE did see $50 discounts in some stores, but they were nothing worth waiting all year for.
2. Smart Home - Discounts came fast and furious in this area of tech, full of startups trying to get a leg up on the competition. And amazingly, they all went the same route: $50 off! It didn't really matter what the product was, it was $50 off. The $250 Nest Thermostat: $50 off. The $200 Ring Stick Up Cam? $50 off. The $100 Samsung SmartThings Hub? $50 off! In all honesty, there were a few other flavors of discounts, but given that the minimum here was 20% off, it certainly paid to wait for Black Friday week before buying (and yes, many of these deals were available at the beginning of the week).
3. Tablets - Do people still buy these? We didn't see any sales at all, but maybe we weren't looking.
4. Drones - Big, big discounts on these admittedly ultra-high margin items. Market leader DJI offered $100-$200 off on all of its top-rated drones, including its popular Phantom 3 Standard shown here, which dropped to $400. These were discounts you'd never see otherwise, in a market notoriously bound to MSRP.
5. Laptops - We saw a few nice deals through Microsoft, but if you were buying a Lenovo and got an early jump on deals before they "sold out" (i.e., were terminated, since Lenovo clearly can create more stock if it wants), you probably got an amazing deal on a new Yoga, Thinkpad, or mainstream notebook.
6. Monitors - Great, great deals on a few items (we picked up an LG 27UD68-W 27" 4K Monitor for $330 from Best Buy, which was a Cyber Monday-only deal). LG is a newcomer to the high-end PC monitor arena, and was clearly trying to shake things up a bit. Newegg ran a ridiculous weekend deal on the Asus ROG PG348Q for $1,050, with an extra $50 if you purchased via mobile. The typical selling price on that model prior to BF was $1,300, and even on Black Friday it was $1,100. Generally, however, these discounts were model-specific, not even brand-specific, and most people buying monitors during Black Friday events paid full price.
7. Printers - This long-forgotten market segment was ripe for a little stimulation, and Brother got into the act with a huge $120 discount on its high-end MFC-L8850CDW small-office laser printer (we picked one up). We also saw some fairly nice discounts on mid-range HP printers, which Amazon offered on Monday of Black Friday week, matching prices that the big-box office superstores publicly advertised at the beginning of November but didn't offer until Black Friday. Pity the old-school brick-and-mortars and their leaden feet. In truth, however, most folks probably went for cheap Canon and Epson inkjets, which were barely discounted.
8. HDTVs: We didn't follow this market too closely this year, but at the high-end, there's only one TV to buy, LG's 4k OLED, and it was most definitely on sale this year. The 55" model dropped down to a very palatable $1,800.
All right, how about all the high-end PC components that we know many of our readers lust after? Turn to the next page to learn what we saw in this market!