Heading out to a shopping center on Black Friday in search of deals reminds us a lot of the guys on Deadliest Catch heading out into the Bering Sea in search of crab. You’re going to get cold. You’re going to get wet. And someone is probably going to yell at you. But if you play your cards right, it’s all worthwhile when you steer your ship into port with a hold full of King Crab. Or a new HDTV, laptop, and camera, as the case may be.
But you wouldn’t go crab fishing without a salty old sea captain to tell you where to drop your traps, and you shouldn’t head out to the mall without a little help, either.
That's where we come in. Before you throw on a pot of coffee and settle down with an inch-thick stack of paper ads to sift out the good stuff, check out and check out our buyer's guide to the top 10 best Black Friday bargains for this year's best catches. From TVs and Blu-ray players to laptops and Xbox gaming consoles,these are the items worth testing your patience in turbulent mall parking lots, waiting on cold concrete sidewalks and shuffling through packed retailers in order to score.
|eMachines eME528-2325 notebook|
eMachines eME528-2325 15.6-inch notebook
$198 at Wal-Mart
Let’s be honest: The specs on this bare-bones machine won’t impress anyone unless you pop into a time machine and travel back to 2005, but compared to the netbooks you could typically buy for this price, you’ll see why it’s worth lining up for. You’ll get a relatively spacious 15.6-inch screen, a 250GB hard drive, Windows Home 7, and luxury so often missing from netbooks: a DVD burner. And hey, the full-sized keyboard won’t even cause your wrists to cramp up after e-mails!
|Sony BDP-S370 Blu-ray player|
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$99 at Target and Kmart
Remember the year DVD players became so cheap even your grandparents bought one? It looks like 2010 is shaping up that way for Blu-ray. Though this won’t be the first time a Blu-ray player has dropped below triple-digit pricing, you have to hand it to Target and Kmart for nabbing a reputable (and slick-looking) Sony player player with Internet features like Netflix and Pandora, USB input for playing music and video off thumb drives, and even an app that allows you to use any Android or iOS device as a remote control. Just beware: The optional Wi-Fi adapter runs $80 on its own, so if you need one, you may be better off scanning for a player with built-in Wi-Fi, like Walmart’s $69 Magnavox.
|AOC F22 22-inch 1080p |
$99.99 at Officemax
Just about every store has a deal on a monitor in the same unreasonably low price range this year, but we’re thinking AOC’s 22-inch F22 tops the list for value, despite its lack of a brand name. First, you’re looking at 22 inches instead of 20 on the equal-priced HP monitor that Staples is carrying or the LG monitor at Office Depot. Second, and more importantly, it has full 1080p HD resolution. Third, the dropped-chin bezel looks unique, and if nothing else, you can probably count on the wider footprint attached directly to the monitor to wobble less than the cheapie stands on most other monitors in this price range.
|Samsung 46-inch UN46C5000|
$898 at Participating Stores
Trying to snag a quality TV rather than just gunning for the most inches for the fewest dollars? Here’s what we consider one of the best offers going (and at $602 off the MSRP of $1,500, the biggest savings, too). Although it doesn’t boast full-array backlighting with localized dimming like Samsung’s flagship LED televisions, the C5000 series packs in plenty of upmarket features like Samsung’s signature Touch of Color bezel, a sleek 1.2-inch-deep cabinet, and even AllShare, which allows you to play content from a PC or mobile phone on your TV.
|Xbox 360 4GB with $50 gift card|
Xbox 360 4GB with $50 gift card
$199 at Target and Toys ‘R Us
You’re going to pay $199 for an Xbox 360 no matter where you camp out this year — the real question is where you walk away with the most goodies with it. A number of stores are bundling free video games, but unless you know exactly what the the gamer you’re buying for wants, and it just happens to be in the narrow selection out there, a $50 gift card is a best bet for continued smiles after the gift wrap comes off.
|Canon Rebel XS DSLR|
$579.98 at Kmart and Sears
You’ll seldom see too many deep discounts on high-end photo equipment, which makes the $170 you’ll save on this bundle a decent deal for the amateur just beginning to dabble in DSLRs (though not totally out of the range of online bargain sites). The bundle includes Canon’s well-regarded Rebel XS plus two lenses, the standard 18-55mm kit lenses for all-around shooting and an EF 75-300mm telephoto lens. Kmart and Walmart also offer the camera and kit lens alone for $479.99, in case you want to hold off on the extra glass.
|Westinghouse 40-inch 1080p |
Westinghouse 40-inch 1080p LCD HDTV
$298 at Target
If you’re looking for as much screen for your buck as possible, it’s hard to one-up Target’s 40-inch Westinghouse, which outstrips what even the craftiest online buyer can usually find. Be aware you’re not exactly getting a premium television here, but on the the up side, you’re getting full 1080p resolution, while a name brand would easily dip you down to 720p in anything close to this price range. For the bedroom, basement or the most opulent garage ever, you likely won’t find a better fit. If anyone criticizes the image quality, just tell ‘em what you paid.
|Garmin Nuvi 255WT|
Garmin Nuvi 255WT
$99.00 at Staples
Walmart offers the similar Nuvi 255W for $88 this season, but the extra T on the end of the model number of this one offers a very compelling reason to drop another $11.99 on your credit card: free lifetime traffic. Considering many other traffic-equipped units will charge you annually for the privilege, you’re really saving twice here. We bestowed the closely related Nuvi 265WT with an Editor’s Choice award back in 2009 when it still ran for $300, so at a third that price, you quite literally can’t go wrong. PepBoys also carries the 265WT for $109.98 if you need Bluetooth speakerphone capabilities (we were actually surprised by how good the quality is).
|HP G72-B66US Notebook|
HP G72-B66US Notebook
$499.99 at Staples
OK, the $200 eMachines notebook will work for e-mail and surfing, but what if you actually want a notebook to get stuff done? The HP G72 on sale at Staples not only has a super-sized 17.3-inch screen for easier multitasking, you also step up to 4GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive, and most importantly, a modern Intel Core i3 processor. Short of gaming, this notebook should handle just about everything without batting an eye, and you’re getting a respectable $200 off the already discounted retail price.
96 cents with two-year contract at Sam’s Club
Everyone knows you can score a flip phone or cheap feature phone for free just by inking a two-year contract, but typically, top-tier smartphones like Samsung’s Fascinate will still cost you a couple Benjamins. If you drop into a Verizon store, you’ll still lay down $199.99 for a Fascinate, but on Friday, Sam’s Club will have the offer it for just 96 cents with the same contract. Not too bad for one of our favorite new superphones.