Despite what you see in stores, the Friday after Thanksgiving begins the traditional Christmas shopping season. It's called Black Friday to mark the day retailers make profits and are "in the black." It's also the day for extended shopping hours, crowded stores and deeply discounted prices.
If you're in the market for any digital gear such as computers, televisions, cameras and other gadgets, you're in luck. Deals abound. Thanks to the Internet, you can get a sneak peak at what's going to be on sale and where on Black Friday.
Here is a sample of what to expect:
Forget about DVD players. This year, Blu-ray players will sell for about $150. Off-brand players may even dip to $100.
Not all Blu-ray players are equal. Profile 2.0, or BD-Live, players are the most advanced. For example, they connect to the Internet so you can download additional content.
You'll still find Profile 1.1, or BonusView, players on store shelves. You may even see Profile 1.0 players. Skip Profile 1.0 players. Profile 1.1 players are fine if you don't care about bonus content.
Most Blu-ray players cannot be upgraded. So, make sure you know which profile a player supports before buying. It should say somewhere on the box.
Digital cameras are always hot sellers. You can pick up a 6-megapixel SLR kit for $450 or less. Prices will increase with the pixel count and lens quality.
You'll see basic 8- or 10-megapixel point-and-shoots for $80-$100. You'll spend more for smile detection and anti-shake technology. Pay the extra $40 or so if these features are important to you.
Deals on digital photo frames will also abound. Expect to see 7-inch frames around $30. You'll also see 9-inch frames around $50.
When considering a digital frame, look at the memory cards it accepts. It should be compatible with popular formats like SD and CompactFlash.
Prices on large-screen HDTVs could also hit a low. Expect 42-inch sets in the $600 range. Smaller sets will be considerably cheaper.
When comparing sets, look at the resolution. Deals on 720p sets will be abundant. But 1080i and 1080p offer better resolution.
Pay attention to the contrast ratio. A higher ratio yields a better picture. Aim for 10,000:1 or better. With LCD sets, look for a response time of 8ms or less.
The real deals on Black Friday will be on off brands. If you must have a brand name, wait until mid-December.
A $400 laptop is common these days. So retailers will tempt you with rock-bottom prices this year.
You'll see low-power ultra-portable netbooks around $200. These often use Intel's Atom processor. They also have relatively small hard drives or use flash memory.
If you go with a netbook, make sure it runs Windows XP. Many use Linux. Leave that to people who enjoy the challenge of installing software and connecting gadgets.
You'll see unbelievable prices on MP3 players. For example, you can pick up a 1-gigabyte player for about $10.
Prices rise if you want a color screen, more storage or advanced features. For example, you'll see 2-gigabyte color-screen players for less than $50.
Most of the deals will be on off-brand players. You'll still find bargains on names like SanDisk and Sony, though.