Archive for November 24, 2009

Black Friday TV sales: Where are the best plasma TV deals?

For those of us thinking about heading out to buy a TV on Black Friday, where to get the best deals can be a bit confusing. One thing we found is that often pricing on highly promoted sets from major brands such as Panasonic, Samsung and Sony, vary by only a few dollars from chain to chain. That will allow you to shop at the closest retailer without feeling that you’re missing out on a bargain.

Looking over the various announced and leaked Black Friday ads, there are a number of great deals for TV buyers. From what we’ve seen so far, the deals break down into two scenarios: price drops on current models from major brands, and promotional pricing on derivative major-brand sets, and special deals on items from secondary or tertiary brands.

Also, before you head out to a store, check and see if the retailer is offering the same—or even better—deals online. Amazon has a number of Black Friday-week TV deals, and Walmart’s online sale, for example, includes many of the same TVs its advertising as Black Friday deals in its stores (plus shipping for 97 cents on many models). Also, some retailers will have online exclusives you couldn’t get walking into one of its retail locations.

Finally, while many of the retailers' Black Friday ads are now out, search the Black Friday websites, such as bfads.net, blackfriday.info, theblackfriday.com, and gottadeal.com for comprehensive listings of deals. Some sites allow you to filter your searches by product categories, such as TVs.

Here are some of the best deals we've seen on plasma sets. We'll be filing a separate blog outlining LCD bargains.

42-inch plasma TVs
Who ever thought $500 would be a key price point for a 42-inch plasma? But that’s exactly what’s happened heading into this holiday buying season. Just this week, Samsung cut prices across several models, including some plasmas, through November 30th. That means they’re not only widely available, but also that it’s possible you can get one now and avoid the Black Friday crush. For example, Samsung’s PN42B400 720p set is about $550 at Best Buy, Sears and Walmart (Best Buy and Walmart are typically shaving $2 off the price offered at Sears). H.H. Gregg has Panasonic's 720p TC-P42X1 for $570. If you want to go even cheaper, you can probably get a 42-inch 720p plasma for less than $500 if you’re willing to accept a lesser-known brand. Sears has Zenith’s 720p Z42PO2 set for $500 (the same price as on Halloween), and Walmart is pricing Emerson’s 42-inch 720p plasma (PL-P42W-10A) for $448, though it’s available only from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Friday.

50-inch plasma TVs
Budget-minded shoppers looking to go a bit bigger could consider Samsung’s 50-inch 720p PN50B430 set, which is priced at about $700 at Best Buy, Sears and Walmart (it’s one of the Samsung price-cut models). Walmart will also have Sanyo’s 50-inch 720p plasma (DP50719) at $598.

Those looking for a 50-inch plasma set with 1080p resolution can get Samsung’s PN50B530S2F for about $900, also at Best Buy and Sears. If you’re willing to spend more for a fully featured model from a major brand, Amazon.com has several deals on Panasonic’s step-up G10-series 1080p plasmas. The 42-inch model (TC-P42G10) is $916.42, the 46-inch set (TC-P46G10) is $1,135.85, and the 50-inch version (TC-P50G10) is now $1,109.88. The latter set was just reduced from the $1,384.88 price it carried when I first added it to my cart. Sears has Panasonic’s 54-inch plasma set (TC-P54G10) for $1,500. Also check out Abe’s of Maine, which has deals on a number of step-up models, including Pioneer’s well-regarded 60-inch Kuro PDP-6020FD—a set we keep in our labs as a black-level benchmark— which is priced at $3,600. As Pioneer exited the TV business earlier this year—though it's pledged to continue to support them with service—these sets will be increasingly difficult to find going forward.

We didn't see as many deals on very large sets, but we did notice that H.H. Gregg will have a 65-inch 1080p plasma from Panasonic—the TC-P65S1—for $2,500. That set is now generally selling for anywhere from $2,700 to $3,000.

As we mentioned, we'll also file a separate post on Black Friday LCD TV deals. Check back in for any subsequent updates. —James K. Willcox

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Daily electronics deals

Today's electronics deals, courtesy of The Consumerist:

  • Newegg: Panasonic Viera TC-L32X1 32-inch LCD HDTV $360 Shipped with Coupon
  • Staples: AOC L32W961 32 inch LCD HDTV (720p) $299.99 Free Shipping
  • Amazon: Kodak Zi6 HD Pocket Video Camera $99 + free shipping
  • Best Buy: TomTom XL 330S GPS, Case, and Extra Power Adapter Bundle $100 Shipped
  • Office Depot: Kodak 10.2MP Camera, soft case, and 2GB Secure Digital Card $100 Shipped
  • Newegg: WD TV Mini Media Player (Smaller Size, 1080i Upconversion) $49.99 Free Shipping
  • Newegg: Powercolor Radeon HD3450 Fanless 256MB Video Card $14.99AR Free Ship
  • Toys R Us : $25 Off 8GB iPod Nano w/ printable coupon
  • Staples: Simpletech Signature Mini Expresso 500GB USB 2.0 Portable Drive for $69.99 w/ Free shipping
  • Amazon MP3: $3 Credit w/code MP34FREE 
  • Best Buy : Bonus $20 Gift Card with Select Wii Games and Accessories Purchase
  • Best Buy: Up to 80% off TV DVDs at Best Buy: Deals for $13 + $2 S&H, more

Related: TV buying tips and Ratings; Digital camera buying tips and Ratings; Blu-ray player buying tips and Ratings; MP3 player buying tips and Ratings; GPS buying tips and Ratings.

Neither Consumer Reports nor The Consumerist receive anything in
exchange for featuring these deals; the posts are intended to be purely
informational. These deals are often fleeting, with prices changing or
products becoming unavailable as the day progresses.

These posts are not an endorsement of the featured products or
the Web sites that sell them—though some of the sites may be included,
and recommended, in our Ratings of retailers for computers and other major electronics (both available to subscribers). Price shouldn't be your only criterion. Be wary of lower-priced deals that seem too good to be true, and check return policies for restocking fees and other gotchas.

For general buying advice for many of the products on sale above, check out our free Buying Guides.

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New cell phone and smart phone Ratings for Black Friday

Samsung Instinct HD smart cell phone

The Samsung Instinct HD

They may not be among the most sought-after electronics products for the Black Friday weekend, but cell phones and smart phones will still be on shopping lists of a hefty 10 percent of gear shoppers in the days following Thanksgiving, according to the latest Consumer Reports Shopping Poll. And we’ve just updated our Ratings, available to subscribers, to add several models to what is already our largest-ever array of tested wireless phones.

Here’s a rundown of interesting capabilities and select test findings on four of the more interesting new phones. Clicking on their names takes you to the model page for the phone, where you’ll find additional information, including some specs and a model overview. (Subscribers who are logged in will also see full test results.) Prices are with a two-year contract from the indicated carrier, including rebates.

Samsung Instinct HD, Sprint ($250)
Though pricey for a cell phone, this is one heck of an image-taker, with the best video capabilities we've seen on any phone, even they’re not quite up to the high-def quality Samsung claims (images look more like those from a decent pocket camcorder). In our tests, the Sprint was no slouch as a still camera, either, and boasts a flash, manual ISO settings, face and smile detection and multi-shot mode.

Garmin Nuvifone G60, AT&T ($300)
Made by a leading name in GPS, and with one of the best navigation applications we've seen on any phone, this talented cell phone a fine stand-in for a dedicated portable navigation device (PND). It boasts spoken turn-by-turn directions and street names, along with automatic re-routing, preloaded maps of North America, a trip computer, and a helpful "Where am I?" option for emergency assistance.

HTC Hero, Sprint ($180)
This Android-powered smart phone has a large (3.2-inch) finger-driven touch-screen that lets you zoom in and out of photos or Web pages using two fingers (for instance, your thumb and index fingers). It also has a handy on-screen drop-down status bar that alerts you and takes you to new messages, upcoming appointments, and other items that need your attention. And you can perform Google searches by voice.

HTC Imagio, Verizon ($200)
This powerful smart phone also stands out for its ease of use. It has a giant (3.6-inch) touch-screen display and intuitive TouchFLO 3D interface large icons, as well as start, back and multimedia keys. You can also conveniently zoom in or out on Web pages, photos, or text by sliding your finger across the sensibly located Zoom Bar. —Mike Gikas

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Pre-Black-Friday camera and camcorder deals

Consumer Reports Holiday Headstart

Whether you consider Black Friday the height or low-point of the holiday shopping season, many retailers, both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, are getting a head start on discounting items, particularly older, discontinued models. Some of these digital cameras, SLRs and camcorders may be a bit long in the tooth, but are still very capable. Here are some of the deals that are available right now, through Wednesday:

(Click on the model names to see specs, brand info, and how they did in our Ratings.)

Digital cameras

Digital SLRs

Camcorders

—Terry Sullivan

Related: Digital camera buying tips and Ratings; Camcorder buying tips and Ratings. (Ratings available to subscribers.)

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Daily Dispatch: Roku adds channels; IE 6 & 7 targeted by hackers

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The Daily Dispatch is a collection of interesting news about computing,
consumer electronics, and other technology gathered from around the Web
by Dirk Klingner, our technology-trend watcher, and other staffers. If
you have a tip on news you want to share, leave a comment below.

Roku Channel Store Hangs Out Shingle (ECommerce Times)

…Roku is making additional types of content
available via its set-top players with the introduction of the Roku
Channel Store. Participants so far include Pandora, Facebook Photos,
Revision3, Mediafly, TWiT, blip.tv, Flickr, FrameChannel, Motionbox and
MobileTribe.

Older versions of Internet Explorer are targeted by hacker (PC World)

…"Symantec has conducted further tests and
confirmed that it affects Internet Explorer versions 6 and 7," the
company wrote on its Web site Saturday. "We expect that a
fully-functional reliable exploit will be available in the near future."

Get mobile coupons through local search (Google Mobile Blog)

…So just in time for the holidays, we've made it easier to find discounts when you're on the go. If a business adds a mobile coupon to its Google Local Business Center listing, you'll be able to access it from your mobile device. Just go to google.com on your phone and search for a local business. When you land on its Place Page, you'll see any coupons or discounts that might be available. Then simply show the participating business the coupon, right from your phone, to redeem the offer.

IBM makes supercomputer significantly smarter than cat (ars technica)

IBM has announced a software simulation of a mammalian cerebral cortex that's significantly more complex than the cortex of a cat. And, just like the actual brain that it simulates, they still have to figure out how it works.

The Rolltop Computer That You Roll Up When Done (Dvorak Uncensored)

…The device of the flexible display allows a new concept in notebook design growing out of the traditional bookformed laptop into unfurling and convolving portable computer.

The Illustrated Man: How LED Tattoos Could Make Your Skin a Screen (Wired)

…New LED tattoos from the University of Pennsylvania could make the Illustrated Man real (minus the creepy stories, of course). Researchers there are developing silicon-and-silk implantable devices which sit under the skin like a tattoo. Already implanted into mice, these tattoos could carry LEDs, turning your skin into a screen.

Google Maps Navigation officially comes to Android 1.6 (engadget)

…they've gone ahead and backported it to 1.6 (alias "Donut") which means that T-Mobile's myTouch 3G and G1 plus other 1.6-equipped devices across the land can get in on the action.

Ninja Tip: How to Use an Apple Multi-touch Magic Mouse with Windows (The iPhone Blog)

If you’re an iPhone user running Windows and Apple’s new Magic Mouse made you ache for a little taste of that multi-touch goodness on the desktop as well, you’re in luck! No, Apple didn’t provide support themselves, but the enterprising folks over at UneasySilence showed — there’s a hack for that!

Leaked Video: Swyping Versus iPhone Typing. (Swype For Android Is Next). (TechCrunch)

…As you can see in the video above, which shows a side-by-side comparison of typing on the Omnia II versus on an iPhone, the way you type with Swype is you literally swipe your finger from one letter to the next as fast as you can. In the video, the Swypist beats the iPhone typist hands down, so to speak.

Lighter side: Cookie Monster is interviewed by Rocketboom on the origins of "Om Non Non Nom," which has become a commonly used term on the Internet and in the meatspace.

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