Black Friday 2018 Survival Guide: Tech Jargon Explained

November 5, 2018

7:11 am

Black Friday is a chaotic time of year. The stakes are high – there are bargains to be had on the tech products you’ve been lusting after all year, but there’s also a chance you might panic and pick up a dud, overwhelmed by a sea of sales and red price tags.

The good news is that armed with a little knowledge, you can make the right decisions and walk away from Black Friday with some cash left in your wallet and a stack of awesome gadgets.

Last year’s Black Friday sales made a huge impact with consumers, according to Forbes, and Black Friday 2018 looks to be more of the same.

We walk you through the things to look out for, whether you’re buying a TV, laptop, tablet or other tech must-have.

In This Guide:

Buying a TV on Black Friday

The Black Friday sales period can be a great time to snap up a bargain on a new TV. Prices are falling on TVs as it is – with 8K on the (fairly distant) horizon, you can now find 4K TVs at decent prices.

There are a few key things to watch out for when buying a TV in the sales. First of all, remember that this should be a TV to last you for a good few years. Yes, you want a bargain, but it’s an investment, too. So where possible, avoid going for the absolute rock-bottom prices on less well-known brands that could disappoint with sub-standard screen quality and a poor selection of smart TV apps.

Don’t discount last year’s models – they’re likely to be cheaper than the 2018 ranges from Samsung, LG and the like, and should still offer 4K picture quality and all the main apps.

However, think hard before saving on 4K and going for an HD-only TV. While there isn’t a huge amount of 4K content around at the moment, this will change quickly in the years ahead. You don’t want to end up looking to replace your new TV in just a year or two.

Check out our Best Black Friday TV Deals 2018 for the best discounted sets

Buying a TV on Black Friday

Buying a TV on Black Friday

Things To Look For

  • Stick to the better known brands, such as Samsung, LG, Toshiba or Sony. It’s smarter to go for a good discount on a premium TV brand than a super-cheap deal on a less well-known name.
  • As a minimum, make sure the TV has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (HD). Ideally, you should be aiming higher than that and going for a future-proof 4K model.
  • Check the apps that a Smart TV comes with. Does it include your favorites?

Things To Avoid

  • You can make great savings by choosing a Full HD TV, rather than a 4K one. But keep in mind your TV won’t be as futureproof.
  • If you’re after a Smart TV, avoid models that don’t have wi-fi built in. It’s a hassle to wire them up to the internet, or you’ll need to buy an additional wi-fi adaptor.
  • Avoid retailer own brand models – they rarely impress

Buying a Smartphone on Black Friday

When it comes to buying a smartphone on Black Friday, there is real scope to make a saving, largely thanks to the fact that they are expensive devices. What’s more, if you’re buying a contract at the same time, you’re making a big commitment to the provider.

Retailers will offer many tempting deals on phones to get you through the door. This year, Target is giving buyers a gift card with their purchase, so while the phones themselves aren’t reduced, you can still walk away with a substantial sum in credit.

Pick up the Apple XS for example, and Target will give you a $250 gift card. It’s a good way to make a saving on a device that won’t get a discount from Apple directly.

Then there’s the bundles. If you’re buying a contract as well as a handset, providers will offer tempting data and call plans, more generous than you would usually find. Shop around and don’t be afraid to play a couple off each other – you can usually get yourself a better deal this way.

Then there’s last year’s models. It’s true of almost every product on Black Friday, but do consider older handsets. Retailers will be offering steep discounts on 2017 iPhones, Samsung Galaxys etc.

Buying a Smartphone on Black Friday

 

Things To Look For

  • Bundled deals that offer extras such as data or minutes
  • See which retailers are offering money back or store credit
  • Consider last year’s models to make a large saving
  • Play retailers off each other if you find a better deal

Things To Avoid

  • Check the fine print of a contract before signing up
  • Know what features are important to you (camera, screen size etc) and don’t be tempted by another phone just because its cheap
  • If you’re looking to move platforms, consider the apps on your existing phone that you’ll have to buy again. If it adds up to a lot, is it worth moving?

Buying an Apple Product on Black Friday

If you’ve been waiting for Black Friday to roll around so you can finally pick up a MacBook or iPad, then we’ve got some bad news for you – Apple doesn’t really do Black Friday.

Traditionally the company has ignored it, and doesn’t slash prices on its own site – and this year we’d expect the same.

Retailers could well offer reductions on Apple products, most likely to the iPhone range. With iPhones, you can at least expect some discounted contracts from mobile network providers.

Want to know which iPhone to snap up? See our guide, Which iPhone Should I Buy?

You may also find discounts to the Apple Watch range – again, these are available via network providers, such as Verizon.

See our Guide to the Best Black Friday Apple Watch Deals

If you’re looking for an Apple bargain, it’s worth checking out products that have recently been updated. The MacBook Air, for example, has received a substantial revision in the last month, which means that the older model should be available at reduced prices as retailers try to clear stock.

Understand the MacBook range better with our guide, Which MacBook Should I Buy?

Ditto the iPad Pro – you can make a big saving if you don’t need to have the very latest model, and when it comes to Apple, the previous generation of its products are impressive enough for most.

Buying an Apple product on Black Friday

Things To Look For

  • Last year’s model. Whether it’s iPad, iPhone or MacBook, you could save big on a slightly older Apple device.
  • Student or in the armed forces? You might be entitled to a discount on new Apple products, potentially saving more money than any Black Friday discount.

Things To Avoid

  • The Apple store. They won’t have a Black Friday deal.
  • Really old tech. Feel free to buy last year’s model, but don’t get swayed by retailers trying to ditch ancient stock at knockdown prices just because it’s Apple.
  • The iPad Mini. It’s old, dated, and well overdue an update. Get a regular iPad instead.

Buying a Kindle on Black Friday

If there’s one thing that Amazon do well, it’s Black Friday, and its Kindle range, from e-book to tablets, is no exception. You can shop around other retailers, but chances are you won’t find a better deal on a Kindle over Black Friday.

Historically, Amazon’s range has seen huge reductions, and you can check this yourself by heading to camelcamelcamel.com to see Amazon’s historic pricing. It’s a good way to check you’re getting the bargain you think you are.

In terms of e-book readers, remember that the entry-level Kindle may be the cheapest, but it isn’t waterproof, and doesn’t have a backlight. So if you’re a night owl that doesn’t want to disturb your partner in bed, go for the Paperwhite model – it’s a better choice for taking with you on vacation, too.

For more detail, see our full guide, Which Kindle Should I Buy?

Kindle Fire Tablets

If you’re looking at the Kindle tablet line up, then Fire 7 can be had for peanuts usually, and you’d be hard pushed to get a better value entry level tablet for same money.

If you want something a bit more powerful, go for the HD 8 or HD 10, which offer larger screens with more resolution and a more powerful processor.

The Amazon Fire Kids tablet is more or less the Fire 7, but with parental controls and a robust case. It also comes with a no quibble warranty should your child break it, BUT, if you have a careful son or daughter who looks after their tech, the Fire 7 could save you about 50 bucks.

Do yourself a favor, and select the Fire tablet without special offers when purchasing. Yes, it’s a little pricier, but it removes the Amazon adverts from the Fire’s display, and you’ll be grateful in the long run.

It’s also worth checking out Black Friday deals on micro SD cards at the same time, as the storage space on the Fire tablet range isn’t generous.

Buying a Kindle Fire Tablet on Black Friday

 

Things To Look For

  • Storage space. Pick up a discounted Micro SD card when you buy to save money on buying the larger capacity models.
  • Check camelcamelcamel.com to make sure you’re not paying over the odds
  • Pick up a case (preferably in the sale) to protect your new tablet from bumps and scrapes
  • If you’re a Netflix addict, grab a larger Fire with an HD screen to get the most out of your shows

Things To Avoid

  • Onscreen adverts. Pay a few bucks extra to have this removed when you purchase your kindle.
  • If you have a careful child, the Fire 7 tablet is much better value than the Kids Fire version.

Buying a Laptop on Black Friday

Buying a laptop can be an expensive business, so it’s no surprise that so many of us are tempted to snap up a bargain on Black Friday.

It’s also a convenient time for retailers to get rid of old models, and with laptops having a very limited shelf life before they are inevitably usurped by the latest version, some retailers use the day as a way to dispose of old stock. Check the specs of the laptop you’re looking at against the most recent models on the manufacturer’s own site.

It’s also wise to know roughly what you need. If you’re just looking to do some surfing and emailing, you don’t need a high spec machine. Likewise, if gaming is your thing, make sure you opt for a laptop with a dedicated graphics chip and powerful processor.

If you’re looking to get a bargain, don’t ignore Chromebooks. Usually cheap and slim with excellent battery life, these devices may be a little more limited in what they can do compared to a Windows or Apple laptop, but for browsing, emailing and streaming, they’re a great choice.

Learn your Acers from your Zenbooks with our guide to the Best Laptop Brands

Buying a Laptop on Black Friday

 

Things To Look For

  • Check the retailer isn’t trying to shift old stock – do a quick check of what year the model launched
  • Make sure that the computer specs match what you want to do on the machine. The processor is key – anything underpowered will leave you with a slow laptop
  • Consider a Chromebook if you’re after a bargain

Things To Avoid

  • Avoid any laptops that have dated processors. For Intel, check which generation chip it has – anything earlier than 7th gen should be avoided.
  • Don’t skimp on Ram. As a bare minimum, 4GB will get you by, but 8GB is ideal for most users.
  • Avoid bundles. Retailers will often offer packages with laptop bags, mice and other peripherals around Black Friday, but these rarely offer value for money.

Buying a Tablet on Black Friday

Tablets normally see large reductions on Black Friday (apart from Apple’s iPad range, natch), but they can be something of a mixed bag. Before you snap up a tablet in the sale, make sure you know what you want it for, as not all tablets are created equal.

Firstly, go with a brand you recognize – Samsung, Lenovo, Amazon, Microsoft, even Huawei. The tablet market has been slowing down considerably in recent years, which means that there are only a handful of big name brands left. However, there has been an influx of very cheap Chinese brands looking to sweep up, and the products they make can be pretty poor. Even if you manage to bag one that does the job, you could be left up the creek when it comes to software updates or support.

If you’re considering a Windows 10 tablet, remember the additional cost of a keyboard, or look for bundles that include one. The Windows experience isn’t really complete without one.

Consider storage too – many tablets are stingy when it comes to capacity, so look for a model with an micro SD card that will enable you to expand the storage. Buy an SD card in the Black Friday sale too, while you’re at it.

Buying a Tablet on Black Friday

Things To Look For

  • Save money on storage by buying an SD card rather than paying for a larger capacity tablet
  • Stick with brands you know – don’t be tempted by no-name brands
  • If you’re buying a Windows 10 tablet, get a keyboard

Things To Avoid

  • Don’t go too cheap – aside from the Amazon Fire, most cheap tablets are dreadful
  • Don’t buy ancient models. Yes, you can save money, but chances are the operating system will no longer be receiving updates.
  • Check quoted battery life, then knock a couple of hours off to be realistic. Will it last you a day outside the house?

Buying a Fitness Tracker on Black Friday

Fitness trackers can be a great help for those looking to get into, or stay in, shape. Before you pick one up on Black Friday, it’s a good idea to know exactly what functions you’re after – do you want a simple model that will count your calories and record your steps, or a more advanced one that can monitor your heartbeat, track using GPS, and offer smartphone notifications?

If you’re after a Smartwatch, see our guide to the Best Black Friday Apple Watch Deals

Don’t overspend for your need, however. If you’re only a casual keep fitter, there’s no need to go for the $400, waterproof fitness tracker. Expensive fitness trackers are stuffed with features, but unless you’re going to use them, it could be a waste of money.

With trackers starting from under $50, there’s certainly room for bargains on Black Friday.

Remember too that the fitness tracker is really only half the product. The app it connects to can make or break the experience, so first of all, check that it’s compatible with your phone. Then, take a look at the reviews on the app store – this will let you see what others think of it, as well as the general features and layout.

See the Best Black Friday Fitbit Deals to find a bargain fitness tracker

Buying a Fitness Tracker on Black Friday

Things To Look For

  • Check that the app is compatible with your phone and the reviews are favorable
  • Check the battery life – simpler LED display trackers will last weeks, compared to more advanced full LCD models
  • Make sure you’re happy with the design – you’ll be wearing it everyday

Things To Avoid

  • Don’t overbuy. Be realistic about the features you need and the ones you’ll use.
  • Steer clear of cheap brands that you don’t recognize, as they will be poor performers and might not receive software updates

Buying a Printer on Black Friday

It feels like printers don’t need Black Friday – they’re always on sale anyway. Before you grab the first one that you think looks good enough, there’s some great ways to save yourself money in the long run.

First up, ink. Printers are cheap because most of the profit comes from the ink rather than the hardware. If you’re looking at printers, check the prices of the ink first; find some that is reasonably priced, and then find its compatible printer. Working backwards this way will save you from a nasty shock when it comes time for that first refill.

Get your head around the acronyms, the two main ones being DPI and PPM. The first is dots per inch, and refers to the fidelity of the print. The base is 600 x 600 for printers these days, which is fine for basic text – but if you’re looking to print images, then you’ll need something capable of finer work.

Work out if you need an inkjet or a laser printer. Inkjets are great for most people, coping well with day to day printing and with good results, whereas lasers are traditionally used for bulk.

PPM is pages per minute, the number of copies the printer can spew out in 60 seconds. Unless you’re printing your great American novel, this number probably won’t be as important to you as the DPI.

Printers can range from around $40 into the thousands, and believe it or not, can be complicated machines with tons of features. The thing is, they don’t always need to be – if you’re printing off the odd email at home, do you really need a printer with voice controls, memory card slots and cloud compatibility?

Buying a Printer on Black Friday

Things To Look For

  • Consider an all-in-one printer that scans and copies, as well as prints. They’re usually cheaper than standalone ‘print only’ models
  • Check the sizing – make sure it will fit on the desk in your home office!
  • Check ink costs – manufacturers will give you an estimate, but be aware the cheapest printers can sting with higher costs
  • Decide whether an inkjet or laser printer is right for you. Inkjet is great for a range of jobs, including colour pictures; laser is fine for printing text docs only.

Things To Avoid

  • Don’t be tempted by expensive models with features that you know you’ll never use
  • Don’t be swayed by ‘ink included’ promises. Ink that comes with a printer is usually in a much smaller volume that standard refills, and you can shop around for good value ink.

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Jack is a senior writer at Tech.co with over a decade's experience researching and writing about consumer technology, from security and privacy to product reviews and tech news.

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