Pre-Black Friday TV deals are already under way

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If shopping on Thanksgiving Day or even Black Friday holds little appeal, several retailers are running pre-Black Friday specials right up until the real action begins. But to get bargains close to what's being offered during Black Friday, you're going to have spend some time sifting through all the ads and websites and act quickly.

Amazon, for example, just kicked off its Black Friday Deals Week sale, which features a rotating list of Lightning Deals and other specials that the online retailer promises to update every 10 minutes. A number of Samsung sets are now on sale, though we didn't see any amazing deals; the site also has low prices featuring TVs by oCosmo—a 40-inch 1080p LCD TV was $278, for example—a brand we've never seen. But given the rotating cast of characters, you have to check back constantly to see the deals that are being offered before they either sell out or expire. For example, yesterday we saw a 65-inch Samsung 1080p LCD TV for less than $998; today it's $1,100. You can also peruse the company's Gold Box deals for other specials.

Over at Best Buy, the electronics chain—which yesterday launched a "Blue Sunday" pre-sale that I hope will not become a trend—has a Countdown to Black Friday sale for those unwilling to wait until Thanksgiving. The number of deals is tied to the number of days until Black Friday, so there's one fewer each day. Among the deals we saw today was a 60-inch 1080p LCD TV from Dynex—a Best Buy house brand—for $580. But the deal changes for those who have achieved Elite or Elite Plus status at the chain, meaning you've spent at least $1,500 there in the last year. Then you can get your hands on some of the items early at their Black Friday prices.

Sears and its downtown sister Kmart have early online-only early Black Friday deals, but they're open only to those who are, or become, Shop Your Way Rewards members. Based on our short peek, there are only a limited number of items offered now at their
Black Friday prices. (Remember to log in as a Shop Your Way Rewards member to see the special member price.) Yesterday Sears launched a week-early Cyber Monday sale that ends tomorrow, and some prices are close to their Black Friday advertised price. For example, you can buy a 50-inch Seiki 4K Ultra HD TV right now for $760; it's promoted at $750 on Black Friday. The 55-inch version is priced at $850 right now, the same as its Black Friday price.

But other so-called specials aren't so special. For example, Panasonic's 60-inch TC-P60ST60 plasma set, one of our favorite TVs this is year, is priced at $1,500, just what we paid several months ago. So you'll have to do your homework. Sears will kick off its online Black Friday sales at 6 p.m. CST on Wednesday Nov. 27.

Find the right television for your needs and budget with our TV buying guide and Ratings. And check our holiday and gift guide for more deals and tips!

Not to be left out of the action, Target says you can score a great deal on electronic gear before Black Friday with its pre-sale, which started yesterday and runs through Wednesday. As with many other sales, it says quantities are limited. Based on what we saw, the emphasis is on secondary TV brands, such as Apex, Element, Magnavox, ProScan, and Westinghouse, though the chain also has some LG, Samsung, and Vizio sets. Some of the deals are available online and in stores, but some others are Internet-only offers. We didn't see either the $230 50-inch Element 1080p LCD TV or the $200 40-inch Westinghouse the retailer is promoting as Black Friday specials

Walmart also has Black Friday Week online-only specials, which include a lot of TVs, including major brands, such as LG, Samsung, and Vizio, and lesser-known labels such as Sceptre. Although some of the prices on secondary brands seemed decent—a 40-inch 1080 Sceptre LCD set, for example, is priced at $250—many of the prices we saw on larger major-brand sets were well above some of the Black Friday pricing. For example, Vizio's 60-inch 1080p LCD smart TV, model E601i-A3, is priced at $798, and it's a factory-refurbished set. Walmart has this same set—a new one—for $688 as part of its Black Friday sale. Also, remember that Walmart is matching some of its competitors' best in-store Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals.

Our conclusion: If you're looking to score a great price on a new TV before Black Friday you'll have to do your homework. There are still some in-store Black Friday deals—such as the sub-$1,000 70-inch Vizio set—that we haven't seen matched online.

But for a lot of shoppers, comparison shopping is part of the fun. And if you don't get the set you want during Black Friday, keep monitoring the ads—and our site—well past Cyber Monday. We fully expect to see prices on many TVs drop even further as we get closer to Christmas.

—James K. Willcox

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