According to predictions from the Consumer Electronics Association, tablets will be "a very big deal" this holiday season -- selling far more units than any other type of consumer electronics gear, including TVs. It's not all that surprising, then, that we see lots and lots of tablet deals in the circulars for Black Friday. It's also not that surprising, unfortunately, that really great deals on the tablets you might actually want are few and far between. That's not to say some worthwhile buys can't be found -- they can, especially for those willing to take their "deal" in the form of a gift card. We also found lots of tablet deals that you should run -- not walk -- away from. Which is which? Let's find out.
Gift cards galore
Of course, the Apple iPad gets lots of play in Black Friday circulars. All of those list the iPad at its full, everyday selling price of $499 and up. But if the idea of getting and using a gift card works for you, you can actually score a deal on most versions of Apple's tablet (though not on the iPad mini).
For example, Walmart is offering a $75 gift card with the purchase of an iPad 2. This is one of the store's guaranteed door busters, which means if you can get to a Walmart between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, you are promised one (or a raincheck if the store goes out of stock).
Those who want the new, fourth-generation iPad should head to Target instead. That store, which opens at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, will be bundling a $60 gift card with that tablet. The deal is also available for the iPad 2, but obviously it's not as good as the Walmart offer.
Those in range of a Meijer store (mostly in the Midwest) can actually score an even better deal, albeit one with even more hoops to jump through than a gift card. The chain is offering a $100 future visit coupon with the iPad (but on Thanksgiving Day only, when the store opens at 6. a.m.) or on Black Friday with the iPad 2.
The latest Amazon Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD tablets also get little in the way of discounts, but do get the gift card treatment at a few stores. The best of those is a $30 gift card offer at Best Buy, good for either model.
The best of the rest
Possibly best tablet deal we see for Black Friday is for a kids tablet, the Nabi 2. Normally selling for $200, Walmart will roll this out 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night for $129.
Our general advice regarding kids tablets is that most are disappointments -- but the Nabi 2 breaks the mold by offering terrific performance (it's powered by the same processor as the well-regarded Google Nexus 7), a good dedicated kids app store, and more. You can expand its usefulness by loading the Amazon app store on it as well. See our earlier blog post for more information.
Speaking of the Google Nexus 7, we again spotted it at lots of stores, but few are selling it at anything below full price. The lone exception is Office Depot, which is offering the 32 GB version of the Nexus 7 at $229.99, a $20 price cut.
The 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 is a good but not great tablet that does have a few extras, such as free cloud storage. It's on sale for Black Friday practically everywhere at around $180 give or take a buck, which is a modest savings over its everyday price of around $200. If the 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 on your list, Best Buy is featuring it as a door buster with a $20 gift card.
The Asus Transformer Pad TF300 is a fast performer but one with only a so-so screen. However, an available keyboard dock can make it a good choice for those that want to do work on their Android tablet. We judge the TF300 to be a little expensive in our review, but Best Buy is knocking $100 off the price and offering it up on Black Friday for $279.
The Barnes & Noble Nook Color is a hybrid tablet/eReader that competes with the base Amazon Kindle Fire. Barnes & Noble cut the price of the Nook Color a few weeks back (to $139), and Walmart is putting it on sale at 10 p.m. on Black Friday for $99.
The worst of the rest
What would Black Friday be without a plethora of cheap Android tablets. Examples include the Mach Speed Trio Stealth for $69.99 at Sears and Kmart, the Coby Kryos 7-inch tablet at $69.99 at Toys R Us, the Ematic 7-inch tablet for $49 at Walmart, and the like.
As you might guess from the prices, performance tends to be on the wrong side of good, and issues such as unresponsive screens tend to be commonplace. Some don't even have native access to the Google Play store, relying on proprietary or third-party stores for their app content. Though enthusiasts sometimes find these cheap tablets to be fun -- or at least amusing -- to fool around with, the few professional and user reviews they get generally find little to laugh about, or enjoy. Our advice is to skip these cheapo tablets altogether.