Gift Guide: Black Friday tech deals that really are worth looking at

·6-min read

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It is, somehow, that time again! Thanksgiving is hours away, which means it's time to figure out what, if anything, you want to buy on Black Friday.

Should you buy anything on Black Friday? It depends. Some people are able to make a game out of it and save a stack on things they were going to buy anyway. Others end up getting fleeced by sales that aren't really sales or end-of-life TVs repackaged under new model numbers.

There definitely are deals to be found, of course — you've just gotta be smart about it. Some of the things we like to keep in mind:

  • Buying stuff you already wanted, at a discount? Good. Buying stuff you didn't want, just because it's maybe cheaper? Not so good.

  • Make sure that thing you're buying is actually on sale, and that they didn't just hike the price up temporarily yesterday for the sake of "discounts" today. Historical price trackers like camelcamelcamel can help with that.

  • Check the model number on anything you're buying. If you can't find any trace of it older than a few weeks, something fishy might be going on.

With all that said, here are some of the generally good deals we've found around the web — the stuff that's solid, battle-tested and that we'd probably recommend at full price. We'll be adding more throughout the week as we find them.

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Apple devices

Airpods Pro
Airpods Pro

Image Credits: Brian Heater/TechCrunch

Not too long ago, discounts on Apple gear were a rare sight — nowadays, though, it's not too tough to at least save a couple bucks.

For example: Amazon's got the latest non-pro AirPods down to $155 (usually $179), the AirPod Pros down to $159 (usually $190+) and the over ear AirPods Max down to $429 (from $549)

Amazon's also got the best iPad Pro deal we've found so far, taking anywhere from $100 to $150 off the 2021 12.9" model — so $999 for the 128 GB base model, for example, instead of $1099.

Image Credits: Apple

Best Buy has the generally more budget-friendly 40 mm Apple Watch SE marked down to $219, normally $279. If you're looking for the latest and greatest Apple Watch, your best bet is probably Amazon again, where the Series 7 has been cut down to $379 instead of $399 — but know that inventory seems limited and you might not get the color/band you want.

Big discounts on M1 Macs seem rare right now — which makes sense, as they're still relatively new. When they do pop up, stock seems to be limited or shipping is delayed well into next year. Apple will be giving out $100 gift cards with the purchase of eligible Macs (which, sadly, appears to exclude the 14" and 16" M1 MacBook Pros) but that deal seemingly doesn't start until the actual morning of Black Friday

Amazon devices

echo show 5
echo show 5

Image Credits: Brian Heater/TechCrunch

Amazon usually does pretty deep discounts on its own gear for Black Friday, and that's holding true this year.

The 4K Fire TV stick, for example, is down to $25 (normally $50).

Their latest-gen Kindle, meanwhile, is down to $70 (normally $110) if you buy the version that doesn't come with ads splashed around the interface. If you don't mind the ads, it's $50 (normally $90).

Got a smart house full of Echo devices and want to add some more? The latest (4th gen) model is down to $60 (usually $80-$100). The 2021 Echo Show, with its camera and 5.5" display, is down to $45 (usually around $80), and the itty-bitty (if probably at the end of its lifespan) Echo Dot puck is down to $20 (usually $30).

Google devices

Image Credits: Google

Not to be outdone, Google's got a bunch of discounts on its own devices, as well.

Chromecast with Google TV (the Chromecast with the remote) is down to $40 (usually $50).

Image Credits: Google

Most of the company's Nest stuff has been marked down — the Nest Audio smart speaker is down to $60 (usually $100), their Nest WiFi router mesh access points are down $30 each and the latest Nest Hub smart display has been discounted to $50 (usually $100.) Even Nest's relatively new outdoor camera is down to $150 (normally $180).

Roku

Image Credits: Roku

Looking to stay out of the Apple/Google/Amazon ecosystems but still want a solid streaming device for your TV? Roku's got a few options: The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is down to $30 (generally $50), while one of their sound bars — the smaller Streambar, not the Streambar Pro — is down to $80 (generally $130.)

Oculus Quest 2

Image Credits: Meta/Oculus

Oculus' Quest 2 virtual reality headset is about as good as entry-level VR gets right now. If you're just looking to dabble or otherwise don't want to spend a zillion dollars on a megapowerful VR rig, the Quest 2 is really a good place to start. I've happily recommended it to a bunch of people at the full price … so at a discount? Absolutely.

The best deal I've found so far is Target's, where you'll get a $50 Target gift card with either the 128 GB ($300) or 256 GB ($400) model.

Backbone

Image Credits: Backbone

If you often use your iPhone* for things like Apple Arcade or remotely playing games on an Xbox or PlayStation, the Backbone is a very, very good controller add-on. It snaps on quick, it's solid as a rock, and it's way more comfortable than trying to paw at the touchscreen.

I thought it was almost too cheap at $99, but now they've marked it down to $85 for Black Friday — and they've thrown in three months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for good measure. That's a steal, honestly.

(* They recently added support for controlling other devices via wired USB, but that's more of a neat bonus and less the main draw.)

Apps and Services

Image Credits: Hulu

A few tried-and-true apps and services are offering deals, albeit often with caveats. For example:

  • Hulu will give you a year of ad-supported Hulu for 99 cents a month, instead of $7 a month. The catch? It's only for those who are new and "returning" subscribers, the latter defined as those who haven't paid for Hulu in the last month.

  • If you don't already have Disney+, Amazon is doing a kind of confusing deal as a tie-in with Amazon Music Unlimited. If you already have Amazon Music Unlimited, they'll give you three months of Disney+ for free. If you don't already have it and are willing to sign up for the $8 per month service, they'll give you six months of Disney+.

  • Plex is selling its lifetime pass option, usually $120, for $90.

  • Adobe is selling its "All Apps" package — so access to Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Audition and everything else Adobe makes under the Creative Cloud umbrella — for $30 a month, down from $52. Sadly, terms specify "first-time subscribers" only.

  • Popular password manager LastPass is offering plans for 25% off this week. USE A PASSWORD MANAGER.

  • Guided meditation app Headspace is 50%-60% off right now, depending on if you're paying monthly or annually. If monthly, it's 60% off — $4.99 a month, instead of $12.99. If annually, it's 50% off — which might sound like a smaller discount, but at $35 for a year (normally $70), you're paying about $2.91 per month (usually around $6.) Both plans renew at their respective full price after the first year.

TechCrunch Gift Guide 2021
TechCrunch Gift Guide 2021
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