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Your Black Friday Tech Guide: TVs, video games and more

With the brisk cold winter air scarring faces every morning and the smell of candy cane mochas oozing out of red cups across campus, it’s impossible to doubt that the most magical, generous time of year has come upon us.

Black Friday: the merciless halfway point between capitalism and suburban violence that grips our nation every fourth Friday of November. Some legends say it is rooted in myths of old, when families bloated from Turkey-based feasts would make the wise decision to spend an entire month’s income on high-tech gifts that have direct correlation to the amount of affection felt (or put on artificially) for friends and family members. The corporate gods on high have laid out an impressive array of discounted goodies for the masses — and if you’re willing to risk trampling-based injury for a shiny new toy this holiday season — let our guide direct you to the best possible deals in this most holy of seasons.

Wal-Mart is jumping the gun on Black Friday by an entire week this year and offering select deals (price-matched from competitors’ Black Friday offerings) this Friday, Nov. 21 starting at 8 a.m. Included are a 40-inch HDTV for $115, a PlayStation 4 with a $50 Walmart gift card for $400, and a Samsung Chromebook for $199. However, the best deals will still come on Thanksgiving Day, with Walmart and Target opening doors at 6 p.m., and Best Buy cracking the floodgates at 5 p.m.

If you’re in the market for a next-generation console, multiple stores have some impressive bundles on sale for the big day. For the PS4, expect to see about the same offering at all retailers – $400 for the console, a copy of Grand Theft Auto V, and a digital download for The Last of Us: Remastered. Both games topped many Game of the Year lists back in 2013, and look better than ever on the new hardware. Walmart will also be offering the same bundle online for $450, but with the added bonus of a “choice of 2 games.” (no sign on what options that may entail). If you’re less interested in hard violence, seek out the $400 bundle at Toys R Us, which alternatively has Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, and LittleBigPlanet 3.

Microsoft made a big splash this holiday season, slashing the price of the XBox ONE by $50, and packing in two big games (Assassin’s Creed: Unity and last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag) for a promotion lasting until January. Black Friday will bring additional savings, though. Most outlets will be taking an additional $20 off the price (bringing the bundle down to $330), with Target packing in a $50 gift card and the Microsoft Store offering a bonus game of choice with a system purchase. If you’re more fond of gunning down the Covenant than assassinating French royals, Walmart is offering the base console with Halo: The Master Chief Collection (which features games 1-4, remastered for the new hardware), and a $30 gift card for $330. Amazon hasn’t clearly outlined what they’ll be pricing Microsoft’s machine at, but have promised “their lowest price ever” on the console, plus “$150 worth of digital content”. (Hypothetically, this could be the two Assassin’s Creed games, plus $30 in other content.)

If you were waiting for this season to buy a Wii U at the cheapest price yet, you’re in for some bad news. No major retailers are offering huge discounts on the system, though Best Buy has stitched together an impressive bundle including the 32GB model, plus copies of Nintendoland, Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and the recently released Super Smash Brothers – all for $359. They’ll also have 15 percent off Nintendo eShop cards.

Software sales vary from retailer to retailer, but you can safely expect The Evil Within, Shadow of Mordor, Alien Isolation and select others to retail for $25-$30 for PS4 & Xbox ONE – regardless of where you’re buying. Controllers are also almost universally half-off across the board. If you’re more interested in recent releases like Destiny, Far Cry 4 or Mario Kart 8, Target’s got the only significant sale, offering a $15 gift card with purchase of selected software (including those three games, Super Smash Brothers for WiiUWWE 2K15 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare).

If you’d rather do your Black Friday shopping on Friday, Gamestop is matching most of the big console deals – including the $330 XBox ONE Assassin’s Creed Bundle, and the $400 PS4 GTA V/The Last Of Us Bundle. Their prices on software are also mostly consistent with the big box retail deals.

This year’s most eye-grabbing deal is likely the 50-inch 1080p Panasonic HDTV, offered as a Best Buy doorbuster for just $199. If you’re interested, start lining up about an hour earlier than seems logically reasonable. Walmart also has a comparable model for $218, with the added bonus of a 1-hour guarantee. (Show up in store within the first hour of the promotion, and you’re guaranteed to get the item.) Like most too-good-to-be-true HDTVs on Black Friday, you’d be smart to have some level of skepticism going in. Neither of these are traditionally high-quality brands, and remember the age old saying – you get what you pay for.

If you’re in the market for a new iPad, Target’s looking like the best spot. Most models are still being sold at MSRP, but you’ll nab a gift card worth anywhere from $80 to $140 (depending on model). Tablet aficionados looking to ditch Apple should head towards Best Buy, for a $300 Surface 2 with 32GB of memory.

Follow Chris Berg on Twitter at @Mushroomer25

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Chris Berg

Chris Berg