Black Friday 2016 predictions include $90 Chromebooks, $299 Apple iPad Air 2 tablets

Expect the trend of store gift cards to be given in lieu of deals on Apple products, while budget Windows laptops will probably be priced around $150.


Chromebooks could be on sale for under $100 during Black Friday 2016.

With the rise of online shopping, Black Friday has lost a bit of its luster -- or insanity, depending on your point of view. But despite Amazon extending the shopping holiday to the whole month of November, and Cyber Monday rivaling its brick-and-mortar predecessor, Black Friday deals remain the focal point for the Christmas buying season, complete with the type of speculation usually reserved for NFL and Academy Award predictions.

So what do deal prognosticators envision while they wait for the first Black Friday ads to leak? As you might expect, most of the focus is on doorbusters, those limited time, limited quantity mega-sales that draw headlines and frenzied shoppers. What you might notice in the PC realm, however, is that we've nearly reached a floor on what can be charged with laptops and top-tier tablets.

Of course, the stinginess of discounts on Apple products has only increased over the years -- the company's stores don't even bother to have Black Friday specials anymore after giving out iTunes cards instead of discounts for the previous couple of years -- and that hasn't been helped by the trend of offering store gift cards in lieu of dropping the everyday price. Still, it seems like the iPad Air 2 -- now its "mid-sized" tablet model between the mini and the iPad Pro -- is the most likely to see its price slashed, according to DealNews.

Also expected is a repeat of Amazon offering its cheapest Fire tablet for chump change, possibly even cheaper than the $33.33 it sold it for during the company's Prime Day in July. Deal sites predict an approximate 20%-25% discounts on tablets in general, with even larger deals on older tablets that remain unsold as the market for the device has dipped. Those tablets might look especially enticing when retailers list their original price to boost the supposed discount (a staple of Black Friday pricing trickery), so make sure to see what the tablet has been actually selling for before getting too excited.

Last year, $95 Chromebooks set the pace for the lowest-priced laptops of Black Friday, Deal pundits expect the $90 Chromebook doorbuster trend to continue this year. Obviously you'll get one with the lowest specs possible (2GB of RAM, 16GB of built-in storage, non-Intel processor), but Google's intent with the Chromebook design was to minimize the need for a laptop with powerful components, so that might not be a deal-breaker for buyers.

For the last couple of Black Fridays, the expectation has been that Windows notebooks would break the $100 barrier, after Microsoft decided it should lower the price of some licenses of the operating system to compete with tablets and Chromebooks. That hasn't really happened -- though refurbished minimally spec'd smaller-sized two-in-ones could be an exception -- and predictions are more reasonably set for $150 laptops for this Black Friday. Though desktops have fallen out of fashion enough that they don't even warrant much speculation, you can expect similar pricing for the lowest cost mini-PCs.

If you're looking for a system with a little more heft spec-wise, however, prognosticators say you're more likely to get a better deal on Cyber Monday, since the prices on those models won't be as eye-poppingly low. Just be careful that the retailers are not stating the original price as "market value," which tends to be higher than what it was selling for in the weeks before Black Friday and is bumped up to increase the discount percentage. (Dell did this last year, for example.) And, again, don't look to Apple itself if you want a new MacBook or iMac on sale for Black Friday--you'll have better luck at retailers like Best Buy, B&H, Frys, and MacMall, where a MacBook Air could cost as little as $700 and an iMac for $950.

We could be less than a month away from the first major Black Friday ad to leak (as this handy chart of past ads leak suggests), with big guns like Best Buy and Walmart seeing their ads pop up online a couple of weeks before the shopping date (November 25).