[Update] Amazon has slashed prices on the Kindle Fire HD 6 and 7, but Fry's does it better if you can go to one of its locations.
Tablet sales may be flatlining, but you wouldn't know it from the large number of them being promoted in Black Friday ads. Of course, Apple's iPads get most of the press, but a large market segment is made of Android and (increasingly) Windows tablets instead. So there are plenty of potential deals to choose from, whether you want a slate from Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, or another manufacturer. Here are six of the best, and as with our iPad gallery, we reserve the right to update it this week with any late-breaking specials.
It got out to a rough start, but it looks like Microsoft's Surface tablet lineup is gaining momentum, with the new Pro 3 being promoted as a laptop alternative, while the Surface 2 slots in a lower-cost alternative for Windows-based productivity. The Surface 2 becomes even more affordable on Black Friday, with Best Buy, Tiger Direct, and Microsoft's own store selling the 32GB model for $299.99, $150 off the current price. Even better, Best Buy and Microsoft are taking $150 off any Surface 2, which includes the 64GB version. Note that Best Buy is advertising its deal as a doorbuster, which means it's available starting around Thanksgiving dinner time, but could be for a limited time (or in limited quantities).
The Surface Pro 3 starts at a much higher price of $799, though most Black Friday sales are for even pricier configurations. The one deal for the base model -- with Intel Core i3 processor and 64GB of solid-state storage -- comes via eBay, which knocks $100 off the current price. You'll have to wait until the end of the weekend -- 9 p.m. on Sunday evening -- to get that price, however. There are more options if you opt for 128 gigabytes or more of storage. You can get $100 off the 128GB or 256GB editions from Abt Electronics, Best Buy, and Microsoft, though Microsoft goes one better (naturally) by offering a $150 discount on the Core i7 models (either 256GB or 512GB). At that point, you're paying well over $1,000, but any type of savings is appreciated under those circumstances.
[Update] Amazon has taken $20 off the price of the Fire HD 6 and $30 off the Fire HD 7's price, essentially matching the deals listed below. But Fry's is not only matching those prices, but is giving out additional discounts if you sign up for special promo codes via email. With those codes, the 8GB Fire HD 6 becomes $68.88 and the 16GB version drops to $88.88, while the 8GB Fire HD 7 will be $98.88 and the 16GB edition $118.88. These are in-store deals only, however, so you'll need to be near a Fry's location to partake in the sale.
Of course, you need to keep an eye on Amazon itself to see if the retailing giant offers any "lightning deals" on its Kindle Fire HD tablets during the holiday shopping season -- especially this week -- but you can find deals elsewhere as well. In particular, its cheaper, smaller-sized models are seemingly on sale everywhere. For instance, the new 6-inch Fire HD, normally $99 is $20 off at Best Buy, hhgregg, Office Depot/OfficeMax, Radio Shack, Staples, Toys "R" Us, and many more. Staples and Toys "R" Us also slash $30 from the regular $139 price of the Fire HD 7, while midwest chain Meijer sells the Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition (6-inch version) for the full price of $149, but gives you $30 in store credit with your purchase.
The bigger Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is noticeably absent from other retailers' ads, as is the Kindle Fire HDX lineup, though Best Buy promises that all Kindles will be on sale for Black Friday. Amazon just chopped $20 off the Fire HDX 7, lowering the price to $179, but the company could promote flash sales at any time.
With Microsoft's push to get Windows onto as many devices as possible, it's offered up the latest version, 8.1, at cut-rate prices to manufacturers. The result has been Windows tablets that can match Android slates in cost, but still manage to include the latest Intel Atom processors. The new HP Stream 7 is one of those models, and while it's already available for a very competitive $99.99 price point, Office Depot/OfficeMax is making it even more affordable on Black Friday by dropping $20 from that price. If you want a little more screen size to run Windows, Walmart is offering the 8-inch Nextbook for $99.99, though it only comes with half of the built-in storage that the 32GB Stream 7 includes.
While Apple keeps its prices set in stone for as long as possible, Samsung doesn't mind putting its products on sale -- it just keeps its discounts set in stone from retailer to retailer. For instance, you can find the Galaxy Tab 4 7-inch Android tablet for $149.99 at numerous stores this Black Friday. So are there any deals on Samsung tablets that actually stand out from the party line? Unfortunately, not many. The 7-inch Galaxy Tab 3 is being sold at multiple places for $99.99, which is $60 off the current price, but only Office Depot/OfficeMax goes a little better by selling it at $89.99. Amazon has just put the Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 on sale for $229.99, or $20 less than the competition will have it available for on Black Friday. Otherwise, you can take your pick of retailers to purchase the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 for $199.99 or the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 for $399.99, just to name two of many examples.
One of the outcomes of making your OS available to everyone, like Google has with Android, is the rash of super-cheap tablets that you can find in drugstores and that litter Black Friday ads with price tags like $49 or less. Unfortunately, you're dealing with second-, third- and fourth-tier vendors selling these tablets, and the specs are very meager (including, almost unvariably, an outdated version of Android like 4.2 Jelly Bean).
So when you see a Black Friday deal involving a major manufacturer like Toshiba with a tablet running the latest version of Android, 4.4 KitKat, and that the price on that deal can nearly match the ones attached to those drugstore slates, it's worth taking notice. In particular, hhgregg will be offering the 7-inch Toshiba Excite Go as a doorbuster on Thanksgiving afternoon for just $59.99. That's $40 less than the regular price, and you get an Intel Atom processor along with KitKat. When you can obtain a higher-quality product at a cut-rate price, that's a true bargain, although you'll have to rearrange your turkey day dinner to have a shot at it.
We've left this deal for last as it's a bit of an anomaly. While the previous specials are all on big-name brand tablets, Best Buy is advertising an unbranded 10.1-inch Windows 8.1 device as part of its Black Friday sales. The retailer has its own Insignia brand, and, like other major chains, will receive its own special product configurations for the holiday from manufacturers. But touting what's essentially an anonymous product -- even giving it a product number of UB-15MS10SA ("UB" probably standing for "unbranded") -- is a new one to us, especially from such a big retailer.
Nonetheless, you can grab this mystery tablet for a mere $149.99 as a Friday morning 8 a.m. doorbuster, or, for $50 more, you can add a keyboard to enhance your productivity. It will come in handy as this tablet, like other new Windows 8.1 ones, includes a year's subscription to Microsoft Office 365. An Intel Atom quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of built-in storage, and a display with 1,280x800 resolution are among the other specs. If you can live with the murky origins of its manufacturer, this tablet's price just might be worth waking up early on Black Friday to try to snag it.