The holiday season is right around the corner and so is Black Friday, when the Christmas shopping season officially begins. But actually, if you've been following recent deals you may have noticed several major retailers will launch their Black Friday sales ahead of the date. Amazon, for example, will offer deals starting on November 19.

The best way to make the most of Black Friday savings is to be prepared. So we're kicking off the holidays with Dealnews' 5th annual Black Friday predictions, as compiled by their expert staff. If you're wondering how low big-screen HDTVs can go, how much you'll have to spend on a decent laptop, or whether you'll actually see a discount on an iPad, then you've come to the right place. We also have predictions for smartphones, eBook readers, game systems, and more.

Just a few quick clarifications before we start prognosticating. First, these are predictions for the absolute best deals of the Black Friday season. They're the lowest of the lows, not averages (see our methodology). Second, we're predicting that these deals will occur during "Black Friday Season," a dealnews euphemism for mid-November to Cyber Monday. Lastly, our methods have proven to be effective over the years; for example, three out of four of our 2011 predictions were either at or below our predicted price — and we hope to do even better this year.

Now, on to the predictions!

HDTVs Deals

No device embodies Black Friday quite like the HDTV. From the leaked ads to the doorbuster sales, HDTV deals can be found everywhere during Black Friday week — making it truly a prime time to purchase a new set.

Once again this year, we're predicting that several sizes will hit new all-time low prices at Black Friday. An important rule of thumb to keep in mind however is that most of these "rock-bottom" prices will be for sets from third-tier manufacturers. If you're interested in a high-end model from Samsung, it probably won't go as low as these predictions.

Best Bang for Your Buck in Small Sets: Opt for 42" Over 32"

Last Black Friday, we listed some spectacular HDTV deals, but none turned as many heads as the Sharp 42" 1080p LCD HDTV we saw in Best Buy's ad for $200. The in-store only deal blew away our prediction by a full $119, and it was an easy contender for best deal of the year. However, this year we're predicting that 42" 1080p LCD HDTVs will go even lower — albeit, slightly — and hit $189.

While $189 may seem very aggressive, it wouldn't be a first. In fact, last December a similar Sharp 42" 1080p LCD HDTV hit $189. (The deal was very short lived and lasted approximately 20 minutes on our site.) This year we're predicting that the $189 price point will be more widespread and comparatively more attainable. Whereas the aforementioned deals from last year required lightning-fast reflexes to score, you may have greater opportunity this year.

If 42" is too big for your living room, or if you need a new TV for your already-cramped bedroom, we predict that 32" 1080p LCD HDTVs will hit $159. However, keep in mind that 42" HDTVs could hit $189, so unless you're really tight on space, a shopper will get the most value from a 42" set.

The 47" TV Becomes the New Entry Level Size

Not too long ago, 42" screens were the go-to size for HDTV owners. However, today's consumers are gradually upgrading to bigger TVs, particularly those with 46" or 47" screens. And as these sets go more mainstream, so do the prices.

For most of 2012, we've found deals on 46" and 47" 1080p LCD HDTVs that have been lower than their best Black Friday mention from 2011 (see the chart below). As a result, many times throughout the summer we've reminded our readers to look out for deals on 47" sets. Not surprisingly, we're now predicting an aggressive Black Friday price point of $299. With 42" sets bottoming out at $189, 46" and 47" HDTVs are the new "entry level" TVs, giving retailers plenty of room to slash prices. We're thus doubling down and predicting that this size category, like 42" last year, will see the most aggressive deals this November.

Is a Sub-$500 55" HDTV in Our Future?

Once unattainable for the average consumer, 55" 1080p HDTVs have plummeted in price over the past year. This Black Friday we predict that they will drop to $499. That's an amazing price considering that two years ago, the best deal we saw for a 55" HDTV was $798. To date in 2012, we've already seen 55" LCD HDTVs drop as low as $580 (back in January), so $499 isn't too far off.

You might have to pay a premium if you want a 55" 1080p LCD HDTV with built-in 3D, however. Although 55" 3D LCD HDTVs have made some progress in terms of affordability, they're still considered the gas-guzzling SUVs of the TV industry. Last Black Friday this category hit our predicted price of $999. However, that record was broken this summer when we listed the first $949 55" 3D LCD HDTV. That said, our prediction for this year is $789, which is $290 more than our prediction for a 55" LCD HDTV sans 3D.

If you're a high roller and have the room (and budget) to go for a 60" HDTV, you should expect to pay about $719 for a 60" 1080p LCD HDTV. However, keep in mind that there are very few third-tier 60" HDTVs sold anymore, so the deals you'll find will be on brand-name sets from the likes of Samsung, LG, and Sharp. If $719 sounds a little too high, you could save money by purchasing a 60" 1080p Plasma HDTV, which we predict will hit $569.

Summary: Black Friday Predictions for HDTVs

  • 32" 1080p LCD HDTV for $159
  • 42" 1080p LCD HDTV for $189
  • 47" 1080p LCD HDTV for $299
  • 55" 1080p LCD HDTV for $499
  • 55" 1080p 3D LCD HDTV for $789
  • 60" 1080p LCD HDTV for $719
  • 60" 1080p Plasma HDTV for $569

Laptop Deals

This Black Friday, tablets will once again battle it out with laptops for the main spotlight. However, for productivity, laptops will remain the computing device of choice for shoppers. And that's good news because we expect to see a plethora of laptop deals to suit all needs and budgets.

Desktop Replacements Will Drop to New Lows

Throughout the year, we've seen a steady stream of deals on 17" desktop replacements with prices remaining very close to their 2011 Black Friday low of $800. These fully-equipped laptops, which feature Core i7 quad-core CPUs, at least 8GB of RAM, and at least a 500GB hard drive, have continued to drop, hitting as low as $550 in February of this year. That said, for this Black Friday we're staying somewhat conservative and predicting that prices on these systems will drop to $525.

Budget Laptops Hit Plateau, But Still Offer Good Value

Last Black Friday, budget dual-core 15" to 16" laptops hit $180, which was just $9 lower than our $189 prediction. Truth be told, budget laptops can't get much lower than that, and they haven't since last Black Friday. Like 42" HDTVs, they've hit rock bottom, and it'll be challenging for them to get any cheaper. As a result, this year we predict these systems will go as low as $179. For value-driven shoppers, that's still cheaper than both the Amazon Kindle HD and Google Nexus 7.

The Mainstream Core i5 Ivy Bridge Laptop

A step above the budget systems would of course be any laptop with the latest series of Intel CPUs. Not only do Ivy Bridge systems offer extra horsepower, but they also pack better integrated graphics, connectivity, and all-around design than their predecessors. These systems are the everyday workhorse that users want by their side.

The good news is that since their debut on dealnews in June, 15" Core i5 Ivy Bridge laptops with at least 4GB of RAM have seen tremendous deals, dropping 27% in price in less than 5 months. In fact, we saw a deal for just $400 this summer. And, if these systems parallel the Black Friday drop we saw on similar Sandy Bridge configurations last year, then a mainstream 15" Ivy Bridge Core i5 laptop could fall to as low as $369 in 2012.

Ultraportables: The Hottest Trend in Laptops

Since the redesign of Apple's MacBook Air, ultraportables have been a hit with consumers. The specifications on an ultraportable can vary greatly, but loosely defined, any laptop that weighs under 3 lbs. qualifies. For our Black Friday prediction, we specifically researched deals on 12" ultraportables with a Core i5 processor throughout the past two years. What we found was that this once prohibitively expensive category of travel-friendly laptops has fallen to as low as $499 in 2012.

In the summer months leading into Black Friday 2011, these ultraportables were averaging $714, and they dropped to $574 on Black Friday. So far this year, ultraportables have bottomed out at $499, so we will in turn predict that they will hit a new low of $399 this Black Friday.

Summary: Black Friday Predictions for Laptops

  • 17" desktop replacement with Core i7 & 8GB RAM for $525
  • Basic 15" to 16" Laptop with dual-core processor for $179
  • Mainstream 15" to 16" Laptop with Ivy Bridge Core i5 CPU & 4GB RAM for $364
  • 12" Ultraportable Laptop with Core i5 CPU for $399

Gaming Deals

Compared to other product categories, game console deals on Black Friday are a bit ho-hum. Last year, most of the deals we listed on these items featured statements like, "That's the lowest price we've seen... since last fall." Black Friday deals offered good price cuts, but nothing we hadn't seen before. This is probably because both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are now several years old, and without a newer generation to out-date them, they can only go so low.

What prices, then, should a consumer keep in mind? We saw the Xbox 360 Slim 4GB Console fall to $140 shipped last year around Black Friday, and considering it hasn't dropped that low since, we'd wager that's about as good a promotion you'll see this year, too. We did however list a deal in December that offered the console for $200 with a $75 Microsoft Store credit (which could easily be used for games), thus making it essentially $125; though risky, you could try skipping Black Friday all together and holding out for a similar deal this year as well. As for Sony's console, we didn't list any noteworthy PlayStation 3 console-only deals last year, but the lowest price we've seen for the 160GB Slim model is $200 even, so that remains the price to look for.

Real console deals spring up in special bundled packages. Not a single straight console saw an Editors' Choice-worthy price last year, but there were 14 holiday bundles that were marked with the honor. These bundles, which included premium accessories and two or three game titles, were often marked 30% to 40% off their retail prices.

What About the Nintendo Wii and Wii U?

While logical thinking might suggest that the original Wii will now see record-breaking low prices with the debut of the Wii U, we actually haven't seen any stellar offers on new units. Instead, the Editors' Choice deals have been for used and refurbished models. It's possible that this long-awaited update allowed retailers to efficiently clear their stock of the older model.

The Wii U, meanwhile, has proven very popular in preorders; it officially ships on November 18. While the original Wii saw no deals at Black Friday in 2006, it's now more common for big retailers to list an attention-grabbing offer on popular items as a means of publicity to draw in customers. For example, in September, Walmart offered a slight discount on the iPhone 5 — a product that in no way needed the added incentive. It's possible that some stores could float a similar promotion with the Wii U.

Video Game Titles Will See Better Price Cuts

A console is only as good as its available games, and luckily, the news is much better in this department. Video game titles that were released early in the year, or late in 2011, could see discounts of up to 75% off their original retail price; for example, DiRT 3 debuted in May of last year at $60, but come Black Friday it fell to $15.

But even recently-released, hot titles will see good deals. Last year, one of the biggest game releases was Batman: Arkham City, and it hit shelves in October of 2011 priced at $60. Just over a month later, we saw a deal from Amazon that knocked it to $30. That's a 50% cut on a very popular game. This trend repeated itself for Battlefield 3. It was released in October at $60, and then it fell to $28 on Black Friday. Keep in mind though that several of these video games might see even better prices during the shopping sweet spot in the two weeks before Christmas.

A Gamer's Black Friday Game Plan

Regardless of whether you're looking for a game, a console, or an accessory, one thing's for sure: gamers should shop early. Last year, we listed 67 video game deals (which included consoles and game titles), on Thanksgiving Day, compared to just 26 on Black Friday itself. Saturday, Sunday, and Cyber Monday each had 25 or fewer deals. PC gamers might want to log on even earlier; for the past two years, Steam has offered its big promotional sale starting the day before Thanksgiving. In both cases, the site has taken up to 90% off notable titles like Portal 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops. Regardless of what the platform is, it's important to start looking for deals before Black Friday.

Summary: Black Friday Predictions for Gaming

  • Microsoft Xbox 360 4GB Slim Console for $140
  • Holiday game console bundles for 30% to 40% off retail price
  • Early-year game releases for 75% off retail price, or about $15
  • Recently-released, popular game titles for 50% off retail, or about $30

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