Black Friday has become more and more of a misnomer. As we noted when we first started seeing “early Black Friday” sales pop up earlier this month, what started out as a weekend of sales to help people get ahead of their holiday shopping has turned into a weeks-long barrage of breathless promotions.
Nevertheless, with the actual Black Friday arriving this week, various retailers appear to have set many of their Black Friday deals live in earnest. Target, Best Buy, and many more have started explicitly advertising their sales as such, with Amazon and others price-matching many of the better offers.
As usual, though, much of these sales aren’t worth your time. Sometimes, a price isn’t really a discount; other times, a product is just mediocre. So, to help those who want to get a jump start on their gift-getting, we’re poring over every Black Friday sale we can find (“early” or not) and compiling the deals we consider genuinely good, based on price histories, our own testing, and user feedback from around the web.
We’ve given special mention to a few particular highlights below, and we’ve noted each product’s street price—i.e., its usual going rate online, which we calculate using price history tools—in crossed-out parentheses. We’ll continue updating this list as we get closer to the official shopping holiday itself.
Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.
Featured early Black Friday deals
A PlayStation Plus subscription nets you a handful of free games each month and is still required to access most online functionality for Sony’s consoles. While it’s not the lowest price we’ve ever tracked, this deal nevertheless brings a good chance to save if you need to top up your membership for another year.
For Xbox players, meanwhile, a three-month subscription to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate service is also $20 off. As a reminder, this one covers both Xbox Live Gold—which is required to play most Xbox games online—and access to a big library of worthwhile games, including recent notables like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, among hundreds of others. This deal is applicable to all, but note that if you’re new to Game Pass and only play on PC, you can currently get three months of Game Pass for PC for $1.
A whole lot of video game deals
Black Friday has long been a good time to pick up a new video game, and this year looks to be no different. We have a list of notable deals below, but some highlights include a handful of first-party Switch games down to $27 at GameStop (undercutting the Black Friday offers Nintendo previously advertised), a couple of $20 off deals on acclaimed PS5 exclusives in Returnal and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, and all-time lows on recent well-reviewed games like It Takes Two, Hitman 3, and Psychonauts 2, among many others.
Amazon’s Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 tablets remain good values for anyone looking to buy a functional slate for as little money as possible. They’s still far from iPads in terms of build quality, performance, and app support, and they still annoyingly push Amazon content and lock-screen ads. But if you can live with that, they’re altogether fine for simple web browsing and streaming, which is enough for hundreds of dollars less.
Amazon has put nearly the entire Fire tablet lineup on sale for Black Friday, but the best pick for most is likely the Fire HD 10 for $75, which is the lowest price we’ve tracked. It’s a bit faster than the Fire HD 8, and its 10.1-inch 1080p has both a higher resolution and more room for watching video or reading ebooks.
We’ve seen this deal a few times this month, but it remains the best price we’ve tracked for our top pick among wireless noise-canceling headphones. Sony’s WH-1000XM4 is comfortable and rich with useful features, with a sound profile that’s fun and bass-heavy by default but can be customized to your liking through a companion app. Battery life is strong at about 30 hours. Its active noise cancelation (ANC) and sound quality isn’t as strong as that of Apple’s class-leading AirPods Max (which is $50 off itself), but for hundreds of dollars less, it’s more than close enough.
Bose’s QuietComfort 45 (also on sale for $279) is a bit more comfortable and has a more neutral sound by default, but neither its ANC nor its battery life are as strong, and it lacks useful features like ear detection and an adjustable EQ tool. For a cheaper option, Bose’s older QuietComfort 35 II is down to $179 and still offers strong ANC, a more neutral sound, and a nicely lightweight design. It charges over the ancient microUSB, however, and again, it isn’t as effective as the XM4 in terms of ANC, battery life, or general feature set.
Currently, if you buy a $100 Apple Gift Card at Target or Best Buy, both retailers will throw in a $15 gift card to their respective stores for no extra cost. Each card involved in the offers is digital and will be sent over email. As a refresher, Apple Gift Card credit can be used toward purchases on the App Store, Apple subscription services, or in physical Apple retail locations. This is a fairly straightforward deal, but if you plan on making a few Apple-related purchases in the future anyway, it’s a nice little bonus.
It’s looking like a good week for those interested in buying a new wearable, as many of the picks in our guide to the best smartwatches are currently on sale. Unfortunately, we have not found any deals on our overall favorite, the Apple Watch Series 7, but the Apple Watch SE is available for a new low of $219.
This the next step down in Apple’s smartwatch lineup: its display doesn’t stay on when you put your wrist down, that screen is a smidge smaller, and it lacks the Series 7’s more involved health features like an ECG or blood oxygen monitor. But it otherwise looks and performs similarly, with the same rich app support, for a much lower price. It’s also noticeably faster than the budget-tier Apple Watch Series 3.
If you’re not an iPhone user or looking for more of a running watch, we also have discounts on several alternatives we like from Garmin, Fitbit, and Samsung below.
This is the lowest price we’ve seen on Azul, a board game we like and a past winner of the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award (which is the closest thing board games have to an official “game of the year” designation). Up to four players take turns collecting sets of tiles and slotting them into rows on their respective game boards. When a row is completely filled, one of its tiles is moved over into a square pattern to the right, garnering bonuses depending on placement.
It can be a little abstract for beginners to start, and there’s a twinge of “meanness” to it in the sense that you’re encouraged to actively deny other players’ scoring opportunities. But once you get the hang of it, turns go by quick (with games lasting about 20-30 minutes), and the whole thing often evokes a wonderful sense of tension and tactical thinking. Plus, the various tiles are just nice to look at.
This is the first notable discount we’ve seen for Google’s Pixel 5a phone. Ars’ Android guru Ron Amadeo definitively named this the best Android smartphone for most people in his review earlier this year, praising the Pixel 5a for packing a top-notch camera, clean and regularly updated software, good-enough performance, water resistance, and genuinely all-day battery life at an affordable price.
Of note: Google has advertised a $50 off deal for the higher-end Pixel 6 for Black Friday as well, but we have not been able to find that device in stock as of this writing.
Nintendo Switch + Mario Kart 8 Deluxe + Switch Online (3 months) for $299 (
$357) at Target, Best Buy
We’ll highlight this one more out of obligation than anything. This year’s Black Friday Switch bundle is the same one we’ve seen in years past, and it’s not exactly a showstopper: it includes the base Switch console, not the bigger and more vibrant Switch OLED; a digital copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which is still a good time but is a nearly five-year-old update to a seven-year-old Wii U game; and a three-month subscription to the base tier of Nintendo Switch Online, which remains far from essential to enjoying the console.
Still, we realize that there are still people looking to get on the Switch train in any capacity, so if you’re just hopping aboard, you might as well take whatever freebies you can get.
Headphone and audio deals
- Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless ANC headphones for $248 ($
330) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Apple AirPods Max wireless ANC headphones for $440 (
$490) at Amazon (discount seen in cart).
- Bose QuietComfort 45 wireless ANC headphones for $279 (
$329) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II wireless ANC headphones for $179 (
$275) at Amazon, Target.
- Jabra Elite 75t wireless ANC earphones for $80 (
$140) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless ANC earphones for $248 (
$278) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Beats Powerbeats Pro wireless earbuds for $150 (
$190) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Jabra Elite 45h wireless on-ear headphones for $60 (
$90) at Amazon, Best Buy.
- Marshall Emberton Bluetooth speaker for $130 (
$150) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
Smartphone and tablet deals
- Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet for $45 (
$80) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus tablet for $55 (
$100) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids tablet for $70 (
$125) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet for $75 (
$140) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus tablet for $105 (
$170) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids tablet for $120 (
$185) at Amazon, Best Buy.
Smartwatch and fitness tracker deals
- Apple Watch SE (40mm) smartwatch for $219 (
$279) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Fitbit Sense (40.5mm) smartwatch for $200 (
$270) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 (40mm) smartwatch for $200 (
$240) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Fitbit Charge 5 activity tracker for $130 (
$180) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Fitbit Inspire 2 activity tracker for $60 (
$95) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.
- Fitbit Luxe activity tracker for $100 (
$150) at Amazon, Target, Best Buy.