Also, remember that circulars have to be printed several weeks before they actually appear, so you should also check each retailers' website for last-minute deals and specials offered in reaction to competitors' pricing.
In the coming weeks, we'lll be offering a complete Black Friday shopping guide to help you navigate all the different ads and offers to get the best deal. But in the meantime, here's a quick tip as you start to look through all the Black Friday ads: Distinguish between the so-called doorbuster specials designed to get people into stores—usually offered during very limited times and in very limited quantites—and lowest-of-the-year-prices on more widely available gear. Typically only those with the fortitude to get up at crazy hours are able to get the doorbuster specials, and often they're on no-name brands or models that haven't performed especially well in our Ratings.
One of the exceptions to that rule last year, though, was Walmart. For Black Friday last year, the retailer guaranteed the availability of three of its doorbuster specials—including a low-priced 32-inch TV from Emerson TV and a deal on Apple's iPad 2—for customers in line at the stores between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.
We expect to see new low prices for many electronic items this year, especially TVs. So keep checking back for all of our Black Friday news, advice, and top picks as we get closer to the shopping holiday.
—James K. Willcox