In addition to a decent assortment of TVs—we saw models from Hanspree, LG, RCA, Sanyo, Sceptre, Seiki, Vizio, and Westinghouse—Walmart has a lot of cell phones and cell phone accessories plus a good selection of tablets. It also has a few laptop computers, some Bluetooth speakers, and streaming media players from Apple and Roku.
Walmart also has several popular iPad and iPod models, but its approach is to bundle them with an accessories kit rather than cut the price. The retailer is offering free shipping on items priced $50 or more, and you can genarally select a "ship to store" option if you'd like to pick up your purchases from a local outlet instead.
Based on these early deals, it looks like you can shave a few dollars off some popular items, but we haven't seen drastic price cuts, specially from Walmart. With TVs, Walmart seems to do better with lesser-known brands, such as Sceptre, than with better-known brands that are more widely available.
Due to their nature, Amazon's Lightning deals are harder to judge, but we'll be keeping an eye on some of the upcoming specials to see if there are big savings. We've also seen some pre-Black Friday deals from a few other retailers, including Best Buy and newegg.com, but so far nothing has really knocked our socks off.
Based on the deals we've seen, our advice so far is to hold out as long as you can to get even better deals as we get closer to the actual Black Friday holiday shopping weekend. Last year, for example, we didn't see big sales on major-brand TVs until the middle of November. But if you are enticed by one of these pre-Black Friday, it's best to check prices at a few other retailers—you may find that many of these so-called pre-Black Friday specials aren't really so special after all.
—James K. Willcox