Black Friday: There are good buys and there are CR Best Buys

Consumer Reports News: November 17, 2011 11:53 AM

Search on “Black Friday ads" and you’ll find a number of websites competing to be the first to feature online versions of the holiday shopping circulars that arrive in your newspaper. But now retailers are beating those shopping sites at their own game by posting sales on Facebook and Twitter. So far we’ve seen bargains on coffeemakers and other small appliances but some of the prices are so low we wonder if you’re getting a good deal or a raw deal.

In our survey of 16,000 Consumer Reports subscribers who made recent appliance purchases, Amazon.com and Abt Electronics, which also ships nationwide, were judged best for price, selection and all-around experience. Our subscribers also liked QVC for small appliances as well as their local independent dealers. We can’t vouch for all the appliances you’ll see on sale but here are some of Consumer Reports recent Best Buys. Use the Price & Shop feature on our Ratings charts to compare prices at a number of different retailers.

Coffeemakers
At prices ranging from $35 to $53, the Mr. Coffee BVMC-SJX33GT is a CR Best Buy. The brew performance of the 8- to 14-cup model was excellent and convenience and carafe handling was very good. When not on sale, the 12 drip coffeemakers on Consumer Reports recommended list range in price from $40 to $130. Pod coffeemakers typically cost a bit more with recommended models priced from $130 to $150.

Mixers
The KitchenAid Classic stand mixer is a perennial favorite and a CR Best Buy. We’ve seen prices ranging from $179 (Lowes.com) to $270. In Consumer Reports tests it was aces at whipping, mixing and kneading but our testers found it a bit noisy. The Hamilton Beach Eclectrics stand mixer we tested is also a CR Best Buy and ranges in price from $150 to $252. It didn’t knead as well as the KitchenAid but it was quieter. If you don’t want to spend three figures for a gift, the two CR Best Buy hand mixers can be had for less than $40.

Toasters and toaster ovens
At about $35, the Hamilton Beach Digital 22502 two-slice toaster, a CR Best Buy, wasn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread but it toasted evenly and was a cinch to use. If you have more counter space, you might want to opt for a four-slice toaster or even a toaster oven. The Cuisinart CPT-190 toaster, which ranges in price from $85 to $100, earned a CR Best Buy as did the Oster TSSTTVMNDG toaster oven, which at $75 to $97 was a bargain too. In addition to making good toast, it was very good at baking and broiling.

Cookware
Consumer Reports recommends 13 different sets of cookware that range in price from $160 to $540. But our CR Best Buy, the non-stick EarthPan with Sand Flow, can be found for as little as $130 at both Amazon.com and Walmart.com, according to our Price & Shop results. The 10-piece set cooked evenly, had sturdy handles and was easy to clean. If you prefer your cookware uncoated, the three sets we recommend range in price from $400 to $540.

Knives
The CR Best Buy of our knife sets was a Ginsu Chikara, an eight-piece forged set that can be found online for as little as $60. Our testers said the knives were champs at cutting and the handles were comfortable. Consumer Reports also tested some knives endorsed by celebrity cooks Paula Deen and Rachel Ray but found they didn't make the cut.

Blenders
The Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004 blender was a whiz at crushing ice and making icy drinks and held up well after multiple ice-smashing sessions. You can find it online for $50 or less. Of the 11 blenders we recommend, it’s the least expensive. Compare that to the Vita-Mix 5200, which performs similarly but typically sells for $450. It’s one of our recommended models. We also recommended three immersion blenders, the CR Best Buy is the Miallegro Professional MiTutto 9090, which sells for $50 and includes several attachments.

Vacuum cleaners
An upright vacuum can cost as much as $900 or even more. But for $50 the Dirt Devil Featherlite Bagless M085845 sold at Target was a good performer in our tests and a CR Best Buy. The 13-pound bagless upright has HEPA filtration and was excellent at removing pet hair, a vacuum’s toughest task. At that price, you can buy one for your second floor and avoid lugging your main vacuum up and down the stairs. Now, that's a gift.

Mary H.J. Farrell


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