Consumer Reports: Best Black Friday Deals in 2021

CR has found the best discounts on TVs and other tech

Black Friday (Pixabay)

Black Friday is less than two weeks away, and almost all of the major retailers have begun their sales. Consumer Reports has been tracking the deals on best products we’ve tested in our labs or tried in our homes to help you find what you want and need at a discount this holiday season.

Holiday shopping looks different this year. Between inventory shortages and expected shipping delays, we’re not seeing quite as many deals or discounts as big as you might expect for Black Friday. That just means that while there are still plenty of options, you may not be able to find the exact item you want on sale or get it in time for the holidays. So plan to be flexible as you shop this year’s Black Friday sales.

We are updating this list and others regularly to bring you the latest and greatest deals on home goods, electronics, and even large appliances.

Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II

You could spend top dollar on the latest noise-canceling headphones from Bose, or you could pick up an older model that gets the exact same score in our ratings. The Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II are still one of the top picks in our noise-canceling headphone ratings, with outstanding scores in our tests. They have a long battery life and other sophisticated features, such as adjustable levels of sound blocking and an ambient sound mode that lets outside noise in when you want to hear it.

Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony makes some of the best true wireless noise-canceling earbuds on the market, and the WF-1000XM4 is the company’s best model yet. You can expect exceptional audio quality and sound-blocking performance, our testing shows, as well as advanced features such as variable noise cancellation, which you can adjust to let in more or less sound, a monitor mode to actively pipe in audio from your surroundings, and the Speak-to-Chat function, which can automatically pause the music when you start talking.

According to Sony, the XM4 has a 5.5-hour battery life and comes with a portable charging case that holds 16 hours’ worth of power before it needs to be plugged in again. We’re not seeing jaw-dropping bargains on this model so far, but we have spotted a couple of worthwhile discounts.

Laptops, Chromebooks, and Tablets

Apple MacBook Air 13-Inch (2020, M1)

The latest MacBook Air offers strong performance in a highly portable package. This is the base model, which has 8 gigabytes of memory and 256GB of solid-state storage. It uses Apple’s new M1 processor, delivering not only fast performance but also up to 12.5 hours of battery life on a charge. The laptop weighs less than 3 pounds.

Lenovo IdeaPad 5 15ITL05

This deal starts on Nov. 21. It features a higher-end notebook with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of memory, 512GB of solid-state storage, and the new Windows 11 operating system. We tested a model with a Core i5 and it performed well in our labs, so this is a good all-around choice, though gamers may want to look elsewhere because it doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 (Core i5)

Released late in 2019, this 12.3-inch laptop has solid specs: a previous-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8 gigabytes of memory, and 128GB of solid-state storage. Our testers noted strong performance for everything from browsing the web to editing office documents to watching high-resolution streaming video.

If there’s one “but” here, it’s that the battery life is nothing special, coming in between 6 and 11 hours per charge depending on how hard you push it. Lighter tasks, such as browsing the web, will sip the battery; watching 4K videos will deplete it roughly twice as fast.

Mattresses

Essentia Stratami

The Essentia Stratami has been one of the top-ranking foam mattresses in CR’s ratings for several years. It’s good at supporting people of all sizes, whether they sleep on their side or back, but it earns the highest marks for supporting petite and average-sized people who sleep on their back. It meets two organic standards, the Global Organic Latex Standard and the Global Organic Textile Standard. The Black Friday Sale runs through Nov. 28 and gives shoppers 25 percent off everything but hybrid mattresses, replacement covers, and the Rabbit Air. The sale also includes two free Comfort Pillows, which CR hasn’t tested.

Tuft & Needle T&N Original Mattress

CR’s tests show that Tuft & Needle makes decent mattresses all-around. The Original got above-average scores in our tests for all side sleepers and middling scores for back sleepers. It also performed well in breathability tests, so it might be a good option if you sleep hot. But our testers found that this model may be softer than advertised, so be sure to read up on each model before you buy.

Small Kitchen Appliances

Ninja BL770

This Ninja food chopper ranks in the middle of CR’s ratings. It earns above-average scores for chopping onions for salsa or almonds for pies but gets only an average score for puréeing soups and scores below average for grating Parmesan cheese. It’s also a bit noisy. The 8-cup-capacity chopper has convenient touch-button controls and three speeds, and comes with accessories such as a dough blade, a blender attachment, and even a recipe book. It has a one-year warranty.

SodaStream Fizzi Soda Maker

The best budget soda maker in our ratings, the SodaStream Fizzi soda maker is also among the easiest to use. Simply insert your bottle top in a clamp, push the clamp into place, and press start. The Fizzi creates a consistent level of fizz when you press for the same amount of time. You can vary the carbonation by pressing for longer or shorter times. A plus: It doesn’t have to be plugged in, so it’s highly portable.

Smart Home

Arlo Essential Wireless Security VMC2030-100NAS

The Arlo Essential is one of the company’s best and most affordable wireless security cameras. Plus, it connects directly to WiFi without the need for the $100 Arlo Smart Hub. In our lab tests, it offers superb video quality, as well as strong data security for preventing hacks. Features include a built-in spotlight that allows for color night vision, a rechargeable battery, a siren, and voice control via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Cloud video storage and additional features (such as person, package, vehicle, and animal detection) require an Arlo Secure subscription. This camera usually costs $130 by itself, making this three-pack deal from Walmart a great buy.

Honeywell Home T9 RCHT9510WF

This smart thermostat from Honeywell does a great job of automating your heating and cooling, and it comes with a wireless remote temperature sensor for more precise temperature control throughout your home. It also offers a number of other features, including geofencing, a built-in occupancy sensor, a touch screen, vacation scheduling, and voice and app control via Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Samsung SmartThings. Additional temperature sensors cost $40 each or $75 for a two-pack, and are available at Amazon, Best Buy, and Honeywell Home.

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus

The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus is the best Ring model in our video doorbell ratings, with high scores for video quality and data security. Its features include a removable rechargeable battery, voice control via Amazon Alexa, monitoring zones, alert schedules, privacy zones that let you black out areas you don’t want to film (such as a neighbor’s house), and preroll video that gives you a 4-second clip of what happened before the doorbell detected motion. Costco sweetens the deal by throwing in a one-year Ring Protect Plus subscription (worth $100), which adds a rolling 60 days of motion-triggered video clips, photo snapshots between recordings, and person detection for all Ring cameras in your home.

Smart Speakers

Amazon Echo Show 8

The Show 8 has an 8-inch touch screen (ideal for displaying online recipes), responds to voice commands (useful when you’ve got messy hands), and has a camera that can adjust the focus to “follow” you as you move about the room on a video call. The device’s footprint is also significantly smaller than that of the new Show 10, which needs a beach-ball-sized space on the countertop to provide clearance for a rotating screen. As with many smart speakers, though, the Show 8′s sound quality is somewhat lacking, according to our testers, who noted the model’s strident high frequencies. If you buy the speaker at Kohl’s, you’ll also receive $15 in Kohl’s Cash, which can be applied to other purchases.

Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)

This smart speaker has a sleep tracking feature that uses a sensor described as a “miniature radar” to monitor your activity while you snooze. As for the sound quality, our testers were less than impressed. If you’re just looking for a device to deliver news and weather reports in the a.m., though, this is a nice offer, which starts Nov. 18 on Google. At Kohl’s, the deal includes $15 in Kohl’s Cash, which can be used on other holiday purchases.

Sound Bars

Samsung HW-Q65T/ZA

This model, which appears to be a Best Buy exclusive, is a full-featured 5.1-channel sound bar that comes with two wireless rear surround speakers, plus a wireless subwoofer. It’s well priced for its features, and it’s among the better-sounding sound bars in our ratings. Samsung advertises this model as a 7.1-channel system, but it’s not. It will, however, use a feature called Q-Symphony to sync the sound bar’s speakers to a compatible Samsung TV’s speakers. It also supports DTS Virtual:X, which uses signal processing to simulate a 3D audio experience.

Streaming Devices

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

This 4K stick-style player has a nice array of content and features—including voice control and Dolby Vision HDR—for the price. You can control it from Alexa-enabled devices such as the Echo and Dot, and use the included remote to control power and volume on many TVs and sound bar speakers. The Kohl’s deal starts Nov. 21.

This is an updated version of the player, which has an Alexa remote control with dedicated buttons for Amazon, Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix. Note that Target is selling an earlier version of the same streaming player, which is the one we tested in our labs.

Roku Streaming Stick+ Headphone Edition

This is an exclusive model made only for Best Buy. It has all the features of the Stick+ but comes with an enhanced voice remote that includes a headphone jack and Roku headphones for private listening, for just a bit more money.

TVs

LG OLED65BXPUA

This is LG’s entry-level OLED TV for 2020. The main difference between this set and the CX models that score just a bit higher in CR’s tests—at a price that’s roughly $200 more—is the slightly less-powerful processor. In the end, it performs similarly. And like all the LG OLEDs, it supports Dolby Atmos audio, which can give a soundtrack a three-dimensional effect.

Samsung QN60Q60A

This entry-level 4K QLED set is a few hundred dollars cheaper than it was a few weeks ago. Even better, we tested this model, and it’s a very nice set that delivers first-rate overall picture quality, and very good sound. Its HDR performance, though, has limited effectiveness.

Vacuums

Eufy 11S

You don’t need to shell out a grand for a good robotic vacuum. Typically selling for around $220, the Eufy 11S earns high scores in our carpet cleaning test and does even better on bare floors. Though it’s not the most efficient cleaner (testers noted that it sometimes scatters debris), it does the job, operates quietly (like many robotic vacuums), and has a cliff sensor to keep it from tumbling down stairs. This robotic vacuum isn’t WiFi-enabled, so you can’t control it remotely from a smartphone app, but that also means it can’t be hacked. Eufy robotic vacuums as a whole receive top marks for reliability, meaning this model is unlikely to break down within the first three years. Overall, CR members have been very satisfied with their Eufy models in our recent surveys. Make sure to click the on-page coupon before adding this model to your cart to get the full savings.

Shark APEX DuoClean Corded ZS362

The Shark Apex DuoClean aces all of CR’s cleaning tests, including earning top marks on our difficult carpet test. The DuoClean powerhead includes a bristle roller and a soft roller, so you can easily move from floor to carpet and back again. And this machine cleans itself by automatically clearing hair from the brush roll. The little vac is easy to maneuver under furniture, and it has LED lights. The dustbin pops in and out with ease and, unlike some other stick vacs, this one stands on its own, making it easier to store. In our member survey, Shark corded sticks rated among the best for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

Ranges

GE JBS86SPSS

This double-oven electric smoothtop range from GE is a stellar deal even when it’s full price. It offers two ovens, both with convection, two high-power burners, and a cooktop warming element. It’s also a good performer in our tests. One thing you’ll give up is self-cleaning, so be ready to use a little elbow grease (eventually) to get the cavity clean.

LG LRGL5823S

There’s a lot to like with this single-oven gas range from LG, especially at this price. Aside from a strong performance in our tests, it also offers loads of features you rarely find in models costing this little, most notably an air-fry setting in the oven. It has both a steam-clean setting for lighter messes and a full-power self-clean cycle for when the cavity gets really grimy.

Refrigerators

LG LRFCS25D3S

This LG French-door will give you a premium French-door aesthetic on a budget without sacrificing performance. We tested a variant of this fridge, the LG LRFCS2503S, and we expect this model to perform similarly. That fridge did well in all of our tests, but it really shined in our temperature tests, which should help minimize food spoilage. This 33-inch-wide LG features a stainless steel finish, an icemaker, a built-in water filter, spillproof shelves, and more.

Whirlpool WRS325SDHZ

Are side-by-sides more your style? If so, consider this 36-inch stainless steel Whirlpool. It offers decent performance across our tests but excels at minimizing warm and cold spots throughout the fridge and freezer cavities (no frozen veggies!). This model is a bit light on features, though, with the only major ones being a through-the-door water/ice dispenser and spillproof shelves. Still, at over $250 off the list price, this is a pretty good fridge for the money.