As you spent today watching the 90th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, making pumpkin pie recipes and learning how to cook a turkey or how to deep fry a turkey safely, watching NFL games between the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions, the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, and/or the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts as you monitor your Yahoo and ESPN fantasy football leagues or your FanDuel or DraftKings daily fantasy teams, there should be some questions bouncing around in your brain.
What are 2016's top gadgets? What is the best smartphone? And, most importantly, what are the best door buster Black Friday deals at Best Buy? What are the best Black Friday deals at Walmart? What are the best Black Friday Deals at Amazon? What are the best Black Friday deals at Target?
When buying a gift for your friends and family you really want to get them something that will last. You might think that would be hard to do with consumer tech gadgets that update and make themselves obsolete every year, but you'd be wrong!
The plastic that many of them are made with might end up being downcycled into a park bench somewhere or could end up in the giant swirling mess of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean, where it might stay long after we're all dead. The rare earth minerals that are increasingly needed for our touchscreens will be lost forever, but the holes we made to mine them will stay as a reminder of your gift. And the remnants of copper, lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and zinc might leach from electronics in a junkyard in Hong Kong into the water supply of the nearby population. If you want to make a long-lasting impact, these are the best Black Friday Deals of 2016.
1 MacBook Pro - $1499 - $1,999
No discounts here but you can't put a price on buying a computer that is both adored because it's Apple and hated because it's Apple. The good news: It's the most powerful MacBook Pro of all time. The bad news: Each of Apple's new MacBooks are essentially unrepairable, making them disposable and unupgradeable. Soldered-in RAM, a proprietary SSD, soldered-on charging and USB ports, and a glued-down battery means that if any one of those things go bad, the entire computer must be trashed. Apple's "must-shred" policies with many electronics recyclers means that if you break it and take it to a recycler, they won't even have the option of trying to get it repaired by an expert. At a recent visit to an electronics recycler, I saw dozens of recent MacBook Pros getting crowbarred into many pieces so they could safely be put through a shredder in hopes that they'll one day become a bench or something.
Buy this instead: A 2012 MacBook Pro without retina display, which is user-upgradeable and repairable. It's easy to remove the computer's CD drive and replace it with an SSD drive that will make it much faster. Its RAM can also be replaced, giving it the potential—even today—to be one of the fastest laptops Apple makes.
2 Microsoft Surface Pro 4 ($799 at Microsoft, originally $999)
One of the most powerful and best tablets ever manufactured, Microsoft is pushing its Surface Pro 4 tablets hard this Black Friday. Do not drop your shiny new tablet, though, because the display assembly is next-to-impossible to replace should it crack. Glue is used to connect many of its components, which makes taking it apart treacherous and helped earn it a dubious 2-out-of-10 on iFixit's repairability score.
Buy this instead: The HP Elite X2 got a perfect 10 on iFixit's repairability scale. I cannot stress how rare this is: HP offers repair instructions and sells repair parts online (!!!!! essentially no electronics manufacturer does this!!!!). The tablet uses no glue, uses standard screws, and essentially everything is removable and replaceable. Its specs are not quite as good as the Surface Pro 4, but are still very high end. Prices start around $1,000 but check eBay and Craigslist for deals.
3 Fitbit Alta ($99.95 at Best Buy - regularly $129.95)
Speaking of the electronics recycling center I recently visited—I saw box after box of recently released fitness trackers being "disassembled" by a woman with a hammer. Literally thousands upon thousands of fitness trackers in boxes that you could store a few humans in, if you wanted to. Each and every dead fitness tracker must have its battery removed—a tedious, soul-sucking job that must be done by hand. If shredded by a machine, the batteries will catch fire, so it's a necessary job.
It's not even clear any of us actually want fitness trackers: Study after study has shown that roughly half of all fitness trackers aren't being used just a few months after being purchased. Best Buy alone has seven separate fitness trackers on sale Black Friday, 3.5 of them will end up in a drawer or the trash in six months (just kidding that's not how math works).
Buy this instead: Look, you can buy a fitness tracker but make sure you or the person you're giving it to is actually going to use it. Maybe do a trial run with the fitness tracker embedded in your phone and see if it's something that's actually going to make a difference in your life. Buy one that's waterproof and has great specs, and then don't buy a new one every single year.
4 - Epson Expression Home XP-434 Wireless Small-in-One Printer ($49.99 at Target—regularly $89.99)
Because of its many moving parts, printers are considered one of the least reliable and most-often disposed pieces of technology. The business model of cheap printers and expensive, proprietary ink cartridges has resulted in us tossing out printers whenever they break instead of repairing them. Remember how, throughout most of the early 2000s, you could get a free printer with mail-in rebate just about any week at Best Buy? Let's check in with those printers. Earlier this year, the Basel Action Network placed GPS trackers in a few dozen printers "recycled" at American recycling centers. Many of these GPS trackers ended up in Hong Kong. BAN's Jim Puckett flew to Hong Kong to check out a junkyard where one of them ended up and reported what he found:
"A shocking site was found beyond the gate. A massive assembly of printers and fax machines of all kinds lay jumbled in a long pile about 15 feet high and stretching about 150 feet in length, from one end of the property to another. The parts of the yard not covered in printers were sooty mud, made black from the constant dumping and release of toners. At one end of this pile were the workstations where printers were broken open and the component parts separated as to whether they were circuitry, steel, or plastic. The separated plastic printer housings were being baled; a good deal of the yard consisted of these bales, streaked with the black of toner."
You can save $40 on this one at Target though.
Buy this instead: Print things at your office, or somewhere where there's already a reliable printer. Go paperless on as many things as possible.
5 - Amazon Dash Button - $4.99
Electronics Takeback, a nonprofit recycling-minded group, noted that Amazon's Dash buttons, which allow you to order things off Amazon by pressing the button (and literally allow you to do nothing besides that) "seem more like future e-waste than must-have devices."
"Our guess is that most people will just toss it into the trash, unaware that there is a AAA battery inside, plus a circuit board and electronics—things that should be recycled, not trashed," the group wrote. "They should be recycled because they likely contain some of the toxic chemicals commonly found in electronics, which shouldn't end up in the landfill."
If recycled, my heart weeps for the poor souls who will have to dismantle Amazon's inherently disposable, one-specific-use Dash Buttons. These aren't on sale on Black Friday, but they were on sale earlier this month and go on sale pretty regularly. They are also free-with-rebate if you actually use them to buy something.
Buy this instead: Use Amazon's one-touch mobile ordering or its subscription program. Or, just don't buy these and buy products the old-fashioned way—at the store.
This has been Motherboard's annual Black Friday special.