Weekend Walmart tech deals for geeks, gamers

Halloween is behind us, and it's almost time to start thinking about holiday gift shopping. Black Friday is just a few weeks away and the crazy deals will not doubt be flowing like leftover Thanksgiving gravy.

But those rascals at Walmart are an impatient bunch. Instead of waiting for Black Friday, they've invented Charcoal Gray Saturday, and it occurs this weekend. On November 7th a couple of very interesting tech deals are hitting the local Wally World.

First up is a $300 laptop. It's an HP Pavilion with a 15" (1366 x 768 maximum resolution) screen, 3GB ram and 250 GB of drive space. It comes with Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit, installed. The downside is the Intel Celeron processor (2.2 Ghz) but still, for $300 this is a pretty sweet deal; you get a full sized laptop for the price of a netbook. Rumor mill states that every Walmart will have "at least 10" of these for sale, which probably means no more than 10 at any one store, but we'll see. I'd get there well before the store opens just to be safe.

Next is a Microsoft Xbox 360 Arcade unit going for its usual $199, but coming with a $100 gift card for that day (while supplies last). Normally I'd steer people far away from the Arcade SKU because it has no hard drive, and Microsoft's hard drive pricing is ridiculously steep. You could use the $100 gift card towards a 120 GB hard drive ($134 at Walmart) but that brings your total to $233 and for $299 you can get an Xbox Elite (120 GB drive) with 2 games and a headset.

The real value in this Xbox Arcade deal is for existing Xbox 360 owners. If you have an older Xbox with no HDMI port and one of the chipsets that lead to horrific reliability problems (the red-ring-of-death) this is a great way to upgrade to newer hardware on the cheap. Buy the Arcade system from Walmart for (effectively) $99, take it home, move the hard drive from your existing Xbox onto it, then trade your old Xbox in at a Gamestop. They're running an 'extra $25' deal on trade-ins of console hardware until November 8th, according to their website. Gamestop doesn't advertise what it normally offers for trade-ins but I've heard from users anywhere from $50-$75. For the sake of argument let's assume $50, but with the bonus (as long as you go by November 8th) you'll get $75. So for an outlay of $199 you wind up with a brand new Xbox to replace your old one, and $175 in store credit from Walmart and Gamestop. Not a bad deal.

Disclaimer: My figures are based on information on the Walmart and Gamestop websites, and I won't be held responsible if they change. You should call and confirm prices before undertaking this rather elaborate scheme. In particular it would be good to know exactly how much Gamestop is willing to give you for your old Xbox 360, and to confirm that $25 bonus. I suspect Gamestop will be awash in used Xbox 360s this coming weekend.

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