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In the midst of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, your head spins with vivid visions of electronic sugar plums, or at least sweet deals.

Considering the pandemic, many of you won’t be shopping at brick-and-mortar retail stores this holiday season.

You can order from local audio/video shops that will deliver and install while observing appropriate COVID-19 precautions.

You’ll be helping local people who might be your neighbors rather than one of the online behemoths.

Choose some entertaining distractions for the holidays. These range from 65-inch TVs to the newest smartphones.

My crystal ball doesn’t reveal the bargains you might find today or tomorrow, either locally or from online sources.

LG OLED TVs have tumbled considerably in price. I paid $2,200 for my 55-inch “B-class” model three years ago. The comparable set now sells for $1,300. The premium “C-class” LG 65-inch OLED TV, formerly about $3,000, currently retails for around $2,000.

Once you see the OLED picture quality, you might not want to return to ordinary LCD/LED screens. Samsung comes close with alternate technology, but OLED remains the ultimate.

In phones, Apple’s iPhone 12 (about $800) and 12 Mini (about $700) got nearly unanimous rave reviews, while critics panned Google’s new Pixel 5 Android phone.

Models from Samsung and, to a slightly lesser extent, OnePlus get mostly favorable reviews.

However, the new OnePlus Nord, which most reviewers consider one of the best values on the market at $500, is not yet available in the U.S.

Never buy an imported non-U.S.-model phone, because it may lack the frequency bands used by your cellular provider.

Incidentally, prices listed are for unlocked U.S. models. If you buy your phone through a carrier, it may be cheaper or offer timed payments built into your monthly bill.

Kudos to Apple for not making its phones obsolete every two years as do Android manufacturers. I have a perfectly good 2-year-old LG phone that is now two operating systems behind and has not received a security update in seven months.

Sony, an also-ran in smartphones, just released a great new model, the Xperia 5 II, with a 6.1-inch screen, for $950. It is narrower than most smartphones with similarly sized screens and includes an especially outstanding camera. It got several very favorable reviews. It is my current phone to lust after, although it’s beyond my budget.

If my budget concerns you, too, then several of Nokia’s phones offer plenty of features and performance for very reasonable $300-$500 prices.

It also introduced a new premium model with an almost-7-inch screen for $700. But as with most Android phones, it only offers two operating-system upgrades and a miserly 18 months of security updates.

Apple’s new iPads, especially the new base model at $329 and the new iPad Air at $599, offer significantly improved performance from their predecessors.

However, Apple has a major gotcha: If you want more memory than the standard 32 GB in the base model, you’ll pay $100 more for

128 GB. If you want more than the 64 GB that comes with the Air, you have to pay $150 extra for 256 GB.

This is pretty outrageous since memory prices are at an all-time low and that extra memory probably costs Apple about $10-$20. The Air includes the newest Wi-Fi 6.

As mentioned in the last column, the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 4 is a great e-reader for about $160, but frequently on sale. It makes e-reading easy. If the premium Oasis goes on sale for $200 or less, grab it.

A final gift is content for the hardware. You can give someone a year’s programming subscription, such as Netflix HD for about $168 a year; Hulu Plus with Live TV for about $780 a year; YouTube Premium for about $144 a year; and many others that range from $60 to $800 a year.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be reached at

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