Mystery Shopper: Gloucester

This month, Mystery Shopper is on the prowl for a 3D laptop and 3D monitor in Gloucester, investigating the quality of the products now that the buzz around the sector has dropped to less hysterical levels?
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AD COMPUTING

I INFORMED the member of staff of my interest in obtaining a 3D PC, and he looked at me puzzled. “I don’t know if I can really help you. I don’t know all that much about 3D, it’s not very readily available. I don’t know enough to know who or what to recommend.” He then added, jokily: “I’m still getting used to colour.”

I asked if he had any idea which brands would be best. “I would stay away from HP, because they tend to have reliability issues and we don’t always get on so well with them as a result. With graphics, they are about the same. You can’t really weigh one better than the other, you’ll need to research for yourself. But for 3D then stick with Intel i5 and this should be fine. However, if you want more speed and for gaming, then you may want the i7. But Intel have probably got the better understanding of 3D, I guess, at the moment; again check the internet for better answers.”

I asked him what would be better – laptop or desktop. “If you intend to use it for gaming as well as for movies, then go with a desktop. If you find something else you like on the internet, come back and I can see if I can get a price for you; we can usually get most brands.”

He then apologised for his lack of knowledge: “I’m sorry I cannot help you more, we normally deal with schools and businesses who know exactly what they want, so I don’t get to know a lot.”
SCORE: 5/10


CURRYS DIGITAL

AFTER SEVERAL minutes I approached a sales assistant who was dusting, and asked for help. She gave me a nice smile but informed me that she would need to get another colleague to help me. Once I had explained my enquiry to the second assistant, he took me over to a computer terminal.

He went on to the internet and began to search for 3D PC information. The PC was very slow in responding and delivering its pages, but he remained patient. The waiting didn’t produce much conversation or questions, so I began. “If I wanted to watch 3D movies and play games should I consider a laptop or a desktop?” I received no direct response. He waited for the internet pages to load, and then continued searching for a few more minutes through a more pages. I’m not sure what he was looking for.

“What sort of processor would you recommend?” I asked, to break the waiting. “I guess an i5 or i7, based on their speeds and graphics handling. AMD are fine but not sure what the equivalents will be. The other thing is the quality of your graphics card. Nvidia do 3D cards, but the one we had used the old style Red and Blue lenses; you know, the cardboard type.”

As he continued to look through yet more pages, I asked what 3D products the business stocks. He replied: “We don’t have anything in store at the moment. You’ll probably find that our bigger megastores range more.”

I was told that Acer and Toshiba offer good value, whilst HP and Sony offer better quality and reliability. HP was commended for its after sales service. Eventually he printed out some information for me from Mesh’s website. Overall he was more than helpful. Although there was little conversation, I managed to obtain most of the information needed.
SCORE: 7/10


EASTGATE COMPUTERS

I STOOD FOR a few minutes and eventually I was asked if I needed help. I walked over to the counter and explained my needs. The salesman remained seated so had to look up at me and with a slight smile, maybe a smirk, looking through his glasses, I could see a bemused look as he processed my request. “I will try and see what I can find out for you, just bare with me.” After a few questions, I was given a print-out of information. “3D is still fairly new for PC, and for once TV has beaten PC with something new like this. But for PC it is still being put together.”

He had found information about an Acer laptop, AS5745DG-374G32Mnks, with a 15.6-inch screen. “This Acer laptop comes with an i3 processor, which is fine, but if you want to use it for 3D games, then you will get far better results with an i7 processor. i7 has been built with gaming in mind. Much better speeds and more efficiency."

I asked if there were any brands I should go for. “If we build you a tower so you can use 3D games better, then we will only use good quality components. We would make sure we got a 3D certified screen, put in all the appropriate software, memory, storage and Blu-ray needed. But if you do go the laptop route we can get all the best brands."

“To be honest, if you want to go with a laptop then wait a little longer. I think they are too expensive at the moment, because there are limited models at present. But if you want us to build you a tower then this will be better value. If I take a guess I would estimate around £1,400.

I asked the store assistants if I needed to know any more. They both looked at each other and shook their heads. One said, as I was leaving: “Thank you for coming in and asking about 3D. Sorry for not being better clued up. I’ll do more studying and be better prepared when you return.”
SCORE: 8/10


COMET

I WAS TOLD by a member of staff that they only had 3D TVs in stock – no PCs. An assistant returned several minutes later and reported: “Yes, one of my colleagues said we used to stock an Acer 3D laptop, but we don’t have it anymore. I’m sure there will be more 3D in soon.”

I was told I’d need a Blu-ray reader, a base unit with 3D software, and a 3D monitor. “I recommend an i5 processor or better an i7. I’m not sure how well Athlon are doing at present, but I’m sure they will have something. You can also consider using a 3D TV as a monitor, you can easily connect a laptop or desktop to them by a cable, or wirelessly.

Another colleague joined the conversation, and advised me to use AMD processors. “I would recommend you look at Alienware monitors; they are made by Dell. Or if you really want the best of the best then research Origin Gaming, use their spec as your guide to a good monitor. You probably won’t want to pay their prices, they are very, very expensive. Also Nvidia I think have started doing a 3D card and glasses bundle. Alternatively, find out all the components you’ll need and get it custom built.

“But of course we would prefer you came back to us,” he added quickly.
SCORE: 7/10

PC World

I WAS ASKED rather routinely by a salesman if he could help. Once he was informed of my request he offered help that was simple and straight to the point. “All you need, if you want to upgrade your own PC, is a 3D graphics card and a 3D monitor.”

“As easy as that?” I asked. “Yes, should be,” he replied and I went on to ask him for his opinion on brands.

He responded: “Well, I have an Nvidia 3D card. I don’t use the 3D yet but I’ve got it ready in case I do. So personally I’d go for Nvidia, I use them and can say I know how good they are. ATi are just as good, it is just that most of us here use Nvidia and think they are better at the moment. It changes all the time though.”

I asked if they stocked 3D monitors, 3D laptops or towers. “No we haven’t got any here. Try our store at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol.”

I went on to ask what sort of processor I’d need. “At least an i5 or i7. Athlon have theirs but we mainly see Intel in our products, so i5 or i7, for speed and performance of 3D.”

He finished: “Get yourself a 3D card and a 3D monitor. You won’t need anything else. All the drivers will come with the products themselves.”
SCORE: 7/10

MAPLIN

AT MAPLIN, he began with saying “These are still cutting edge technologies. I don’t think we have them in stock just yet.”

After another colleague was called as backup, I was then told: “Stick with NVIDIA graphics cards. They have been doing 3D for longer, so I feel they have the better experience and performance at present. You’ll need a fast processor. I use Intel’s i7 myself and will only recommend it when asked to make a recommendation. Again stick with Intel, I just think, right now, they have got it right. Their chip is made very well especially the way it handles heat and how it produces power, but this is too much to go into right now.”

I was further advised to have 4GB minimum memory, but preferably 6GB DDR3, two x60GB Flash units and a solid state drive, and a Viewsonic FuHzion monitor.

I asked how much I should consider spending. “Between £1,000 and £1,500. This will be good quality. You can spend less, but it is about finding the sweet spot between cost and performance. For example, if you spend £50 extra you might gain an extra 70 per cent more benefit, but while the step after that is £50 too, the benefit is only another ten per cent.”
SCORE: 8/10

SUMMARY
THE LACK OF staff waiting to attend to customers’ needs and the lack of sales creating and closing was shocking. I know 3D is reasonably new to PCs but I was not ready to find out that all the stores visited had nothing to show me. They had nothing in stock or on their systems and could only inform me of what I could find on the internet. I also found that staff only knew about 3D from what they have read on the internet and that they had no actual experience of viewing it on PC other than at the cinema or on the TVs, if they worked in a electrical store.

I felt the information was helpful but there was nothing really positive behind what was being discussed and demonstrated by the retailers. However, the independent retailers who could offer to build a unit certainly stand a better chance of gaining 3D sales compared with the multiple stores who could show me nothing and could only advise me to wait and call back, maybe in a few weeks.

This Mystery Shop was conducted for PCR by infinite Field Marketing Solutions, a leading provider of field marketing services to the technology sector.

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