Mystery Shopper: Milton Keynes

This month our intrepid mystery shopper goes hunting for a brand new tablet that he can use primarily for apps and surfing...
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John Lewis
As I entered this very spacious store I was approached by an assistant. I explained my needs and he led me over to an end cap displaying two tablets. He told me: “Both work on Android Honeycomb 3.1, which is the latest version available”.

When I asked which one he thought was best, he couldn’t decide so tried to switch them on, but they would not start up. He looked embarrassed by this.
He went on to tell me about the Motorola Xoom tablet, priced at £479, which has a 10.1-inch screen, dual core processor and 1GB RAM, along with 5MP camera, Wi-Fi and ten-hour battery.

The assistant also said: “You can download all the apps you want from the Android market, as there are plenty of them there.”

He then went on to talk about the Acer Iconia tablet A500, priced at £449. The only significant difference from the Motorola Xoom was that this one had an eight-hour battery.

I asked him again which one he thought was the best, but he still couldn’t decide, saying: “They are equally good”. I asked him if he could give me information to take away and he directed me to the John Lewis website as he did not have anything.

l was disappointed with the lack of models in store, especially as the two I saw were similar and would not switch on. I felt the assistant was not all that helpful and unable to offer further information.
Score: 6/10


Comet

This is a fairly big store and had a number of customers browsing around the aisles. I walked straight over to the tablets section. There was lots to choose from and it was all neatly displayed with the prices and specs on show.

A man approached me and asked how he could be of assistance. I told him what l was looking for, and straightaway he asked: “Would you be using it as a laptop or are you looking to replace a desktop?”

I told him I wanted to use it for surfing the internet, and he suggested the Acer Iconia W500 tablet, priced at £449.99. He said: “It is great for surfing the net and great for doing PowerPoint, Word and Excel. It uses on the Windows 7 operating system, which really gives you a laptop on the go.” He also told me that if l wanted a fuller version l would have to pay a further £69, which could be bought in store.

He went on to tell me that it is compatible with Adobe Flash, while some of them are not. It also had six hours of battery life, 32GB internal memory, two-in-one media slots for extra memory, HDMI output and he said it would be simple to get to grips with.

The assistant gave me a demonstration, showing me the home screen, how to open up documents and how easy it was to use.

When I asked about downloading apps, he said: “This is not an Android tablet so will not do that, but as it’s a Windows machine you can install other programs instead.” He pointed towards the Acer 10.1-inch Iconia A500 tablet and told me that this one was Android, priced at £349.99.

The salesman’s suggestion of the Acer Iconia W500 was positive, giving me the option of Windows 7, but it was rather expensive for something that l want to use to surf the internet. However, his customer care skills were very good.
Score: 7/10

PC World
Outside I saw a large poster advertising a Blackberry tablet, so l presumed it would be recommended as a good one to buy.

The store was busy when I entered, but with plenty of staff available. As soon as l walked in l was greeted by an assistant.

When I told him what l was looking for, he walked me over towards the neatly displayed tablet area.
He suggested going for an Android tablet, because of the memory capacity and the operating system.

First he pointed to the Motorola Xoom, priced at £479.99. He said: “This has the latest version of Android and the fast operating Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core processor. It also has wi-fi and has a ten-hour battery life with 32GB capacity and a camera for chatting face to face on the internet.

“If you want something a bit cheaper but still good, you should look at the Asus ten-inch Transformer which is priced at £379.99,” he told me, pointing towards another tablet. It had the latest version of Android, Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core processor, Wi-Fi, eight-hour battery life and a camera,

He went on to add: “It does only have 16GB internal memory compared to the Motorola Xoom’s 32GB, though.” When I then questioned him about the memory, he told me, “You can probably get 300 applications downloaded from Android in 1GB”.

Ultimately, it was quite a short visit. l was told about the specifications of the tablets that were recommended, but not given a demonstration He just told me to mess around with the tablets by myself to see which l thought was best. Not ideal.
Score: 6/10


Currys
I browsed around the tablets for a few minutes and could see that they were all demonstration-ready so customers could use them live.

A salesman asked what I was after. I explained my needs and he told me that l should go for the Motorola Xoom, priced at £479.99. He said: “This has Flash, unlike the Apple tablet. You can still download lots of apps too”.

He added that the Motorola Xoom had the latest version of Android, and a dual core processor, and ran through the other features. He went on to add that the reason most people choose it is because they already have an Android handset and know the simplicity of using it.

The assistant gave me a demonstration, showing me how easy it is to slide your finger across the screen to tap the widgets and how the desktop looks.

He mentioned the HTC displayed on an end cap, but said: “It does not have the latest version of Android so I don’t recommend it”. He also said: “The problem with Apple tablets is that you can’t expand the memory, but with the Motorola you can”.

The assistant was not pushy and wanted to explain why he thought the Motorola was good compared to other tablets. I would recommend visiting Currys for the advice and live demonstration.
Score: 8/10


Maplin

Everything in store was neatly displayed with POS clearly next to it. The tablets were in a glass cabinet at the back of the store.

An assistant asked what sort of tablet I was looking for, then made a recommendation of the Viewpad Dual Boot Android/Windows 7. He explained: “When booting up you can choose to use Windows 7 or Android for either work or play,” which was different to what I’d seen in other stores.

He went on to tell me that it had a HD touch-screen, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 1GB memory, 16GB SSD, Micro SD card reader, two USB ports and a 1.3MP web camera. It seemed small but powerful.

He said they only had display models in store at the moment so I could not try one out, which was a pity. I mentioned that l had never heard of the Viewpad. He replied: “Oh, Viewsonic make lots of things like monitors, projectors and digital frames.”

l liked the idea of a dual boot Windows 7 and Android tablet. The assistant gave simple explanations as to why it was good to have both. I was however disappointed that I could not get a demonstration of the product, or even purchase one, as only the display models were available. I would recommend visiting the store for their advice and you might be able to buy one when they are in stock.
Score: 8/10


Staples

The store was fairly busy with a big section of play tables for the laptops and PC all-in-ones.

Whilst walking towards the laptops to find the tablets I was greeted by an assistant. He walked me over towards the tablets and told me he would recommend the Asus Transformer, priced at £429.99. He said: “They have just come into the store and I love them; it has the latest version of Android with a 5MP Camera and 2.1MP front-facing camera.” He went on to add that it supported Adobe, had wi-fi, eight hours of battery life, a 10.1 multi-touchscreen and 16GB in memory.

He demonstrated this tablet, which seemed fast and simple to use. He could not show me the Android Market though as they did not have internet in the store, which was a shame.

The assistant pointed out that the tablet could also be used with a keyboard dock, which would charge the device, too. He said: “You have two options to buy the Asus Transformer: you could buy it by itself for £379.99 or with the keyboard for £429.99.

My experience at Staples was excellent; the assistant was the only one to suggest an add-on sale, and he ensured a high level of customer care. Overall, he explained everything in easy to understand terms.
Score: 9/10

Summary
Overall, it’s apparent that there are plenty of tablets to choose from in the market.

I found that John Lewis Milton Keynes had not really grasped the fact that tablets are becoming ever more popular, as they only had two on display and the assistant struggled to switch them on.

It was also a shame that I could not try the Viewpad in Maplin, which otherwise looked very good, and that the models were hidden away in a glass cabinet.

l was most impressed by far with the Asus Transformer tablet that was recommended to me in Staples. The assistant was very enthusiastic about it and l could see why.

It was possible to dock the Asus onto a keyboard, effectively making it a netbook. With the extra battery life that provided, it definitely seemed like something worth shouting about.

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