There was an ocean of customers swarming through the store. Many of the sales guys were busy helping people or busy with general day-to-day tasks. After a few minutes, and no-one in the vicinity to help, I approached the PC Help counter and was greeted by an energetic and enthusiastic chap. I said I was looking for a Media Centre PC.
These few words caused a dropped face. I wasn't sure why. Things became clear as we walked towards the PCs: "We only have two models, both of which I'm not sure if we have in stock – I'll have to check."
He showed me the HP Pavilion S3220. This was priced at £459.99. I decided to test his knowledge. "Does it play Blu-ray?" I asked. "No," he replied, "but, if it's important, it'd probably better to look at a dedicated player."
He took me over to a second machine, the Philips HEPC 7500, priced at £499.00, adding: "This would be an ideal piece of kit for your living room." This intrigued me. "Oh really, does it have Blu-ray or a HDMI output?" I asked.
At this point, I think he realised I was holding back on just how much I knew about media PCs. With a quick look behind the unit, a firm, "no," was retorted. "Your best bet is to look on our website sir; it has all the latest deals and specs." I could see he felt defeated.
The overall experience was good and without technical jargon. He didn't overplay his knowledge and wasn't pushy in his approach. The choice of PCs was minimal.
I took a quick walk round the store before being approached by a young salesman asking if I wanted assistance. I told him that I was looking for a Media PC to connect to my HD flat screen. He gave me a similar re-action to the guy in PC World – it was as if I was asking for a Betamax player.
I glanced towards his name badge and realised I was talking to a trainee. The gentler side of me took over. '"It's one of these," I said, pointing towards the Sony Vaio TP1. His face lit up. He took the opportunity to explain the many media features including the storage of music, films and photos.
He suggested that since I was using a HDTV that I may want to benefit from Blu-ray, which is something that is not available on the TP1. Okay, I thought, believing that he was going to show me the TP2. Instead, he took me to a TV displaying the Sony Vaio VGX-XL202. It was twice the cost and size of the TP1 (£680.00).
Noticing the TP2, I asked him to tell me more about it. Whilst he picked up on the colour and RAM difference, he didn't mention the most important aspect – the addition of a Blu-ray player. Overall the range was good.
I wasn't fully through the door before I was greeted by a cheery man behind the counter of this small, independent store. I explained that I needed a media PC to connect to my new HDTV and asked if he could help.
He looked around his store for moment glancing at his stock and said: "If you can't see what you want, I will build." I decided to wander round to check out if there was anything that would remotely look cool in a living room, before noticing an Antec Fusion case.
He must have been paying as much attention to me as I was to the cases because as I turned to him to ask further details, he blurted out that I was making a good choice, before thrusting a catalogue illustrating more cases by the same manufacturer.
As PC cases go it looked like a hi-fi separate, so would not look out of place in any living room. As I continued to look around, the salesman came from behind the counter to join me in my search.
He explained differing types of motherboards, adding that he could supply products which supported High Definition. I could see unless I was planning to buy there, our conversation had come to an end. This was by far the best store I had visited so far.