3D Demos: Big-Box Retailer Shoot-out
Going on a 3D demo hunt? Here's what to expect from some popular retailers.
A couple from Manhattan’s Upper West Side bought the first Panasonic 3D TV bundle at the Best Buy in Manhattan’s Union Square. (Credit: CNET)
April 01, 2010 by Stephen Hopkins

3D is picking up steam. But before you take home a 3D TV, you’ll want to spend some quality time putting it through its paces to see if this whole 3D thing is really for you.

While I’m glad to make recommendations and comparisons of displays, here’s what to expect from the demos at some popular retailers.

Best Buy
I started my demo world tour at Best Buy, with a standard demo of the Samsung UN55C7000 combo, including display, Blu-ray player, glasses, and “Monsters vs. Aliens” on 3D Blu-ray.

The display was set up in an open but defined area of the TV section with leather theater recliners and HTiB surround sound. There was no Best Buy employee nearby, so I grabbed a pair of glasses (tethered by USB charging cable) and began enjoying the impressive depth of the image. 

The surroundings weren’t overly distracting, even as an associate in the adjacent aisle began a sales pitch with a customer. Lighting was somewhat harsh and caused some glare, but this was actually somewhat minimized by the tint of the active-shutter glasses. The glasses were tethered, but there was plenty of cable allowing for comfortable range of movement. While a dedicated demo area would be preferable, the space was surprisingly conducive.

It was almost 15 minutes into my self-initiated demo before I was approached by a sales associate. I was actually startled as he walked up behind me without me knowing and announced himself with a loud “Can I help you?” The somewhat nature of 3D, along with the impedance of peripheral vision caused by the glasses, might merit some employee training on how to approach an engaged customer.

After getting over the initial startling, I proceeded to ask the associate some questions regarding the Samsung combo and 3D technology. While fairly knowledgeable on model numbers and pricing, he was stumped on 3D basics like “will the TV convert 2D to 3D?” and “will other brands of glasses work with this set?” While he didn’t give any incorrect answers, he was without an answer for many key questions. When he went looking for a supervisor to try to answer those questions, he returned 10 minutes later empty-handed.

Overall, I was happy with the Best Buy demo environment given the drawbacks of an open demo area. But employee training needs to be beefed up, both technical and in consumer interaction.

Fry’s Electronics
While probably twice the size of my local Best Buy, the Fry’s TV and home theater demo areas are much more intimate than Best Buy’s, offering several smaller listening rooms and one dedicated front-projection theater.

The 3D demo (the Samsung UN55C7000 combo) was set up in one of these listening rooms. While it was in a dedicated space, it appeared to be a room for comparing speakers, with three walls of empty shelves and loose speaker wiring. There was a decent surround sound system accompanying the display/player/glasses, but there was no seating to facilitate a more comfortable extended viewing.

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Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.

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