Good demos are key to showcasing bigscreen tech to punters
I recently visited a branch of Currys/PC World to make my seemingly monthly purchase of printer ink, and once I'd finished handing over a small fortune for a couple of teardrops of black liquid, I had a potter around the shop floor.
A few things caught my eye. Firstly, I couldn't see any optical audio cables on sale. Not a major controversy, I know, but as there are plenty of manufacturers choosing to use this old-school connection for their soundbars - including Sonos' new PlayBar - I'd hoped to find at least one.
Secondly, all the TVs (and there were plenty) were running an advert extolling the greatness of Samsung Smart TV, including the models from Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba. Nice work from the Korean brand, even if most of the screens appear to have been setup by a five-year-old on a sugar rush.
Thirdly - and this is the kind of thing that I mull over while trying to open a vacuum-packed ink cartridge - I didn't see any projectors on sale.
Now projectors probably aren't the type of hardware you'd expect to find in a branch of Currys/PC World, but I have seen them there before, and a shufti at the website reveals that Acer, InFocus and Optoma models are available from the retail giant, so maybe my local shop is atypical. Either way, the absence of projectors is sensible, as I cannot understand why anyone would ever buy one from such a store.
The last time I saw a range of light-cannons in Currys/PC World, they sat lonely and unloved in a faraway corner, somewhere in between the How To... computing books and the desk where you return your faulty iPod. They weren't actually switched on, of course. There was no projector screen to show off their talents. All potential buyers got was some sparse literature quoting a few Lumens.
This is the problem the projector market has – consumers need to see things in action to know what they're getting. True, we don't generally take a bundle of dirty laundry with us when buying a washing machine - well, I don't - but then we all know what a washing machine does. On the other hand, I worry there are people who don't realise how fabulous and awe-inspiring a home cinema projector can be. Early memories of 4:3 over-head projectors at school can be hard to shift.
Hurrah, then, for this year's Bristol Sound&Vision show, held at the end of February. While much of the emphasis of the four-day tech expo was on the 'sound' part, Epson, Optoma and JVC had the common sense to set up projector demonstrations to showcase the brilliance of bigscreen home entertainment. And the general reaction of show-goers seemed to be overwhelmingly positive.
In Optoma's suite, for instance, it was clear that many were astonished by the value for money on offer. The new £750 HD25 fired 2D (Skyfall) and 3D (Avengers Assemble) material at an 82in screen. Impressed punters were soon asking the sorts of questions that I expect – how big does the room need to be, can it be mounted to a ceiling, etc. I'd imagine that Optoma managed to generate more buzz for its products in ten minutes that it would ever get from having them plonked on a shop shelf for 10 weeks. This is the only way to sell projectors: lights dimmed, hit movie, bums on seats. The only thing was missing was a bag of popcorn.
Have you ever bought a projector without seeing it in action?
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