Americans who plan to shop for electronics this holiday season might best be served by shopping online. In Consumer Reports’ latest ratings of electronics stores, websites as a whole outdid walk-in stores for quality, selection, and price.
Crutchfield.com and BHPhotoVideo.com were among the top-scoring online retailers for overall customer satisfaction in Consumer Reports’ ratings. Crutchfield.com was the only website to receive a top mark for customer service. BHPhotoVideo.com and Amazon.com were the only retailers that got top marks for both selection and ease of use.
The full Consumer Reports ratings of electronics stores, which are based on the shopping experiences of the more than 21,000 readers surveyed, can be found online at ConsumerReports.org and in the December 2013 issue.
For top-notch customer service, it’s hard to beat independent walk-in stores, which were above par in every respect except for price. They received a top rating not only for customer service, but for product quality as well.
The Apple Store was the only walk-in chain to receive a top mark on those same attributes. Costco was the lone walk-in retailer to earn a top rating for prices, though it suffers from subpar selection and is only average for buying ease.
Shoppers also revealed that it pays to haggle. Those who bargained with retailers, in-store or online, succeeded roughly three times out of five, saving a median of about $80, according to the survey. The median savings jumped to $99 for those who bought a TV at a walk-in store, while the median saved on cameras and tablets was $62.
Top electronics list
In its second annual list of Ten Top Electronics, Consumer Reports selected 10 standout products. They were chosen because each pushes technology or performance to new heights. Product highlights from this year’s list include:
Brilliant smartphone.LG G2, ($0 to $200 with two-year contract). This phone has a stunning 5.2-inch display and a battery that doesn’t know when to quit. The power/volume button cluster is on the back, under the camera, a design LG considers more ergonomic and intuitive than the usual top or side mount. You can count on smarter shortcuts for common tasks, such as auto answering when you hold the phone to your ear. The camcorder can stay focused on your subject in interesting new ways.
Best TV yet.Samsung KN55S9C OLED TV, ($9,000). This 55-inch model, with its eye-catching curved screen, is one of the first to use OLED (Organic LED) technology, which combines the best attributes of plasma and LCD TVs, but has none of their shortcomings. Incredibly deep blacks, superbright images, vibrant colors, and strong contrast make images jump off the screen. Throw in unlimited viewing angles, great energy efficiency, and an ultrathin design and you have the best TV Consumer Reports has ever seen.
Top-notch tablet. Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, ($230). The latest Kindle has one of the highest-resolution 7-inch displays available, great for watching videos and reading books and magazines. New X-Ray features let you dig deeper into the videos you watch and the books you read. Consumer Reports hasn’t fully tested the Kindle Fire HDX yet, but prior versions were top-rated, and this one looks promising.
The smallest SLR. Canon EOS Rebel SL1, ($750). This camera is almost as small and light as many mirrorless, SLR-like models but offers all of the benefits of a full-fledged SLR, including a through-the-lens viewfinder and a wide choice of compatible lenses.