Our Mystery Shopper visited retailers in Peterborough to shop for an entertainment PC with a budget of around ?600: so what was available? We looked at product specification, store recommendation, product descriptions, available accessories, software deals and price...

Mystery Shopper ? ?600 PCs


Instead of walking into this store to see salesmen serving customers, I found they were busy with tidying up and vacuum cleaning. The choice of laptops and PCs were interspersed with gaps between the stock. I would have hoped the displays would have been full this time of year.

I was approached by a salesman asking me if I needed help. After explaining that I was looking for a PC for around £600, he told me to wait whilst he called his colleague over. Another salesman approached; I explained to him again my quest for a reasonably priced PC.

Without hesitation, he launched into his sales pitch, almost jumping on the Packard Bell iMedia 2415 that was displayed on an end-cap display, adding “this would be ideal for me.” The specs included Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Processor, Windows Vista, 3GB RAM, 500GB hard drive, 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7050 GPU, four USB connections and a 18-in-one card reader.

On the TV front, he suggested Sony KDL20S3000U, priced £289.00. In total, the package came to £688.99, a little over budget, but still worth considering. Overall, it was a good price for an entertainment PC and television monitor.

PC World

I was taken past quite a few expensive models before getting to the Dell Inspiron 530/2590, priced £569. It came with Windows Vista, Windows Media centre and was easy to use. There was a pretty impressive demo emphasising editing, slide shows and music storage.

It came with an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Processor, 3GB RAM, 640GB hard drive, Intel X3000 and six USB connections. “How about watching TV,” I asked. Whilst it didn’t have the built in technology for this, all I would have to do is buy Pinnacle PCTV Nano Stick, priced £39.99 or a Hauppauge WinTV Nova T 500 card at £49.99.

If I wanted to play high specification computer games, l would have to spend more money, roughly around the £700-£800 mark. Trying to close the deal, the sales assistant told me that if I bought the deal today, he would throw in Norton Security for £30 in a package deal.

Overall this desktop bundle would have cost me around £618.99.

John Lewis

THE technology department seemed hidden; everyone too busy to ask. I finally found a signage board next to the escalators telling me that the department was on the second floor of the store.

This store showed no sign of the Credit Crunch furore, with shoppers keeping sales people busy. Explaining that I was looking for a £600 entertainment PC; his first reaction was my chosen budget was very small and l might struggle. He thought a laptop with Windows Media Centre ‘would be a good option’. He suggested that I consider Samsung’s R410 a 2Ghz laptop with a 14.1-inch display, priced £499.

I reminded him that I was keen to watch and record TV. This wouldn’t have enough hardware spec, he said. If I wanted something built-in I would be looking to pay around £1000 pointing to the HP Touchsmart IQ500 Desktop PC, an all-singing-all-dancing machine.

Sticking with his laptop recommendation, I wondered if there was a hardware accessory option – as recommended in other stores visited – that would allow me to stick to the first price offered. As I hoped, the Hauppauge WinTV HVR900 Digital and Analogue TV USB Receiver was produced, priced £69.95.

Together for around £570 I could get everything I wanted, although would have preferred to have been shown more options. I could only presume the store was short-staffed, a pretty obvious assumption before me with a surprisingly busy technology department given the news out in the High Street.


This store was busy. I could see it was going to be some time before I would be served. Watching the salesmen and women before me, I could see that this could take a while.

Overhearing sales pitches, these guys were being pretty thorough with their customers – a good thing, of course, but it meant long conversations. This gave the impression that I was going to get great service, once I got there.

I waited for around nine minutes before noticing a salesman who was finishing with a customer, so hung around nearby to catch him before someone else came along. He greeted me with a friendly approach and smile, although his Currys T-Shirt needed tucking into his trousers and was not wearing a name badge.

I told him I was looking for an entertainment PC, pretty much repeating my story. “We don’t stock PCs,” he said, not exactly knowing why. Trying to retrieve the situation, he offered Windows Media Centre was a good package to have within Windows, referring me to its sister company, PC World.

Whilst l appreciated his honesty, I would have hoped the store would have had some product choice at least.


My first impression was the store needed a clean and stock was cramped together in what looked like an old fashioned layout. I looked around and found a salesperson to ask for help, overhearing the conversation drawing to a close with her customer.

The sales girl pointed to the HP S3330UK, and told me the machine boasted Windows Vista Premium and therefore had Windows Media Centre. She explained this could be used to store music, play slide shows and create albums, as well as transfer and edit digital footage.

It had a dedicated graphics card for games, a 320GB hard drive, AMD Athlon 64×2 processor, 2GB RAM, a 15-in-one media slot, the ability to play and record DVDs and CDs, six USB ports and a wireless keyboard. It looked attractive, compact and was priced £314.99.

I would however need to buy a monitor at an additional cost of £149.99 and I might need Microsoft Office, she added putting another £59.98 on the price.

I also wanted to watch TV on my PC, I threw into the mix. The Hauppauge USB Card came up again, priced £49.99 – this sales person knew her stuff!

To finish off, she wrote all prices on notepaper for my reference and also listed additional costs that I might incur. For example, a recovery disc priced £14.99 and Windows Live priced £14.99.

Good all round service from a knowledgeable sales person. If I was actually out to by a PC, I would have bought it from here.


With Tesco taking the High Street by storm, we thought that it would be a good idea to compare available options from this high profile, price conscious retailer.

After a bit of a walk to the hardware section, past the satellite navigation devices, radios and other electronic gizmos on route, I got to the PC area.

No-one was around to ask, so I waited in the cue at the service desk for about ten minutes. After a while, an assistant came to help me.

With a £600 budget, what could he offer? There was only one tower on display, the Medion Q6600 3GB tower unit with Blu-ray, priced £499.00. It came with a Nvidia GeForce 9300GS graphics card, 1TB hard drive, 3GB RAM, six USB Ports, Windows Vista Home Premium, Intel Core 2 Quad, a card reader, TV Tuner and a 60 day trial for Microsoft Office 2007.

This sounded like a fantastic package, although I would have to buy a LG W1934-S 19-inch TFT monitor, bringing the total to £598.99. I guess I can’t really complain as it was just right for my budget.

The salesperson had done a good job telling me about it, but could he demo it; I asked. He couldn’t show me the benefits of Windows Media Centre due to a technical problem. Nevertheless, he convinced me it would be a good machine; just a pity there wasn’t more choice.

Overall, this was a fantastic shopping experience – price offering good, sales person listened to my needs and gave fantastic customer attention.

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