In search of a media streamer for watching TV remotely

Mystery Shopper: Sheffield

John Lewis

Arriving on the third floor, I perused the electrical department in search of media streamers. Unfortunately I had no luck so I headed back to speak to some staff members I had previously seen upon arrival. I caught the eye of one who smiled and she asked how she could help.

After explaining I wanted a media streamer so I could watch my favourite TV shows when I was away from home, she called a colleague for extra help. A gentleman approached me and led me to the hard drives. I informed him of my request, but he said: “We don’t have a great variety of things like that. However, we do have something called a Slingbox. This is probably the best thing we have for you, as it enables you to watch TV programmes away from home.” I asked him how it worked and if it was easy to use, but he wasn’t sure. “To be honest I’ve never used one, but I can print off some information for you.” He then pointed to a Netgear EVA8000, which was a media streamer without the capability of watching TV programmes from home.

He said the Slingbox Solo SB260-110 Media Streamer cost £106. It enables the user to watch and control the TV, DVR, digital cable and DVD from anywhere in the world as long as there’s a high speed internet connection. Slingstream technology dynamically adjusts video clarity and adjusts compression levels to create a continuous high quality video. He also said there was an alternative option, the Slingbox Pro SB200-110 Media Streamer, costing £164.35. This could be ordered online. I thanked the assistant for his time and left.

The customer service at John Lewis was good, the assistant was quick and had a friendly manner, but the level of product knowledge was limited. He did suggest an appropriate product, but it was not made with confidence, and without clear explanation this product could be ignored by customers who haven’t done their research.

Score: 7/10


Peering down Comet’s many aisles, I was looking for some assistance as I couldn’t find the electrical section. However this too was proving hard to find. I walked to the checkout where a member of staff was on the phone and a further two staff members were talking with a couple trying to sort out home delivery.

After waiting for a couple of minutes the assistant turned around, saw me waiting and walked right past me. He more or less ignored me as he had made eye contact with me; he simply walked straight past to a customer on the shop floor by the cookers. I continued to wait a further five minutes for the suited staff member to finish with his home delivery customers.

I was growing increasingly impatient just as the first assistant returned and asked: “Is there something I can help you with?” I asked for his recommendation on media streamers, but he looked a bit blank and said: “You’d probably be better off waiting for my colleague,” he said pointing to the suited man. I told him that I wanted to be able to watch my TV shows away from home. “Oh we do have this,” he said, as he pointed to a Win TV-HVR 900 TV Capture USB Stick costing £54.99. “You do need a laptop or computer in order to use it, though. This one can be used for terrestrial TV as well as freeview channels, or we have a cheaper one for £34.99, which can only be used for channels one to five.” I asked him how it worked and was told that it was really easy, all you needed was a USB port to plug it into – it was quite similar to a dongle.

I asked the sales assistant if there was any literature I could take away regarding details on the technology, but was told there wasn’t anything. This was surprising as I expected him to at least print off the specifications but he didn’t offer, he simply said: “I’ll leave you to it” and walked off.

Despite the assistant being friendly, he wasn’t knowledgeable on the products and the overall customer service was less than satisfactory. I wasn’t blown away by the product range that Comet offered either, and I walked away feeling that I did not get enough information on the recommended products. However, the TV capture USB stick was a great little device for half the price of the Slingbox, and if all I wanted was to watch TV away from home this would be perfect.

Score: 6/10

PC World

As I walked up the central aisle, two staff members were dealing with separate customers so I decided to walk through the store and see if I could find what I was looking for on my own.

After ten minutes I decided I needed help after all. I found a member of staff who, once I explained my plight to him, pointed me in the direction of a sales assistant who would be able to help with my quest. The assistant asked if I wanted to wirelessly stream information from a PC to a TV. I informed him that I was looking for a device which enabled me to watch TV programmes while away from home. The assistant nodded with enthusiasm and said: “In that case, we have this. It’s called a Slingbox and it enables you to watch TV via a laptop or PC.”

The assistant then asked if I would need help installing the device as they offered a service to do this. It looked pretty easy to install; nevertheless, I did ask him for any leaflets or literature I could take with me. The sales assistant provided me with the revelant product information and installation details. I thanked him for his time and left the store.

The Slingbox Pro Media Streamer Pro SB200-110 costs £163.95 and is HD ready. It has built-in DVB-T to view Freeview channels and controls recordings via Sky+ service or PVR and connects to 4 AV Source.

Overall this was a pleasant experience from the layout of the store to the smartly dressed staff. There was no hard-sell approach, but it was very informative. I was, however, expecting more of a variety from PC World as the Slingbox was quite expensive due to it being the ‘Pro’ version.

Score: 9/10

House of Fraser

The electrical section is located in the basement of the store and is quite a small section filled with mostly TVs and DVDs. I noticed a smartly dressed member of staff standing by a computer and so I approached him and explained what I was searching for.

The gentleman said: “I’m sorry but we don’t have anything like that in store.” He continued: “You would be better off trying PC World in the retail park not far from here.” I thanked him for the advice and left the store.

This was a bit disappointing as House of Fraser did not have what I wanted, but at least I was given advice and recommendations as to where I could go. The service was friendly enough, but it wasn’t the place to go for media streaming devices.

Score: 4/10


On entering the store, which was situated on a retail park close to Meadowhall Shopping Centre, I walked around trying to find media streamers, again with no luck.

After a few minutes I found an assistant who was willing to help with my search. I explained what I was looking for, but the assistant appeared confused. She admitted she didn’t have much knowledge on this topic and ushered over a colleague who did. He recommended a Philips media streamer costing £500, and said an additional £100 would be needed for extra units.

I thought this was expensive and asked whether I would be able to watch TV programmes while away from home, like I could with the Slingbox. The assistant informed me that this was not possible as it was for music only, but added that PC World would be able to help me. He was honest by saying he didn’t know what Slingbox was, but continued to inform me of another device that would allow me to watch TV remotely from my laptop or PC.

He showed me a Hauppauge WinTV HVR-900 USB TV stick costing £59.99. The helpful assistant supplied me with a leaflet outlining the product specs. This product enables digital and analogue television to be viewed and recorded from a laptop or PC. It features a scheduler allowing users to programme favourite shows a week in advance so they’re not missed, and lets the user time shift and pause live TV.

The overall recommendation was good, but I felt a greater variety was needed. The assistant was extremely helpful and gave an alternative store to visit when the item in question was not in stock.

Score: 8/10

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