According to our Annual Electronics Buying Survey, electronics items are now as likely to be bought online as in walk-in stores. Websites dominated the high-scoring retailers in our Ratings of places to buy major electronics and computers (both are available to subscribers). Many of the online retailers were standouts for both price and selection.
But the main advantage of many of the higher-rated walk-in stores—fine customer service—may be more important than ever this holiday season. The hottest products include relatively new and unfamiliar categories (tablets, smart phones, e-book readers) and technologies (3D images, touch screens) that cry out to be seen and used before purchase, preferably with some expert guidance. Retailers are ramping up demos of 3D TV displays and expanding their selection of smart phones, including models once found only in the wireless carriers' own stores, and of devices like the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad, once available only directly from their respective manufacturers.