There are lots of gadgets you should see and use in person before you buy, including phones, headphones and laptops. Televisions are probably not among them though.
Picture: Danny Choo/Flickr
In most stores, televisions are set up in showrooms with a viewing experience that bears almost no resemblance to how you'll actually watch it. Retail stores are brightly lit, stack several monitors at ridiculous viewing angles, and mirror one video on dozens of displays. Your home theatre setup will probably not have any of these things in common with the store. You may even find that stores can set up certain TVs to look better than others. One CNET TV reviewer found that these tricks could haveve fooled even him:
In perhaps the best example I can think of for the futility of in-store evaluation, a TV I knew to be good, placed knee-level in a narrow corridor, looked noisy and overall terrible. I'd reviewed the thing and even I wouldn't buy it if all I'd seen was its in-store performance. Conversely, a TV I knew to be highly mediocre, was given centre stage, its backlight cranked all the way up, giving it the appearance of being special.
The one caveat to this is if a store has taken the effort to create a moderately lit space at roughly ground level, or even built a mock living room to give you a more realistic look at a screen. However, keep in mind that every retail store is going to try to pitch certain sets based on what's best for their bottom line, and you can't always trust your in-store perception. Always be sure to do extra research online before making a big purchase like this. Check out MakeUseOf for more tips on how to shop for a television.