Abstract : Data sculptures are an increasingly popular form of physical visualization whose purposes are essentially artistic, communicative or educational. But can physical visualizations help carry out actual information visualization tasks? We present the first infovis study comparing physical to on-screen visualizations. We focus on 3D visualizations, as these are common among physical visualizations but known to be problematic on computers. Taking 3D bar charts as an example, we show that moving visualizations to the physical world can improve users' efficiency at information retrieval tasks. In contrast, augmenting on-screen visualizations with stereoscopic rendering alone or with prop-based manipulation was of limited help. The efficiency of physical visualizations seems to stem from features that are unique to physical objects, such as their ability to be touched and their perfect visual realism. These findings provide empirical motivation for current research on fast digital fabrication and self-reconfiguring interfaces.