Buying a refurbished laptop - should I or should I not?
Thread poster: Alexandra Goldburt

Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 08:31
English to Russian
+ ...
May 6, 2009

I need some expert advice here. I would like to buy a laptop, but my budget is rather tight, so I'm looking for ways to save some money, if possible.

My question is: is it a good idea to buy a refurbished laptop computer instead of a brand-new one? Or will it be the case of "miser pays twice"?

What I'll use the laptop for: QuickBooks (2000 version), MS Office (2003 version), visiting the website of the interpreting school I'm currently attending and listening to lectures/exercises online, and listening to ACEBO CD's (for interpreting training).

If I can watch movies on it that would be great, but it is not crucial.

What I will NOT be using it for: storing photos or music, or using any CAT software.

Your advice will be greatly appreciated!


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:31
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Two points May 6, 2009

Alexandra Goldburt wrote:
My question is: is it a good idea to buy a refurbished laptop computer instead of a brand-new one? Or will it be the case of "miser pays twice"?


I once had a conversation with the editor of a glossy business newspaper, and commented on my new laptop. He told me that he *never* buys a new laptop. He buys them 6 months old and sell them again at 12 or 18 months old. A six month old laptop will be cheaper but still quite modern, and if you're careful you can still get some kind of guarantee with it.

I'm not sure about laptops that are more than 1 year old, though, unless they are really, really cheap. I once bought a year old second-hand laptop for my wife, for $600. This particular model's new price was $1200. I think I paid a little too much, but my wife was happy with the laptop... for about another two years.

What I'll use the laptop for: QuickBooks (2000 version), MS Office (2003 version), visiting the website of the interpreting school I'm currently attending and listening to lectures/exercises online, and listening to ACEBO CD's (for interpreting training). If I can watch movies on it that would be great, but it is not crucial. What I will NOT be using it for: storing photos or music, or using any CAT software.


My theory about laptops is that translators can safely use the simplest, most bottom-of-the-range laptop available. There are ways of getting extra oomph from your laptop (eg uninstall or disable useless autostarting programs).

For your specific work, you need good speakers, and no laptop has good speakers. I recently discovered Logitec's V20 USB speakers (no external power needed) that are loud enough to be heard by everyone in a hall. It'll set you back $50 or so.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:31
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Laptop prices in LA May 6, 2009

Alexandra Goldburt wrote:
I would like to buy a laptop, but my budget is rather tight, so I'm looking for ways to save some money, if possible.


Good grief. I just spotted this guy in LA selling refurbished laptops at what appears to be premium prices: http://www.cp4.com/used_products/index.html . I hope this is not indicative of laptop prices in the US.

I would not buy anything with less than 500 MB of RAM and at least Windows XP, but this guy is selling a 1.0 GHz machine with 256 MB RAM, 20 GB HDD and Windows 2000 for USD 500! Three months ago I bought my wife a brand new 1.8 GHz machine with 3 GB RAM and 350 GB HDD for less than that!


 

Ines Burrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:31
Member (2004)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Probably not May 6, 2009

Average laptop lasts only around 3 years. I had two laptops, both died a couple of months after their third birthday. You can replace a keyboard, mouse, speakers etc. on a desktop but on oldish laptop any problem like that basically means you can look for the next laptop, it is too expensive to repair it.

As Samuel mentioned, if laptop is under 1 year old, it might not be a bad idea, if the price is right (new ones are a bit like cars - they loose value at the exact moment when you carry them out of the shop). Just divide the price of a new laptop with the same specifications by 3 (expected lifespan). If you expect to get 2 more years out the used laptop, it should definitely cost less than 2/3 of the new price.

HTH,
Ines


 

Jerzy Czopik  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:31
Member (2003)
Polish to German
+ ...
Before you buy anything refurbished May 6, 2009

check with resellers on eBay and on www.newegg.com or www.ecost.com - they have often very good prices. In Europe I can only dream about such prices, as they are lower by amount in US$ as I have to pay in Euroicon_frown.gif

 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:31
German to English
No bad experiences May 6, 2009

I've bought a couple of refurbished laptops from Dell. Allegedly they were units that had been returned after leasing. The keyboard on one died after my daughter spilled a soft drink on it, but an external keyboard fixed that problem. The other I gave to a friend last year and is still running after 6 years. Depending on the "must have" features, there are usually several configurations available. Make sure you pay attention to HD speed. One of the refurbished laptops had a 4200 RPM (slow) drive.

 

Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:31
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
That's a complete ripoff May 6, 2009

Samuel Murray wrote:

this guy is selling a 1.0 GHz machine with 256 MB RAM, 20 GB HDD and Windows 2000 for USD 500!


The actual worth of that refurbished computer is probably less than $ 20

Right now at MicroCenter, a new Gateway with:

* AMD Athlon(tm) 2650e
* 2GB DDR2 RAM
* 160GB Hard Drive
* SuperMulti 8x DVD±RW Drive with Double Layer Support
* ATI Radeon(tm) X1200
* 10/100Network
* 802.11b/g Wi-Fi CERTIFIED®
* 14.1" WXGA High-Definition BrightView Display
* Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic

sells for $359.99. There are several other new notebooks with prices under $ 500.

[Edited at 2009-05-06 20:04 GMT]


 

Grzegorz Gryc  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:31
French to Polish
+ ...
Checklist... May 7, 2009

Kevin Fulton wrote:

I've bought a couple of refurbished laptops from Dell. Allegedly they were units that had been returned after leasing.

It's frequent.
Sometimes you may find very interesting offers.
Recently, I bought two second hand/after leasing notebooks for testing.
Dell Latitude D810, somehow old but with a monster 1920x1200 15.4 screen and an ultralite D420, both for approx. 350-400 USD.
Both with 2 GB RAM, a-b-g WiFi. Bluetooth, the HDD were rather small (60 GB) but it was enough for testing over the LAN (Gigabit Ethernet NIC in both...).
When launched, their street price was approx. 3000 USDicon_smile.gif
Try to search for former "high end" models.
The quality is often better than in the cheapo ones.

Depending on the "must have" features, there are usually several configurations available. Make sure you pay attention to HD speed. One of the refurbished laptops had a 4200 RPM (slow) drive.

In fact, it's enough for not intensive use.

The major problem with the second hand/refurbished notebooks is the warranty and the return possibility in case of problems.
The ideal is to take a look on the machine before you purchase it.
You should check the screen (no dead pixels), the keyboard (no problematic keys), the hinges of the lid (no clearance, no cracks around 'em).
And, you'll probably smile, the rubber ties on the underside (if your NB is not stable, you'll get rapidly furious when writing).
After the purchase, you check the battery, the minimum should be at least 1.5 h IMHO.
The Windows licence sticker should be present if you want to buy a machine for Windows.
It's all, I think.

PS.
The original setup CD/DVD are welcome.
Although all serious manufacturers provide drivers on their WWW sites, the configuration may be tricky.
I spent a half of day to configure properly my D420.
And I'm rather experienced.

Cheers
GG


 

Kathryn Litherland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:31
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
my experiences May 7, 2009

I've bought two refurbished/off-lease laptops and two low-end new laptops.

I would say that the refurbs (one a Micron, not a brand known for reliability, and one a Thinkpad, which are pretty well regarded) gave me less trouble than I would have expected. I used both as primary work computers for over two years, but both developed fairly fatal issues around the 2.5 year mark which, when taking into consideration the cost of repair and the point they were at in the lifecycle of processor demands, prompted me to replace rather than repair.

The low-end new laptops (two identical $500 Acers) have given me some trouble, some of which I have been able to repair under warranty (complete hard-drive failure at 6 months on one) with no small amount of inconvenience to myself. Thank god I live in a massively multicomputer household!

Despite these problems, one has his the 2-year mark (and the other is 6 months behind) and are in general not acting like they're ready to give up the ghost any time soon.

So, to sum up: the refurbs I bought were quite reliable for a couple of years. More reliable during their first year of ownership than the 2 new computers. My experience with cheap laptops has been disappointing. So if you can hunt down a good deal on a brand known for reliability, a refurb might be the way to go.

Probably one of the more critical questions will be: "Will It Blend?"

...I mean, Will It Run Vista? My two new-bought laptops, of 2007 vintage specs, with AMD Turion 64 x2 processors, are definitely suboptimal with Vista, even with a memory upgrade to 2 GB ram.


 

Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 08:31
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you very much for your very helpful answers. May 8, 2009

Thank you for sharing your experiences and the links. I greatly appreciate you advice!

 


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