2nd Hand Computing

Ever thought about buying a 2nd-hand notebook? Me neither until recently when a friend asked for advice. At first I was quite skeptical but it turns out it’s an interesting option and in the meantime I even bought one for myself.

I was skeptical because in the mobile space where device refresh cycles are somewhere near 18-24 months and the industry is very much in flux. It shows signs of slowing down but smartphones are carried in pockets and so after two years of use, many devices are pretty much worn out physically and need to be replaced anyway.

The story is quite different when it comes to desktop and notebook computers. There has been little ground breaking innovation compared to the mobile space, much of it concentrated on making notebooks thinner and more power efficient. From a software point of view not much has happened either. And thirdly, companies today typically lease notebooks for their employees and replace them with new models typically after 3 years. Most of those notebooks are mainly used on a desk so there is little physical wear when they are returned to the company leasing them out. Together, these things have given rise to a new type of notebook reseller companies in Germany that are refurbishing and selling desktop and notebook PCs who’s leases have expired from brands such as HP, Lenovo and Dell.

3 Year Old Models

The first 2nd-hand notebook I bought was a 3 year old Lenovo T430s for around 400 euros. Yes, you can buy a brand new notebook for the same price these days but those are low end consumer grade devices. The T430s is as high end and business grade as you can get and was sold for around 1200-1500 euros when it was new. The difference shows. Yes, it is not quite as flat and power efficient as up to date models but you get it for one third of the original price.

Still I was a bit skeptical at first but I was very pleasantly surprised when I received the shipment of a 3 year old computer that almost looked like new. Obviously the first thing I did was to replace Windows 7 with Linux. An hour of work and the notebook with a 3rd generation i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive was good to go. After three months of daily use, feedback on hardware and software from its new owner was unanimously positive. Even the battery was still ok with around 80% of its original capacity which is enough for 3.5 to 4 hours of autonomy.

Older For Less

Many refurbishers also offer even older computing equipment with first generation i5 processors that are about 4-5 years old. And if money is really an issue a 5-6 year old notebook with a Core 2 Duo processor and 2 GB of RAM can be had for less than 200 euros. That’s a little bit too far on the low end for me but for people with a really tight budget it’s a real option. Ubuntu will run just fine on such a PC as I can tell from personal experience with my 6 year old media PC I use for video playback of Netflix and Amazon Video content. The 2GB RAM is a little bit on the low side these days perhaps, but for a a few extra euros this shortcoming can easily be fixed.

Reselling refurbished PCs on a greater scale is probably not only a German phenomenon but I have to admit I haven’t seen it anywhere else yet. So if you live in another country and have some information to share, please consider leaving a comment!