We look at the best places to find your new(ish) components and systems
The existence of refurbished and reconditioned hardware means there’s a great opportunity for everyone to pick up some nearly new bargains, as long as you’re willing to be a little bit flexible about their needs. One of the biggest disadvantages to shopping for refurb items is that you don’t get to pick what you buy, because availability is on an individual, item-by-item basis. You can either take the bargain you spot or wait for the next to come along.
However, the best way to get the hardware you want – or something close to it – is to check as many outlets and retailers as possible. And to help you do that, we’ve put together our recommendations for where you can find refurbished, reconditioned and second-hand hardware bargains. If you know exactly what you want, then your best chance of finding it refurbished – and in the best way possible – is to stake out the manufacturer’s web store. Although manufacturers tend to sell goods at the RRP, which makes them expensive compared to the majority of retailers, this is one case where you can get a bargain off them. Generally, manufacturers don’t sell used items through their official stores, but take a look around their websites and you’ll almost certainly find a section for outlet goods, which includes end-of-line and reconditioned hardware. It’s not always easy to find, but if you stick their name into Google along with ‘outlet store’, it should turn up. When items are returned to the manufacturer, swapping out a faulty component for a working one or performing a factory-reset on the software means the item will qualify to be sold as refurbished or reconditioned. This allows the manufacturer to profit off hardware that would otherwise have to be written off, and it allows you to save a few quid on the price. Buying refurbished hardware directly from manufacturers is also a good way to ensure it’s in good working order. When hardware is being resold by the people who make it, you can guarantee it’s been repaired using genuine components and by genuine engineers – and at the very least you can be sure it’s gone through the same QA process as a new item, if not an even more rigorous one. The biggest disadvantage of buying refurb hardware from manufacturers is that the discount isn’t going to be fantastic. Since manufacturers tend to sell at the retail price, the discount will only be relative to that. In some cases, that’s not a problem (iPad prices are virtually identical in every shop, for instance), but if you’re buying a laptop or desktop system, another retailer may offer a different price to the manufacturer. Example manufacturer outlets include the Apple Store’s Clearance Section, (store.apple.com/uk/browse/home/specialdeals) where you can find refurbished iPads, Macbooks, iPods and accessories in modest quantities. The discounts are similarly conservative, but you should save anywhere between 10 and 50% depending on what you buy. Similarly, the Dell Outlet Store (www.dell.co.uk/outlet) and Asus Outlet Store (eshop.asus.com/en-GB/outlet) are great places to look for refurbished notebook systems, with discounts up to £150 routinely available. The most obvious place to look for second-hand hardware is on eBay. Here, you can find hardware from across the secondary-market spectrum, from brand new end-of-line hardware that retailers have dumped onto the market as a last resort, to components that have literally been pulled out of a working system just days before by a lone enthusiast wanting to recoup some of their cost. As with everything on eBay, there’s always a chance you can find a bargain, but the newer and more desirable an item is, the greater the likelihood of it selling for market value. It’s possible to get your hands on hard-to-find items that may be out of stock from normal retailers, but you also have to deal with the inherent unreliability of person-to-person transactions and potentially long waiting times. To give an example of how eBay can work for you, we checked out a decent high-end graphics card: the MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G. Released in September 2014, the cheapest you’ll find it at retail is at Scan, which is selling it for £395 and change. On eBay, you can see listings for purportedly new examples of that card that have sold for £280. That’s a significant saving to make by any standard!Although there are other second-hand markets you can try, like Amazon Marketplace or Craigslist, eBay is probably the best bet. Its large userbase gives you a good selection of items to buy, while the built-in feedback system and close PayPal integration offer some protection against fraud. It’s not foolproof, but it’s as reliable and safe as any second-hand transaction can be. If you want discounts on components, the best place to look is on retailer websites. Most hardware sales sites have a discount, clearance or outlet section which is used to get rid of stock that can’t be sold as new for any number of reasons, and that’s where you’ll be able to find the best price for components. Clearance sections are mostly full of open-box items. Any refurbishment is generally quite light (it might me the storage has been wiped or cables have been replaced), and since faulty goods can be returned to the wholesaler or manufacturer, you’ll be buying items that have been returned but checked out as being in working order. They also tend to incorporate end-of-line goods (meaning the last few units from a product line, which the retailer can’t restock) and former display items that have been handled or operated in a limited manner. All of this means that finding the hardware you want is something of a lucky dip. You might find a data projector with a scratch on the top, a graphics card with a dented box or a pack of ten blank DVDs with one missing. Either way, if you see something you want, don’t hang about. The listings are usually just for single items of stock, so don’t expect it to be there if you come back a few days or even hours later. The quality of clearance items is generally quite good, but be aware that the range of quality is wider than manufacturer outlets. Whereas Apple or Sony would replace a scuffed case, a retailer might just knock £50 off the price. The risk of buying faulty goods isn’t zero either. It’s possible that someone found a laptop to be faulty and returned it, only for the retailer to place it back on sale because they couldn’t replicate the problem. You have no guarantee, so check the returns policy carefully. Most popular retailers have clearance sections, though some run their outlet stores through eBay instead of their regular site. Ebuyer is known for its low prices, so any bargains in its clearance section (www.ebuyer.com/search?condition=outlet) are both sparse and extra-desirable for being so cheap. Novatech also has a clearance store (www.novatech.co.uk/clearance.html) with an extensive list of products. Hopefully, the examples found throughout this piece prove that you can save money on refurbished and second-hand goods without being a committed wheeler-dealer. Just make sure you cut us in if you spot anything that looks too good to be true.