[UFO Chicago] Refurbished laptops -- thoughts?

Neil R. Ormos ormos at ripco.com
Sun Aug 19 19:55:51 PDT 2012

Brian Sobolak wrote:

> My wife and i are both overdue for new
> machines. To save a little, i was thimking of
> getting refurbished computers, one from the OEM,
> and the other from Tigerdirect.

> Any experiences to share?

I bought a refurbished Lenovo ThinkPad from the
Lenovo online store about 3 years ago and I've
had no regrets. 

I believe the refurbished product that I bought
was about $250 less than price of the same
configuration purchased "new" under Lenovo's
build-to-order program.  It was a "current" model
when I bought it. The laptop I received had two
bad sub-pixels on the display (both stuck "on"; one
has since fixed itself, and the remaining one
doesn't bother me).  I don't know if that had
anything to do with the laptop being sold as a

I don't know what the current ThinkPads are like,
but I've been very happy with the one I bought,
and the product generations that bracket it have
likewise been excellent.  They have a great
keyboard (with the exception of the location of
the Ctrl key, which I have heard can be remapped),
and the displays are also very good.  Mechanics
and thermal management are excellent; these
machines were built to last. In case something
fails, many components are designed to be easily
replaced in the field, and parts are readily
available at tolerable prices.

The Lenovo store also sells some overstock
product, which I believe are usually
build-to-order units where the order was cancelled
after the product was built, at prices that are
lower than "new" but higher than refurbs.

If you want overstock or refurb product, you may
want to monitor the Lenovo online store's web site
for a while until they have a configuration you
like for sale.  

If you decide to get a ThinkPad, I recommend you
download and peruse the current "TA Book", which
contains spec sheets for the supported
configurations of the various Thinkpad models,
including all the optional geegaws and doodads.
Not every conceivable combination of options and
features is supported; by mapping the supported
configurations, the TA Book can help you align
your expectations with the reality of what you
might find available.  Also, the TA Book decodes
the configuration identified by the Lenovo model
numbers (e.g., 2338-29U), which is helpful because
the Lenovo store's descriptions of refurbs and
overstocks are sometimes a little vague about
what's "in there".  The TA Book is 150-200 pages,
and may initially seem daunting, but once you
figure out which series (e.g., L, T, W, X, etc.)
and model "generation" number (e.g., "530") you
want, you can ignore the rest of the book.

If you're planning to run Linux, note that newer
ThinkPads have UEFI firmware, and at least some
have both UEFI and legacy BIOS support, along with
the ability for the user to select whether the
machine operates in UEFI or BIOS modes and the
order in which the machine attempts UEFI and BIOS
bootstraps.  You might want to check thinkwiki.org
or other resources to confirm that the
series/generation you intend to buy will support
the OSs/distributions you want to run.


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