Used Electronics as Good as New, and Cheaper

used electronicsApple may have set the tone for designer electronics, but if you're too broke to invest in the Mac-head lifestyle, try going vintage with its refurbished line of products. Other electronics retailers sell used products too, and buying straight from the source is safer than taking your chances on eBay.

Unlike the needle-in-the-haystack hunting of vintage couture, the Apple store online keeps it as simple as its signature designs by offering it all on its website. The inventory is impressive, with all of the iconic products like the iPod (Nano, Classic and Touch), MacBook (Air and Pro), and even the ancient 1-year-old iPad. Used Mac Minis, iMacs, Mac Pro, Xserve and accessories also are up for grabs.The inventory at the Apple refurbished products website includes current generation products as well as older models. The stock is also fluid, so it's best to check back often. Most of the discounts average about 15% off the store price, going as little as 9% off (for an iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G) to as much as 37% off (for a mid-2009 MacBook Pro).

There's no reason to be skittish about purchasing second-hand electronics from the site, because all the products get the same one-year warranty as the new ones and come with free shipping. The refurbishment process, according to Apple, starts with a product being returned and, regardless if the problem is technical or not, it goes through the same Apple certification, including parts replacement, cleaning and repackaging. The process follows the same basic technical guidelines as Apple's Finished Goods testing. If that's not enough to have you rest assured, you can buy the AppleCare Protection Plan: It includes additional coverage on the product, as well as technical and software support.

Other retailers like HP and Dell also offer refurbished products on their outlet websites, although neither truly compares to Apple in inventory or ease of use. In fact, last we checked, only refurbished printers were available from the HP outlet and refurbished website. But in case you're curious, an HP LaserJet Pro M1212nf MFP Printer is $199.99 or you can get it refurbished at 20% off for $159.99.

Dell's refurbished offerings -- they say they sell back 90% of all returned items and take apart the other 10% to harvest the parts -- include laptops and desktops. You'll find the Inspiron (laptop, Mini Netbooks, Everyday Essentials), as well as the Studio, Studio XPS, XPS Performance, Alienware and Adamo models. They also have monitors, printers, supplies, software and accessories.

The refurbished inventory is sold in the outlet website alongside products that, according to Dell, are unused-and-like-new as well as those that have been "considerably" blemished or scratched.

Dell also offers free shipping, the same warranty as new products, and a 21-day return policy. The popular Inspiron duo laptop's original price is $549.99, but a nearly identical one's outlet price is a hundred dollars cheaper (and about 18% less) at $449.99.

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