New hardware, new bargains

Frugal, cheap, whatever you call it, I don’t like to spend any more money than I have to. Which is why I’m really happy Apple switched to Intel chips.

Back in the day, PowerPC chips didn’t change very often. You could go years between new generations of processor. As a result, that Macs that ran on these PowerPC chips didn’t change that frequently, either. We’d go nine months or more between product updates.

Now that Apple is using Intel chips in all of its hardware offerings, Macs are subject to Intel’s rapid product cycle: We’re seeing brand new chips in brand new Macs every four to six months, instead of every couple of years. Take Wednesday’s MacBook update, which introduced Core 2 Duo processors to the laptop line a scant five months or so after the Core Duo version of the product was unveiled.

What’s that got to do with saving money? Savvy shoppers have long known about Apple’s refurb store, where the company sells off Macs that have been returned (for whatever reason), rehabilitated, and then recertified for sale—for hundreds of dollars less than what new models might cost.

Whenever Apple introduces a new generation of machines, it usually removes the previous generation from its retail channels tout de suite . But you can often still find those previous-generation machines in the refurb store.

For example, I bought my current home machine, a 1.8GHz iMac G5, about a year ago, not long after Apple introduced new iMacs with slightly faster chips (and several months before the first Intel iMacs appeared). I paid hundreds less for that last-generation iMac than I’d have paid for one of the newer models at the time. Did I miss out on some of the latest/greatest features? Sure. But I got a perfectly good Mac and a really, really good deal.

Similarly, now that Apple has introduced its Core 2 Duo MacBooks and MacBook Pros, you can now find refurbished Core Duo MacBooks and MacBook Pros in the Apple store. And those older systems are available at really nice discounts: “Nice” as in a 15-inch 2.16GHz MacBook Pro that sold for $2,400 new now available as a $1,600 refurb.

I’ve bought Macs and iPods from the refurb store and never had any problem. Even if I had, all products come with the same one-year warranty you get on new Apple hardware.

So now that Apple’s using Intel chips, we’re getting more new Macs all the time. More new Macs mean more relatively new Macs in the refurb store. And more relatively new Macs in the refurb store mean great deals for cheapskates like me.

How about you? Have you ever bought a refurb? Was it a good experience? Anything go wrong? Let me know in the forum below. We may do a story on refurbs someday; if we do, we may want to talk to you about it.

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