During my time at TechRadar, I made sure to advocate for second-hand products; Buying used gadgets is a great way to save money and protect the environment in one go. But since all the gadgets I use are credits for reviews, I didn’t have to buy any technology for four years.
But since I’m leaving TechRadar soon, the situation is different. I am now at a point where I need to start buying my own tech again. I have to spend my own money on equipment I will own – and having not been in that position for a while, this is a very scary change indeed.
A recent purchase I’ve had to make is an iPad. While I’m not a huge fan of Apple products, some of the apps I use in my professional life are only available for iOS, which rules out Android tablets for work.
As part of the TechRadar team, I’ve been providing technical buying advice for years, but having to put my money into my hands has felt like a major test of what I’ve written. However, after finally purchasing a refurbished iPad Pro 12.9 (the 2021 model) with 256GB of storage and Wi-Fi connectivity and receiving it last night, I feel vindicated in my recommendation for refurbished devices.
Search for a tablet
Buying a new iPad was quite an intimidating proposition since Apple gadgets are ridiculously expensive – but I remained open-minded about which device I would buy.
That setup took exactly a second, and at that point I ruled out buying an iPad Mini – because who on earth would consider buying a tablet the size of some Android phones? Certainly not me.
I momentarily considered buying a new iPad (2022) when I heard rumors of a redesign and might have gone ahead with the purchase if the new generation had launched alongside the iPhone 14. Of course, that didn’t happen, and I can’t hang around waiting for the rumored October launch event. Also, I’m not a fan of the antiquated design of the current-gen models, so the entry-level iPad line has been dropped from the list as well.
The iPad Air became my first choice; not the iPad Air (2022) because it’s quite a duff upgrade over its predecessor, but the iPad Air (2020). This tablet offers a premium design that I like, more than enough processing power and a compact body. However, as you already know from the title of this article, it wasn’t the device I chose for one simple reason: storage. Although the iPad Air has a mid-range price, it’s designed for a hefty 64GB of storage. Opting for the next size up at 256GB adds a significant price tag.
So where to next? The iPad Pro range, of course – it’s the line I’m most familiar with, having used every model since 2018. While the iPad Pro range is also incredibly expensive, I like the more generous size of the 12.9-inch model, plus there are plenty of other storage options.
And while browsing, I found that there are also many options in the form of refurbished models. While reviewing prices for new iPad Pro tablets, I also kept an eye on the cost of refurbished models from BackMarket, Amazon, and Apple’s own stores, noting the cost differences between the two.
My research revealed that the iPad Pro models were available at the best prices compared to used ones. In addition, there was also a wider range of quality levels on offer; Some refurbished websites allow you to choose the quality of the device, with pristine looking models costing more than slightly worn ones.
That’s why I got an iPad Pro instead of an iPad Air, and a 12.9-inch model instead of a cheaper 11-inch device with 256GB of storage instead of 128GB. The generous number of refurbished iPad Pro models on the market meant I could effectively get more tablets for the same amount of money, which actually saved me a lot of money.
I ended up saving about £250 on the iPad I bought compared to buying new when it was launched a year ago. Given that even on Black Friday there’s often a price drop of just around £100, this felt like a significant saving, which I was very happy with.
Get more than iPaid
After clicking buy on Apple’s website (which surprisingly offered the model at a better price than Amazon or BackMarket), I immediately had my doubts – I had agreed to spend a large sum of money on a used tablet that I own never seen before. Did I make a big mistake?
When I reached the Apple Store, I was filled with apprehension, which got worse upon entering; it felt like I was in a street bazaar. Why were so many people just hanging around and not wanting to buy anything at all? Why were all the employees yelling at each other across the floor? Why did all the show products look like they had been in a war? By trying to make its Apple Stores more of a hub where you spend time and less of a store, Apple had made for a pretty confusing visitor experience.
What caused even more confusion was that the iPad I ordered came in a plastic-wrapped box. Did the employee accidentally give me a brand new tablet?
But when I got home I saw that the box said it was a refurbished product. Apple had simply made a surprising effort to make this refurbished tablet feel like new. This was also evident when I opened the box and found the wall plug and cord nicely wrapped inside.
In fact, without the word “refurbished” on the box, no one would know it was a used device – and the actual tablet is as much an indicator of this as the box. It was spotless with no scuffs or stains. Even the charging port, which can be easily scratched, looked like it had never seen a USB-C cable in its life.
Annoyingly, iPads don’t have the Battery Health feature seen on iPhones, so I can’t say for sure how well the battery will last. However, after the day I’ve been using this tablet, it feels identical to the brand new review unit I’ve been using for months.
I am pleasantly surprised at how new this “refurbished” device feels and it has made me reconsider all my future purchase plans. Sure, Apple is a big company and can be counted on to have a top-notch process for overhauling its products, but that also means its close competitors (including Amazon’s renewed service and popular website BackMarket) are likely to keep up need speed to stay competitive.
My iPad Pro basically feels new, the only difference being that I paid far less than I would have paid for a new model. So if I can save a similar amount of money by buying other products of the same quality (which seems like a no-brainer given the cost of living crisis), then I don’t really see the need to ever buy new again.