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Remanufactured vs Refurbished Laptops: Which Are Better?


Buying reused laptops for your organisation is a great way to save money. But like any big purchase, it requires bit of research into the different options.

One of these is deciding between Refurbished and Remanufactured devices. If you aren’t sure what this means, don’t worry! This article explains the somewhat hazy difference. We also compare the two on five key criteria:

  • Cosmetic Condition
  • Reliability
  • Warranty
  • Batteries
  • Keyboards

Full disclosure: We are one of the UK’s leading providers of refurbished laptops and refurbished desktops to public and private sectors organisations.

Despite this, we accept that remanufactured laptops can be better in some areas. Keep reading to see how the two options stack up.

What Is The Difference Between Refurbished and Remanufactured?

For the purposes of this article, we’ll use these loose definitions:

  • Refurbishers grade a laptop based on the condition they receive it in. The refurbisher then tests the device and replaces any components that aren’t working properly.
  • Remanufacturers take apart more of the computer they receive and do more rebuilding and repainting. They aim to try and make the device look as new as possible. Then they grade it.

There is an important caveat here.

Many articles claim a “black and white” difference between refurbished and remanufactured laptops. Unfortunately, a lot of these articles are biased as they are written to promote whichever the writer is selling.

In our opinion, the differences mainly boil down to the individual supplier. For example, many companies sell “refurbished” laptops that have been fully painted and been through the same steps as companies selling “remanufactured” laptops.

Main takeaway: Don’t be tricked by the wording and check what steps a supplier performs. These matter far more than a simple definition.

New vs Refurbished Cost

Refurbished vs Remanufactured: Looks

Cosmetic changes are probably the biggest difference between refurbished and remanufactured laptops.

By and large, remanufactured laptops are cosmetically repainted using a variety of processes. This will include the lid, the palmrest and even the bottom of the laptop. Assuming the painting process has been done to a high standard with good quality control, this normally offer you a more consistent look. Knowing they will all look “like new” gives many buyers confidence, especially for bulk orders.

The main challenge buyers have with painted laptops is their cosmetic durability. We have found they scratch a lot easier than the originals, which can leave laptops looking “tatty” a lot faster than a new or grade A refurbished laptop.

Another downside to painting laptops is that they won’t look exactly like the original manufacturer’s laptops. So if you have other laptops of the same model in your estate, they will look slightly different. Also, repainting normally paints over the small symbols next to each port, which can make them harder to use.

On the other hand, refurbished laptops are usually graded based on the condition each laptop comes in. Many suppliers will then replace parts to make them look like new again. These replacements can be either new or compatible parts, depending on the supplier.

Consistency in condition and look is the biggest challenge for every refurbished supplier. It’s also the biggest concern buyers have. This really comes down to the quality control process of each refurb supplier, and how they grade devices in the first place. We highly recommend that you ask any potential supplier about their grading system.

Verdict: Remanufactured wins here. Despite concerns about the durability of repainting, you do get a more consistent look across devices.

Refurbished vs Remanufactured: Reliability

We think this is even between the two, because it really comes down to the supplier’s QC process.

This is controversial because we often see remanufacturers downplay the testing and QC procedures that refurb suppliers carry out. But again, this doesn’t stem from whether a computer is refurbished or remanufactured. Instead, it depends on the supplier’s internal processes and QC standards.

There are many refurb suppliers that perform as many (or more) tests than Remanufactured suppliers. For example, every device at Pure IT goes through a 24 step QC process. Our controls are based on 15 years in the business and our checklist is constantly evolving. Our failure rate over the past 5 years averages 2.2%.

Refurbished vs Remanufactured: Warranty

Refurb wins this one, as long as you choose the right supplier.

Remanufactured suppliers often claim that refurb companies can only offer “six months to a year warranty”. This simply isn’t true. At Pure IT we offer 5 year and even lifetime warranty options on many models. We aren’t alone in doing this, either.

We’ve yet to see a remanufacturer offer this length of warranty. This is probably down to concerns that the repainting and cosmetic improvements will not last.


New vs Refurbished Warranty Options

Refurbished vs Remanufactured: Batteries

Refurb wins because more refurb computers come with original batteries.

Batteries are a challenge for refurbished and remanufactured suppliers alike. This is because it can be hard to achieve “like new” battery life without significant costs.

Refurb suppliers will normally grade each battery and have a threshold for acceptability. They will then replace any battery that does not meet this standard. Most refurb suppliers use compatible batteries for the ones they replace. Remanufactured suppliers usually replace original batteries with compatible ones, as it means every unit they supply is the same.

Pure IT Refurbished does not recommend compatible batteries.

We have tested over 20 suppliers over the last 10 years and none have been as good as the original OEM batteries. The problem isn’t necessarily the battery cell quality. Instead, it is the technology that interacts with the laptops. We have seen so many unusual faults with compatible batteries that we have stopped using them.

If given the choice, we would recommend choosing an original battery with 70% or greater life over a brand new compatible battery.

Refurbished vs Remanufactured: Keyboards

Another challenge for both refurb and remanufactured laptops is keyboard condition and keyboard language. We feel this is generally even between the two processes.

Many refurb and remanufactured suppliers source laptops from various countries with different language keyboards on them. The most popular way is to use a keyboard reprinting/repainting process to change the language on the keyboard and give it an “as new” finish.

The problem we have with this is similar to painting the laptop lids and palmrests. The keyboard starts to flake over time and the original language starts to show through. We have tried the top 5 keyboard reprinting companies around the UK and Europe and none of them have a process which is durable enough for 3-5 years of heavy use.

The best option is to buy laptops with original keyboards. This can be done by sourcing laptops which originally came from the UK or by using a refurb/remanufactured supplier who fits only original UK language keyboards to each laptop.

Refurbished vs Remanufactured: Final Verdict

We don’t think you should get too hung up on whether a laptop is “refurbished” or “remanufactured”. The quality of your supplier for either type of laptop is much more important.

A high quality refurb supplier beats an average or below average remanufacturer. Likewise, a good remanufacturer will beat a poor refurb supplier.

At Pure, we do things a bit differently by trying to bridge the best of refurbishing and remanufacturing without using any paint. Check out our 5 point laptop guarantee which covers how we navigate the challenges in delivering consistently high quality laptops which last 5+ years.

Want to know what to look for in a quality refurbished or remanufactured laptop supplier? Check out our blog 5.5 things to check when buying a refurbished laptop

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About Pure IT Refurbished

If you are looking for IT hardware that looks and performs like new but at around 50% of the cost, Pure IT Refurbished can help.

Since 2007, we have been committed to sourcing the highest quality IT equipment. We always refurbish using original parts and rigorously test every product to create an experience that is as good as brand-new.

The result is guaranteed consistency and reliability across your IT hardware, whether you order 1 unit or 1000+. Our industry-leading warranties ensure that a replacement unit is guaranteed within 24 working hours, which we collect at no charge to you.