It can be a challenge to fit a computer into a tight budget. When our laptop computers started to fade, my wife and I converted them over to Ubuntu Linux. This worked fairly well, but the available browsers weren’t always completely compatible with our favorite websites. Plus, we knew we’d need another Windows PC to run our tax software. We also needed to fit a computer into a budget that was already tight. The solution we found was a refurbished desktop machine from Microcenter. We bought an HP DC7900 Business PC.
Buying Experience . I could have reserved the computer for in store pickup with an 18 minute or less readiness guarantee. But, I managed to lock myself out of my Microcenter account. Since the website said that my local store had over ten in stock, I figured I’d just show up and take my chances. I wandered around the store for a few minutes looking for stacks of boxed refurb machines. They had some clearance priced open box machines in the service area, but many of them had stickers referring to repair orders. I was off to an inauspicious start.
Finally, I went to the room with the computers and waited for the sales people to approach. When they asked if one young man asked if he could help me, I told him I was looking for one of the refurb machines that I saw online. I produced a post-it note with the Stock Keeping Unit number (SKU), the name, and the price for the DC7900. He started to ask what I wanted it for, but I simply told him light surfing and office use. I didn’t provide any openings for multi-media or gaming discussions that would lead towards more expensive hardware. I also shrugged off his comments about affordable buyer protection options. He told me he would have to get a cart for me and get the computer from around back. In about five to ten minutes he returned with the computer in a plain brown box and I was off to the front register.
In some ways, I felt like this HP DC7900 refurb machine was like the proverbial $1000 Oldsmobile from the far corner of a car dealer lot. This refurb machine wasn’t glamorous and the dealer certainly wanted me to buy a bigger ticket item, but it would do the job.
PC Specifications. The HP DC7900 is a ultra slim desktop computer with an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 processor. For $139.99, the example I bought was clocked at 3.0 Ghz, had a 160GB hard drive, included a DVD-ROM drive, carried 2GB of DDR2 RAM, and ran a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (Service Pack 1). The machine included an inexpensive keyboard and mouse, but no monitor. When I got home, I was gratified to discover that this computer could be expanded to 8 GB of RAM. While this configuration had Intel Graphics built in, I could also install a PCIe graphics card at a later date. This PC does not have wireless connectivity, but it does have an ethernet port and plenty of USB ports.
Condition. I was a little worried about the condition of a refurbished unit. It came in a plain cardboard box, but it was very well polished. The refurbished HP DC7900 had some cosmetic flaws. Mostly there was a little where on the top of the metal case where a monitor may have been placed in the past. Otherwise, the PC was perfectly clean. The machine came with a brand new keyboard and a new mouse. The keyboard and mouse were very inexpensive units that you might get at Walmart or Microcenter for less than $10. However, they worked perfectly.
Warranty. Microcenter allows refurbished computers to be returned within 15 days. The refurb company also covers the PC with a 90 day warranty. I could have paid extra for a buyer protection plan through Microcenter. I opted to forego any additional protection.
Setup . Setting up the HP DC7900 was easy. I plugged in an existing monitor, the keyboard, and the mouse. I had no problem connecting to my network via a cable. When I turned on the machine, Windows 7 prompted me for some basic information and configured itself. I had to enter the Microsoft Key Code from a small sticker on the side of the PC that was placed on the PC by the refurbisher. I chose to upgrade to Explorer 11 and install Microsoft Security Essentials. It took about 40 minutes to an hour to fully set up the machine. Much of the time was consumed by a downloading updates over a slow economy internet connection. In terms of setup, the HP DC7900 was easy and uncomplicated. I found the Microsoft Security Essentials easy to install. Having a free security option for a computer in this price range was great.
Performance . Buying a refurbished machine is all about getting the performance you need at the price point you can afford. The HP DC7900 offers users a Windows Experience Index 3.5 with graphics performance being the weakest link. Microcenter offered a few desktop computers that were less expensive with the lowest price coming in around $99. However, these machines offered far less clock speed or dropped down to a Pentium 4. More expensive refurb machines didn’t offer much more speed, but provided some improvements in hard disk space and the optical drive being offered. I ruled out machines above $200 due to budget concerns and because brand new machines were available for around $270 to $300.
Overall Assessment. From a cash flow perspective, the purchase of this refurbished made financial sense. I got a basic PC that might be found in any office around the world. I also got the reliable and understandable Windows 7 operating system. For less than $150, I think the refurbished HP DC7900 is a good value. I’m pleased with my purchase.