Condition Confusion? The Difference Between Open Box, Refurbished, Factory Re-Certified Computers

With the economy in its current state, it is no surprise that more consumers are paying a little more attention to maximizing their money on each and every purchase. Computers and technology items-considered luxury or “extra” items for many-are especially scrutinized by value conscious consumers looking to get the most for their technology dollar. Such consumers are increasingly looking away from factory new items in favor of products like Factory Re-certified Computers and Refurbished items. Still others-fearful of the unknown-swear by brand new items, choosing the “its better to be safe than sorry” route.” But a bit of understanding into the categories of non-new, re-conditioned products can save you saving hundreds of dollars without losing sleep.

If you are among the skeptics, you are in good company. The reason for the uncertainty likely is the result of such a large difference in quality and condition of aftermarket computers and technology. Much of this confusion centers around misunderstandings of categories of these products. Being in the industry, I often get asked questions such as “is there a difference between re-furbished and factory re-certified products?” or “are open box laptops new or used?” This article will attempt to provide the answers to these questions, and hopefully several more.

The crux of this task is to de-mystify the meaning of the general categories of product condition. It is important to realize, however, that different companies may have slightly different meanings, so it is best to ask questions about products you are considering. However, the following definitions are generally considered to be a standard in the industry.

BRAND NEW, Factory SEALED: Not too much issue here. This typically refers to the Brand New products with that new computer smell. However, you do want to make sure to read the fine print, as some vendors don’t always see Brand New and Factory Sealed as the same thing. Make sure that the description indicates that your product is factory sealed. If it doesn’t state it, ask-otherwise, you may be buying a product that is Brand New, as in “well, I only used it a few times.” For upstanding vendors, however, Brand New means New and Never Used in either a sealed retail or plain OEM Box. Be sure to ask questions, especially if buying a laptop or computer from an on-line vendor.

Open Box:

This typically refers to an item that has been opened and repackaged in new condition. Open Box Computer Products are typically items which have been opened and possibly turned on/used for a minimal period of time. Many are customer returns in which someone purchases the product, discovers that it was not exactly what they need, and returned. Most of these products have either not been used or used very minimally. Other examples of open box items are those that have been taken out of the box to test, to show to customers, or to demonstrate a particular function or feature


These items generally are in much better condition than simple refurbished products. Factory Re-Certified Computers and related products are those that have had some repair, touch up, or cleaning done which has made them identical-or near identical-to new products. While some of these products have been used and returned, many Factory Re-Certified Technology products never have even left the factory. For Example, lets say a battery recall is issued with a certain model of laptop. The computers that have been finished and are awaiting shipment from the company will be pulled and upgraded with the battery (or other component) and repackaged. However, since sometimes this could cause minor scrapes, etc, the company will sell this as re-certified to avoid potential (and costly) returns. Other examples of Factory Re-certification include touching up a demo model, upgrading to a cooler running part (like a cpu), repairing a surface defect, etc. In other words, Factory Re-Certified products are often near new with only a minor upgrade, repair, or touchup completed on them. I have purchased many lots of these types of products which have looked and functioned identical as new. Most of the Factory Re-Certified Laptops our company gets still have screen protectors on the display, and have to be completely set up to use!!


If the said item simply states refurbished (rather than factory refurbished), then the item has been sold, returned, and repaired by someone other than the manufacturer. While it could be the factory or be a licensed/authorized repair shop, it could also be a guy named Jeb that knows a little bit about computers from the class he took in high school 15 years ago. Refurbished Computers and technology products CAN be a good buy IF you ask questions and do your research. Be sure that there is a VALID Warranty and that can be redeemed. It is also a good idea to ask the vendor who is the refurbished. It might also be a good idea to purchase extra warranty coverage, if available. Of course, this would only be a good buy if the price of the product is low enough to purchase the insurance without going over the price of an open box or factory re-certified item.

For my money, Open Box and Factory Re-certified Computers and Technology products generally are consistently a better value than refurbished items. From my experience, the majority of open box items are pretty much brand new, and Re-certifications usually are very close. Big savings can be had on these types of products, and can put hundreds of dollars back in your pocket on substantial purchases like laptops or desktops. Yes, I have found good buys on simple refurbished items. At the same time, I have found this category to have the biggest variance in product condition, and have been burned on a couple of occasions. However, as I have become savvier in terms of what to look for and what questions to ask, my experiences have been positive when buying these products as well. Quite simply, if I can’t get a straight answer on an item in question, I will move on.

Pungky Dwiasmoro Hiswardhani

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