Reviewed: A used, year-old MacBook Pro from Apple's Refurbished Mac store that saved me $US450

2016 macbook proAntonio Villas-Boas/Business InsiderThis 2016 MacBook Pro was previously used, but when I reviewed it, it felt just like a new laptop

Apple has a gorgeous “mid 2017” MacBook Pro with fresh and powerful specs available to buy right now — but if you like to save money, it might not be your best option.

Me? I went for the 2016 model. And no, it’s not a brand new, unsold 2016 MacBook Pro that Apple had left over. It’s a previously used and refurbished unit I bought from Apple’s little-known Refurbished Mac store.

It’s easy to see why someone wouldn’t want a previously used device; it begs the question as to why the previous owner returned it. Was it defective? What was wrong with it? Why wouldn’t previous owner want to keep it?

All that matters is whether or not the device still works properly and whether you’re getting some kind of discount because the device has, indeed, been used before.

I saved $US450 by going with the 2016 MacBook Pro I bought from the Refurbished Mac store. And if its working and aesthetic condition is anything to go by, I’d say Apple does very good work at making sure refurbished devices look good and work as if they were new.

Check out a used, 2016 MacBook Pro and how it stacks up against a 2017 MacBook Pro that costs $US450 more:

My refurbished MacBook Pro came in a plain white box with the word 'MacBook Pro' on it and the words 'Apple Certified Refurbished' in a lighter colour at the bottom.

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The regular retail packaging for MacBook Pros features a nice photo of the laptop on the top cover, but that's about all the difference there is.

I was surprised to find the MacBook Pro in a frosty-coated plastic protective sleeve, which gives off the impressions that it's a brand new device, even though it's not.

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The protective plastic wrapping looks a little crumpled because I had already removed it and stored it inside the box for about a week. Otherwise, it was like taking out a brand new laptop when I first opened the box.

I was even more surprised to find a thin protective sheet of paper between the screen and the keyboard.

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The piece of paper separating the screen from the keyboard was also a little crumpled from a week of storage. I can assure that it was pristine when I first opened the computer!

Inside the refurbished MacBook Pro box, you'll find a very similar layout to the regular retail packaging.

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There's the power brick, the USB-C charging cable, warranty information, and even the two Apple stickers that usually come with new Apple products.

Before even turning it on, I thoroughly inspected the laptop for any sign of previous use or wear.

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There were no scratches, dents, dings, or anything else that suggested someone else had used this thing before I did. It was flawless.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

Even the power brick and the USB-C charging cord seemed brand new. In fact, they could very well be brand new.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

The power brick itself was wrapped in plastic, just like you'd find in the box of a brand new MacBook Pro. The USB-C charging cable also appeared to be completely new. It was wrapped in the cardboard mould that keeps it together in the box. I'd show you a photo if I could, but of course I ripped the plastic and cardboard wrapping off and threw it away before taking a photo.

I turned it on, set it up like I would I would any new MacBook Pro, and it was ready to use.

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Buying a used MacBook Pro from someone on eBay is fine, but buying it refurbished from Apple gives me more confidence about the device's condition.

Used and refurbished devices sold on Apple's Refurbished Mac store are reconditioned by Apple itself, which instills more confidence than if you were to buy a used device from a site like eBay. If the refurbished 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro I bought is anything to go by, Apple's process is excellent; my MacBook Pro in perfect working order, and there's no visible sign of use or wear.

Buying from Apple's Refurbished Mac store also affords a degree of separation from you and the previous owner. In my eyes, my refurbished MacBook Pro came from Apple, not the original owner, which makes me feel like I bought it brand-new. This, too, adds to my confidence in the condition of my refurbished MacBook Pro. If I had bought it from someone on eBay, the feeling that it's a used device that hadn't gone through a rigorous refurbishment process like Apple's would be far more prominent.

So, how do 2016 MacBook Pros compare to the 2017 models?

The 2017 MacBook Pros (left) perform better than the 2016 MacBook Pros (right), but that's to be expected. And the 2017's performance bump won't really matter for most people.

Almost everything about the 2016 MacBook Pros are the same as the 2017 models, including the screen, size, weight, battery life, Touch Bar, giant trackpad, and keyboard. The only difference is the 2016 models' older processors, and the older graphics processors in the 15-inch 2016 models. With that in mind, it's isn't surprising that the 2017 MacBook Pros perform slightly better than the 2016 models in benchmarks.

At the same time, only professionals who use MacBook Pros for photo or video editing, or any other type of power hungry work, would notice the performance bumps in the 2017 model. For a regular user like me who uses Google Chrome (with 20 open tabs at the time of writing), a little bit of Photoshop, and Slack for work, the 2016 MacBook Pro with a 2.6GHz Core i7 works just fine, and I don't need the extra power from the 2017 model.

In fact, the most important thing for me is my MacBook Pro's 16GB of RAM, which makes quick work of the 20-plus Google Chrome tabs I usually keep open. If you didn't know, Google Chrome is a notorious RAM hog. Chrome can bring any new computer to its knees if it doesn't have enough RAM, regardless of what processor it has.

I still paid close to $US2000 for the laptop, but I couldn't be happier that I saved $US450.

The value of a newer processor and graphics chip just isn't there for a regular user like me. It's certainly not worth an extra $US450!

Admittedly, $US1950 (before taxes) is still a lot for a laptop. It's true that there are some Windows laptops out there with similar or better specs that cost less. At the same time, I've tried using Windows for my work, and there's simply no comparison with Apple's macOS operating system.

Things as mundane as taking a screenshot, something I do very often, is a convoluted mess on Windows. Plus, I simply cannot find a good GIF-creation tool for Windows, like Giphy. It simply does not exist. If you know of one, please let me know! These are tools I use on a regular basis, and macOS simply works better for creating content.

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