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What is a refurbished or reconditioned gaming console?

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Xbox One S, PS4 Slim and Nintendo Switch

When it comes to buying a games console, particularly if you’re buying it as a gift and aren’t particularly gaming-savvy yourself, it can be a bit of a minefield. Consoles within the same ‘family’ now come with different models, different hard drive capacities, different add ons – it’s all a bit confusing if you’re not regularly keeping up to date with the latest in gaming news.

One type of console that can be particularly confusing to buy is a ‘refurbished’ or ‘reconditioned’ console. These words coverage a wide range of definitions, and particularly over the internet it can be hard to tell exactly what you’re buying. This guide aims to dispel some of the myths around refurbished consoles and help you make the right buying decision.

What is a refurbished or reconditioned console?

Though the terms ‘refurbished’ and ‘reconditioned’ are used interchangeably by different retailers, they do technically mean different things. If you find a retailer listing both reconditioned and refurbished consoles, in all likelihood they mean the following:

 

  • Reconditioned – These consoles will not be in mint condition, but will be in virtually perfect working order. Reconditioned consoles are sometimes those that have been used in retail display units, have been returned unopened or otherwise are not able to sold as new despite still being almost unused. Reconditioned can also define consoles that have been used, but have been rigorously tested, cleaned and verified as working like new, either by the retailer or the console manufacturer. Reconditioned consoles often come with a fresh warranty.
  • Refurbished – Refurbished has a looser definition, and is generally a step up from second-hand (although they are sometimes referred to as ‘second-hand’ or ‘pre-owned’). A refurbished console is likely one that has been used and has been sold back to the retailer by a customer. It will likely have undergone some basic checks to ensure it’s working, but may not have been checked or repaired as thoroughly as a reconditioned unit. Any warranty it comes with will probably be relatively short, if it comes with one at all.

 

Things to bear in mind when buying a refurbished or reconditioned console

  • Some, particularly refurbished consoles, may well come without the official box. Some retailers will supply a generic box to keep the console safe, but it won’t be quite the same.
  • Depending on how rigorously the refurbished console has been tested, it may take some work to get it back to its original, unused state, including deleting game data from the hard drive and removing all logged-in users.
  • Keep an eye on the model of console you’re buying. Particularly if the console you’re looking at is pre-owned or refurbished, it may well no longer be the most current model (e.g. an original Xbox One rather than an Xbox One S). This is great if you’re looking for a bargain, but is easily overlooked if you want the latest model.
  • Look out for different grades. Some retailers will receive second hand stock so regularly that they’re able to apply a grading system to help you further understand exactly what quality of product you’re getting for your money. This can be particularly useful if you’re looking for a bargain console and don’t mind about possible cosmetic damage.
  • Get a feel for the prices of new consoles. Reconditioned or refurbished consoles can represent fantastic value, but they can also offer only a marginal discount that means they are more hassle than they’re worth.