Trash to Treasures
If your IT staff and teachers have lusted after Apple Macbooks, xServers, iPads and iMacs but the budget doesn’t allow it, there’s another way to equip a school with the computers it needs. Mac to School is a unique organization that acquires, refurbishes and sells a variety of Apple gear to schools for about half of their original price tags.
While many of Mac to School’s wares are upwards of four years old, most look as new as when they were made and will fit into an exclusive Apple or mixed IT landscape. That’s because after the company acquires the systems, it rehabs them physically as well as electronically to as close to new condition as possible.
In fact, Mac to School also runs a repair facility for Macs with certified Apple technicians. After wiping the drive clean, technicians run diagnostics on all its major components, including the processor, display, hard drive, networking gear, ports, battery, Bluetooth and keyboard. They replace or repair any worn or bad parts and fix cracks, scratches and physical defects.
When it’s ready, Mac to School’s technicians put the latest software on the system and can load a custom image, if you like. About the only thing they don’t do is run a burn-in test overnight or over a 24 hour period to look for overheating or intermittent faults.
The company has everything from iPads and MacBooks to Minis, iMacs, MacPros and they even sell classroom packages with carts. On the downside, what’s available is determined by what the company can buy used and you might need to wait until they can get what’s needed. At any time, you can check their inventory to see what fits into your needs, but you’ll have to email them to check on pricing.
The pay-off is that the refurbished systems are generally available at about half of their cost new. All of the company’s products include a 1-year warranty, but customers can get an extra two years of coverage for about $150. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t lease any of its gear to districts who want or need to account for computers as a monthly expense.
I took a look at four Mac to School systems – two MacBooks and a pair of iPads – and found that they were an effective way to fill a school with quality computers on a tight budget. I was astounded that each looked like it was brand new. In fact, they were in much better shape than anything I have that old.
Each came with the original equipment AC adapter, but there were no manuals included; you can get them online. In fact, the biggest faux pas is that one iPad came with the wrong charging cable, but that’s easily fixed.
As far as the MacBooks go, the Air and Pro that I looked at were up to snuff for the most intense classroom and homework with systems that performed without a flaw on typical school tasks for a week. I used them to create, view and share documents. All the ports worked, they ran well on battery power and had Geekbench 3 scores of 1,810/2,858 and 2,272/4,752 on the benchmark’s single- and multi-core tasks. This is on par with their original scores and the Pro model’s scores were very close to a brand new Core M-powered PC notebook, despite being four years old.
On the downside, the Pro and Air’s 13.3- and 11.6-inch screens show 1,366 by 768 and 1,280 by 800 pixel resolution and use Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 with either 256- or 288-MB of RAM dedicated to video. Even today’s entry-level notebooks have more powerful graphics engines, access to more video memory and higher resolution.
The iPads aren’t as old with second- and fourth-generation systems. Still their 9.7-inch screens pale next to the latest iPad Air2 with its fabulous Retina display. Still, they perform as if they were straight from the Apple Store with Geekbench 3 scores of 262/498 and 770/1,413 for single- and multi-core scores.
As to price, the systems are nothing short of a bargain compared to when they were the latest and greatest. For instance, while the revamped Air and Pro go for $400 and $700, when they were new they cost closer to $1,000 and $1,500. And the refurbished iPad2 and 4 models at $200 and $300 used to go for $629 and $529. That adds up to between a 40- and 70-percent discount. In effect, a school or district can roughly double their purchases by buying used equipment.
A slew of schools from coast to coast are discovering the cost savings by getting refurbished systems. For instance California’s Fullerton School District saved $50,000 when it outfitted schools in a one-to-one deployment while Texas’s Trinity Independent School District cut the bill for computers from $42,000 to $30,000.
If all this sounds like a good technological Plan B that can save a pile of cash, there’s one important aspect to take into account. While they were state of the art two or three years ago, today the refurbished computers’ components and specs are below typical entry level systems. In other words, they run the risk of becoming obsolete in a year or two.
Still, getting refurbished systems from Mac to School can help fill classrooms with computers for much less.
MacBook Pro (MD313LL/A): $700
MacBook Air (MC968LL/A): $400
iPad 2 (A1395): $300
iPad 4 (A1458): $400
+ Roughly half of price when new
+ Refurbished inside and out
+ Latest software installed
+ 1-year warranty with extended coverage available
+ Good variety of models available
- Danger of becoming obsolete