Second-hand MacBook Pro - what to look for, 2015 edition
February 27, 2015 7:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm biting the bullet and switching to a MacBook Pro. I've found a good price for a second-hand one on Gumtree in the UK. What should I look out for when testing the machine before handing over the cash?

The machine is a two-year old MacBook Pro, 13 inch, Intel I5 2.5GHz with 8GB RAM and it looks in great condition according to the photos. Asking price is a shade under £500. Looks like a decent price according to eBay, but I'm willing to take a second opinion on that if one's offered. Seller seems legit. Is there anything specific I should look out for when testing the machine? I've seen this previous answer from 2007; has anything changed since? Thanks in advance for any answers.
posted by peteyjlawson to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I just shelved my macBook Pro because the hardware was orphaned by the operating software upgrades, and I couldn't make the old web applications work. So, first on the list, check that the hardware you get is still able to run the current OS, and then expect your computer to become obsolete sooner than you might like. Hopefully the purchase price will make up for the decreased useful life expectancy.

Make sure the battery is still in good shape. My old one had a removable one, but I think the newer ones have it hard-wired in, and can't be changed. I did replace that battery once because its ability to hold a charge decreased to an unacceptable level.

That said, I'm happy with my new MacBook Air. A little cheaper, and it fills the bill.
posted by halhurst at 7:26 AM on February 27, 2015

I'm probably going to replace my MBP this year: it's an "Early 2011", working fine, supports Yosemite, so I'll be comfortable selling it on in the knowledge that the next owner should have at least a couple of years of further upgrades.

A "Late 2013" version, especially with 8GB RAM, is a good bet for longevity: Intel's Broadwell CPUs were delayed last year, so Apple only offered a speed bump update to the 2013 Haswell range. Haswell offers significant power efficiency advantages over the CPUs in previous generations. An "Early 2013" MBP is decent, but not as good a deal.

My old one had a removable one, but I think the newer ones have it hard-wired in, and can't be changed.

They can be changed at any Apple Store (with a one-hour turnaround) but out of warranty, it'll cost £109.
posted by holgate at 8:18 AM on February 27, 2015

A two-year-old machine should be fine for a while. Processors aren't getting any faster (just more power-efficient); 2.5GHz is still the clock speed on the latest models. And 8GB of RAM is enough to run the latest OS without any sluggishness.

The battery is the biggest concern. If you charge it fully and boot it up, and then let it run for a few minutes while doing "normal usage" like browsing the web, you should be able to see an estimate of how much time remains on battery. If that's below like 5-6 hours you likely want to replace it. If the battery is really worn out, the little battery menu may actually say "Maintenance required" or "Replace soon".

This seems like a pretty good buy; it's likely almost the same as the newest models right now.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:23 AM on February 27, 2015

Also test the screen for burn in / ghosting / image retention.

My friend's MBP Retina Display is bad about holding on to bright images on screen. The white background of a Finder window, for example, will display over another app after the window is closed.
posted by Monochrome at 9:29 AM on February 27, 2015

If you live close to an Apple Store, I'd recommend taking it in, having them run a quick diagnostic and check it for liquid damage. That should mitigate any surprises.
posted by bluloo at 9:41 AM on February 27, 2015

Check for physical and LIQUID damage. To do that you will need to open the case (special screw driver needed...) and check the liquid sensors (white dots turned red) and other signs of corrosion caused by liquid. At least you can run the build inn Diagnostic test.

posted by Mac-Expert at 9:57 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

The battery condition would be my main concern. If I'm not mistaken, the diagnostics test will also report the battery status. When my wife's laptop went in for an unrelated repair, they identified that the battery was starting to fail and needed to be replaced.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 1:22 PM on February 27, 2015

The machine is a two-year old MacBook Pro, 13 inch, Intel I5 2.5GHz with 8GB RAM

Wait, so is it a 2012 13in, or a 2013 13in?

Mainly, is it the retina one? Because the non retina 13in macbook pro is not worth buying. It's a horribly outdated, and overpriced machine that gives you a low res screen and a crappy mechanical hard drive.

If it's the retina one though, those are fine(and good) and i hope its a 2013. The original 2012 models are somewhat underpowered in the graphics department and tend to stutter a bit when opening menus or scrolling.

I'd do the onboard diagnostics, look at the physical condition very carefully, and call it a day. The batteries on these newer macs with built in, "non user serviceable" batteries seem to last for freaking ever. I had a 2009 17in, which was the first model to feature that besides the macbook air. I got it up to a totally obscene(like 700) number of cycles and the battery life was still exceptional.

There's not a lot to go bad on these. There's no hard drive to fail, the fans have maglev bearings, there's almost no moving parts or anything. Check that the keyboard is in good shape, it doesn't look abused, and that it passes a hardware check and you're good. I'd also aim for i don't know, 3-400 cycles on the battery? nothing super high, but as i mentioned, that's not a super huge concern.

I'd also check out the condition of the charger cable very carefully. Even used, vetted ones of those run $40 in the US, and $80 for a new one at apple. And they get messed up kind of depressingly easily.
posted by emptythought at 5:48 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, and as someone else mentioned, you CAN take it to an apple store and have them check it out for free! just say "hey i'm looking to buy this, is it in ok condition?". Last i checked(in like 2008, heh) they were happy to do that at no cost.
posted by emptythought at 5:49 PM on February 27, 2015

Thanks folks, followed the advice and I'm typing this on the machine itself :)
posted by peteyjlawson at 3:35 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

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