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I just bought a refurbished iPad Pro — and it's saved me a ton

iPad Pro 2020 refurb
(Image credit: Future)

I just bought myself an 11-inch iPad Pro 2020 for about 30% off of its original price by going through the Apple Certified Refurbished store. I've been in love with the tablet since it arrived, and I think more of you who like the sound of a new device but are perhaps a bit short on money should look into the benefits you can get if you go the refurbished route.

It's easy to save a lot of money buying new gadgets if you're willing to go second-hand. However pre-owned devices can be a risky purchase, given you don’t know what’s happened to it before you bought it. Fortunately buying from the right source, like Apple itself, offers a greater guarantee that you can get a great device for less without needing to worry about its condition.

Why the iPad Pro 2020?

 Some of you may be wondering why I decided to go for a two-year-old iPad model instead of saving a little more money and buying an iPad Pro 2021 or the rumored upcoming iPad Pro 2022. There are two reasons for that. First off, the price was lower, which is always good. Secondly, it's a model that suits me better than the more recent iPad Pro. I don't need that model's Apple M1 chip power, the A12Z chip is plenty for me coming from the low-powered A10 chip in my old 7th-gen iPad. While I am a little bummed I missed out on a 12MP Center Stage selfie camera, the 7MP camera on the 2020 model is still an upgrade on the grainy 1.2MP one on my old iPad. 

iPad Pro 2020 refurb

(Image credit: Future)

As for why I didn't go for a brand new iPad that fit within my budget, I've written before about how the iPad Air 2022 missed the mark for me. To boil that story down though, I basically wanted at least 128GB of storage and ideally a 120Hz display, which the iPad Pro 2020 still offers. Also, buying refurbished has a slight environmental benefit, since it's reusing a large amount of the product's existing parts.

The iPad refurbished selection of iPads at the Apple Store also includes the 2018 iPad Pro, which keeps the fast display and storage while being even cheaper. In this case though, I valued the extra couple of years of guaranteed iPadOS support over the immediate saving. 

Buying Apple Certified Refurbished products

Refurbished Apple devices have their own section on the Apple Store, but you may have to scroll all the way down the bottom of the page to find it. When you get there, you'll find recent devices sold at about a $100 discount, or older ones that go for less than that, like my iPad Pro.

Unlike other refurbished devices that you can buy from other retailers, Apple promises only genuine parts and replaces the battery and outer shell of the iPads and iPhones it resells, an important touch since these are often the parts that wear out the fastest. You get all the necessary accessories too, in this case a USB-C cable and a 20W charger, as well as a one-year warranty.

The Apple Certified Refurbished unboxing experience

Refurbished iPads don't quite feel as special to buy, I won't deny that. You get your new tablet sent in a plain white box for one, with only the product name printed on it instead of an image of your new device. It kind of dampens the Apple unboxing experience, but given I'll be shoving the packaging under my bed the day after I've opened it, it's pretty forgivable. Meanwhile inside, everything's new, right down to the little cardboard envelope full of the necessary quick start guide, legal info and all-important Apple stickers.  

iPad Pro 2020 refurb

(Image credit: Future)

After looking over the tablet carefully, I couldn't see any evidence that the iPad Pro had had a life before ending up in my hands. Even the display, which Apple doesn't automatically replace, looked pristine from corner to corner.

Just like new, booting up the iPad brought me to the usual iOS set-up page, not the gigabytes of the previous owner's pornography as one of TG's editors kept teasing me about. The only problem was that because this is a 2020 iPad that comes with iPadOS 13, I had to update it to iPadOS 15 before starting to move my data over, slowing down set-up by a fair amount. 

Bottom line

Since the annoyingly slow install, I've been greatly enjoying the iPad Pro, often forgetting all about the fact it's a refurbed model, perhaps the best compliment I could give. The ProMotion display is as smooth and clear as I hoped, the performance is notably better as I swap between apps and write notes with my Apple Pencil, and the lighter weight, roomy storage and LiDAR camera array are all bonuses too.

iPad Pro 2020 refurb

(Image credit: Future)

I would definitely recommend buying pre-owned iPhones and iPads from the Apple Refurbished store for anyone based on my excellent experience. I've heard more mixed reviews about buying refurbished Macs (perhaps because Apple doesn't guarantee battery and body replacements for these) but I'd be willing to try in the future.

I get swept up in the excitement of the latest product release like any gadget fan does, but it's important to remember that when upgrading or replacing your device, you don't necessarily need the latest version, just one that's better than your current model. If you can resist the temptation of the latest and greatest, and aren't fussed about having pristine, untouched hardware, you can get a lot more for your money than you think.

Next: You can read about how my iPad let me work while beating a heat wave.

Richard Priday
Staff Writer

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.