At an auction for enterprise HP, Dell, and Blackberry devices‏

I attended an auction for enterprise laptops and Blackberry phones recently. The invite indicated that the IT department was dispensing with 20 HP/Dell enterprise laptops and 10 Blackberry 9300 phones. Once I closed the email message, I started researching the models listed in the auction immediately, and was tempted by the HP 2540P, which had a usable 12" display, 3GB of RAM, Intel graphics, and a previous generation low-voltage Core i5. It had an excellent assortment of ports and connectors including a rare Firewire and an Expresscard slot. Many reviews when it was released praised its durability.

Older Dell enteprise laptops are ubiquitous in the enterprise. Although specifications and the design of laptops companies hold on to may seem dated by today's standards, their resiliency and reliability are part of the reason why PC purchases have dropped over the years. Contrary to popular belief from ignorant commentators, the drop in PC sales has nothing to do with smartphones.
The locals at the site told me that based on last year's auction, the well-used laptops, including an also impressive Dell E6400 and HP 8440P, could go as low as 200 RMB (USD 30.00). It was a great bargain considering I was planning to set up a FreeBSD machine to supplement my Linux servers.

Company auction for Dell, HP, and Blackberry devices
Both the Dell E6400 and HP 8400P were powerful and reliable machines when they were released - I used a Dell E6400 with a different configuration back in 2011. They were unwieldy and heavy, but dependable workhorses. However, apart from my tight budget, I also knew that those laptops, which were released back in 2010-2011, wouldn't hold up in the next few years even if I was going to install a Linux distribution or FreeBSD on them. A 6th-generation powered Core i5 Intel NUC with an 8GB of RAM retails for around 2500 RMB (USD 373.21), but at least you're assured of a machine that wouldn't choke while playing extremely high-resolution videos or answering multiple server requests.

Although I used an old iMac a few years back, it's been close to a decade since I last used a desktop tower in an office.

In retrospect, I should have shelled out the money for either a Dell E6400 or the aforementioned HP 2540P to replace my 4-year old Toshiba NB520, which can only run 32-bit operating systems. All of the auctioned laptops sold out in a few minutes and I felt a sense of regret at losing a good bargain. Admittedly, I could've easily searched for older DDR RAM modules to upgrade the 3GB RAM. Moreover, slapping on one of my older SSD can make up for any performance issues. 

The netbook is now obsolete and off the market, but the form factor/size (11-12.1) has made a comeback in the form of 2-in-1s and convertible tablets.

I briefly considered the entry-level Blackberry Curve 9300 during the auction, too. The 9300 was also released roughly around 2010 and competed with the iPhone and Nokia QWERTY devices released during that year. However, I realized there's not much I can tinker with when it comes to the much-dated BB OS. Unsurprising, but sad, only one person bid for a Blackberry Curve 9300 during the auction for less than a dollar.

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