Amazon’s best selling PCs have one thing in common that could spell doom for the computing industry

Dell OptiPlex 7000 Micro
(Image credit: Future)

Amazon is the tech industry’s bellwether, and what I saw when researching products for our Amazon Prime Day PC deals page left me wondering whether things will eventually get better in 2023 for the beleaguered PC industry.

This is the up-to-date, frequently updated, list of best sellers in desktop computers across Amazon in the US.

Seven out of the top eight top sellers in the category are second hand computers with processors that are up to 10 years old (third generation Intel Core i5 in case you wondered). They all cost less than $250 and are decommissioned, ex-corporate mini PC. So why are they so popular?

Buying refurbished computers is no longer a stigma due to a combination of factors. If you’re not into gaming or content creation, one may argue that even a 10-year old PC with plenty of RAM and an SSD (or a fast hard drive) would be more than sufficient for everyday tasks (browsing, casual gaming, word processing). 

Sure enough, three of these cheap computers have an SSD (three that have a HDD also have a monitor) and two of them have a whopping 32GB RAM (only one has 8GB), plus given their ex-business status, they all run on Windows 10 Pro, which - in theory - provides with a free route to Windows 11 Pro should they decide to do that.


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Used computers are best sellers

Then there’s the fact that cost of living has taken a toll on the discretionary budget of millions of families, leaving many to opt for cheaper alternatives, be it for food or desktop computers. 

Other factors that make these second-hand computer appealing to the masses including its green credential (buying refurbished is better for the planet) and the fact that these used devices have not only been professionally inspected, cleared and - where applicable - repaired but also have a 90 day replace or refund warranty backed by Amazon.

All this is great for consumers but not so much for computer manufacturers who may find it more challenging as many entities opt for business laptops, decommissioning even more desktop PCs and adding even more units to the booming ex-corporate PC market.

Analyst firm Canalys reported that the desktop shipments from January 2023 to March 2023 performed slightly better than laptops as a category, undergoing a 28% decline to 12.1 million units. That meant only one out of every four devices shipped was a desktop PC, a trend that I believe is likely to continue going forward.

For now, retired Optiplex, Vostro, Precision, EliteDesk, Thinkstation, ThinkCentre desktop PCs will continue to survive and service thousands of customers as they find a new lease of life. For the benefit of their users and much to the chagrin of PC vendors.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.