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by Joe Leo, Columnist

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So, I spent three weeks searching on eBay. I wanted the end of the line model, the 1.67GHz "hi-res" version, but those are still fetching a high price! $1500 and below. I was only willing to spend $500 to $800. What could be had for that price?

Wow. You can go back as far as the Titanium line with low MHz (667 or even 400) and those start at $399 but usually run $500+. For $500 and above, you're looking at 15-inch aluminum models from 1GHz to 1.33GHz. Any 1.5GHz models fetch $699 to $899.

For whatever reason, I narrowed down my search to 1.5GHz models. One, it matched the speed of my 12-inch PowerBook, and two, I found that the 1.67GHz models weren't that much speedier than the 1.5GHz, so the savings there were huge.

Finally last week, I found one that was in my range, and was being sold locally. (Trust me, a huge plus!). This is where the fun begins so pay attention.

(Though, to be honest, the week before, I bid on one on "accident"--I entered a best offer of $530 and figured someone would beat me since the "Buy it Now" price was $599... checked my account later on to find I'd won the darn thing--and it had a hardware failure that I could live with, but when I got it? There were other things awry. I've filed a claim for a refund already).

One of the specs I was looking for in the PowerBook was one that was in mint condition. Yes, there are some people that take care of their things like I do and there's not a scratch on the casing to be found. I wanted my "new" 15-inch to be like the one in the box that I never opened and returned to the Apple Store almost three years ago. New as can be.

So, the guy selling the PowerBook said that his unit was pretty much perfect. I asked about scratches and he said that there were some scratches on the outer casing, but nothing major. And nothing on the inner part where it's used-- LCD, keyboard, trackpad, etc.

I asked, since we were both in the same area, if I could possibly see the laptop before bidding on it. He agreed and was happy to meet at a local CompUSA (they have an internet cafe area at that location) so that I could "try before buying." I wanted to make sure it was nice and not dented.

I wasn't able to make it that night, so tried to reschedule the next day, just hours before the end of the auction. He didn't get my message until late, and I didn't get his until much later--30 minutes before auction end--so I asked if he could just send photos of the casing and e-mail them to me.

He responded instantly and didn't feel he could take them, downsize them for mailing, and then shoot them over to me (ha ha) in time. We were talking until the last few minutes of the auction. It went from about $300--if my memory serves me correctly--earlier in the day to $500 that evening. I knew this would stay in that range, but didn't want to bid without confidence.

The seller reassured me that if I bid on it, I could still look at it the next day and if I didn't feel it was up to par, he'd simply relist it. I believed him because he had a seller's return policy stated on the listing. "14 day return policy."

What could be better? Same if I'd bought it at Apple three years ago. (Which I did, and did).

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