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Woot's 'mystery' Ryzen notebook deal is basically a real-life loot box

(Image credit: Woot)

Loot boxes are certainly not without controversy, though usually when the issue pops up it's in regards to an in-game purchase. Woot.com, a deal site owned by Amazon, has something else in mind. It's selling a factory reconditioned (read: refurbished) Dell Inspiron 5775 laptop with "mystery" specs for $399.99.

Woot's angle is "instead of focusing on a product, we focused on a price and filled in the blanks later."

"Give us money, we'll send you a 17.3-inch notebook worth a bit more than what you paid us. If you play the odds, you might get something MUCH better than what you paid for," Woot says.

Here's what buyers are guaranteed:

  • AMD Ryzen 3 2200U dual-core processor
  • 17.3-inch HD+ display (1600x900)
  • 8GB of DDR4-2400 memory
  • 1TB SATA HDD
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1
  • HD webcam, DVD writer, SD card reader
  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit

It's backed by a 1-year warranty (provided by Dell), and according to Woot's description, the refurb laptop is in "Grade A condition; you might mistake them for brand new if 'Refurbished' wasn't printed on the box."

So, is it a deal? On Dell's website, these laptops start at $431.09 after applying coupon code SAVE17. However, that configuration is both brand new and gets you a burlier Ryzen 3 2300U. Here's how the two CPUs compare:

  • Ryzen 3 2300U (Dell's website): 4C4T at 2GHZ to 3.4GHz, 6 GPU cores
  • Ryzen 3 2200U (Woot): 2C4T at 2.5GHz to 3.4GHz, 3 GPU cores

In my opinion, it's worth spending the extra $31. Where things get murky, however, is in the loot box nature of the deal.

Woot says 87 percent of customers will get a Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) display, which is a far better fit for a 17.3-inch laptop. In addition, roughly half of customers will get a Ryzen 5 2500U and "a handful" of lucky buyers will get a Ryzen 7 2700U.

Those are compelling upgrades for essentially a $400 laptop. The other specs are a crap shoot as well. Woot says 55 percent of customers will get 12GB of DDR4 memory and 12 percent will get 16GB of RAM. As for storage, "almost everyone is getting a 1TB hard drive; a lucky few (8 percent) will get a 2TB hard drive."

For a general purpose PC or a very low-end gaming system, this offer could be compelling. And for the majority users, it's at least a decent deal. But for the unlucky few—those that get a stock config with a 1600x900 resolution display and a dual-core CPU—it's an underwhelming offer, considering it's a refurb.

I'm not a fan of this approach. Just give us a good deal to begin with, and leave chance out of it. That said, Woot's FAQ page indicates "most purchases" have a 30-day return policy, in which it gives a "full refund," sans the cost of return shipping. So not a full refund.

Assuming that applies to this offer (and I don't know if it does), you could potentially return the loot box...er, I mean mystery laptop, if you get unlucky. You'd still be out the cost of return shipping though, which is sort of a big deal when pinching pennies on a low-end PC.

If you want to roll the dice, follow this link (and good luck).