YouTube’s Luke Miani reveals lessons on buying old MacBooks by the dozen

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YouTuber Luke Miani and his pile of MacBooks video
Luke Miani doesn't think you should buy 12 used MacBook Pros. But he will to prove a point about buying used Apple computers on eBay.
Screenshot: Luke Miani/YouTube

Search YouTube for Apple-related content, and you will easily find hosts who unbox, hosts who hack, hosts who fawn, and, of course, plenty who throw snark and shade.

Then there’s Luke Miani, whose Apple-centric videos with a rising number of views fall under a different category: useful.

In essence, Miani helps viewers with small budgets make Apple purchases. He guides viewers through the risks of purchasing used Apple devices from eBay. And he also shows how older devices can be restored for sometimes very little money.

The “Miani magic” lies in his explanations and demonstrations. For one recent video, his hook to view was buying a dozen old MacBook Pros off eBay for less than $1,000.

Miani didn’t know what he was getting, and the absurdity and uncertainty, if nothing else, made viewers want to see the video to the end. Through a series of steps that involved testing displays, battery life and other functions, he disassembled the laptops in order to get six perfectly good MacBook Pros. The episode drew more than a half-million views.

Luke Miani says good deals are out there

“I do videos on new stuff as well, but a focus on value is sort of a common theme,” Miani told Cult of Mac. “A lot of people overestimate the [processing] power they need and can actually save a lot of money. I never say buying a new Mac is a bad idea because there are benefits like warranty and support. It just depends on what you need. New could be the best value. But for a lot of people on a tight budget, you can totally make do with an old 13-inch Retina.”

Miani is earnest without being boring. He leaves the over-the-top personality flourishes to other YouTubers. While in high school, he taught computer literacy in an after-school program for disadvantaged students. The experience helped him develop his knack as an educator, striking a balance that engages both novices and seasoned techies alike.

A steady rise in the number of views and subscribers tells Miani he is creating something people want to watch. In December, Miani’s channel surpassed 100,000 subscribers. Its growth, according to Watchin’Today, has Miani on track to surpass 300,000 by May 2021.

Finding an audience

Miani is a junior at American University in Washington, D.C. Like many other young YouTubers, he did not have a clear direction when he started his channel. He knew he had an interest in tech and video production. But with no money, he began making videos with whatever computers and gadgets he had around his family’s home in Philadelphia.

Occasionally, he would do an episode that would rack up thousands of views. In one early video, he purposely bought a counterfeit Apple Watch to see if it was any good. The post received thousands of hits.

But it wasn’t until late 2017, shortly after he reached 1,000 subscribers, that he accidentally found his theme. He did a video helping his brother replace a dead hard drive after a search on eBay.

One viewer who clicked the subscribe button requested in the comment section that Miani do more of these kinds of videos.

“The video performed well and made me think, ‘OK, this is something I could continue to do,’” Miani said. “I wanted to find an audience and this was the first video where people after that started coming back to my channel.”

After the success of the bulk buy on MacBooks, Miani did a similar video with iMacs, paying $1,000 for three boxes of iMacs that were advertised as “for parts.” Some were missing hard drives or operating systems. Others came without cover glass. Five were firmware locked. With some cheap SSDs and other components, Miani got most of them to work.

He advertised a giveaway on Twitter at a local computer store. Fifty people showed up for what was his first public meeting with followers. One subscriber traveled 10 hours to meet Miani. Because he drove the furthest, he got the best-performing iMac.

The $500 MacBook Challenge

YouTuber Luke Miani and his roommate each found a good MacBook Pro for $500
Miani and his roommate each found a good MacBook Pro for $500.
Screenshot: Luke Miani/YouTube

In another video, Miani challenged his roommate to a $500 MacBook search.

Miani and the roommate had 20 minutes to find a MacBook Pro on eBay and spend no more than $500. How the two determined whether they got a good deal was what gave the video value. Miani showed viewers how to check the number of battery cycles and figure out whether other parts of the computer had been replaced.

“If you’re out there looking for a deal, it can be done,” he says on the video. “Twenty minutes is not a long time, we didn’t do any offers or make any bids. We were just skimming off what is admittedly not a great crop. But it’s totally doable even for a novice and (we) got completely lucky.”

Miani won the challenge on power because he got a better processor and more RAM than listed. His roommate snagged the most pristine machine. It came in the original box, included Apple stickers and microfiber cloth, and showed no outward signs of actual use.

Luke Miani does the Apple lifestyle on a budget

Another popular video showed how $500 could buy your way into the Apple ecosystem. Miani proved it by finding a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 6s and an iPad on eBay within budget — and all able to operate on the latest operating systems.

Miani does between five and eight videos each month, a surprising number given his status as a full-time college student. Based on his time-management skills alone, his future looks bright.

“I really have no idea where this is going,” he said. “I’ve been struggling with whether to take it full-time. YouTube is unstable, anything can happen. I could burn out, run out of ideas…. It’s going to be an interesting job search.”