Thursday, September 18, 2008

Green PC Buying Guide

It's not easy being green -- especially when it comes to computers.

While for years the computer industry has been touting green components and working to reduce the power used by individual components, a typical PC with monitor still uses about as much electricity as three or four 100 watt light bulbs.

Consider that many personal computers are left on all the time, and you're looking at some serious power consumption -- and some hefty electricity bills.

What you can do to reduce the power consumption of your current computer may be limited.

But when it's time to look for a new machine, it'll pay to keep an eye on how much power the machine will use. That's because there's never been a greater disparity between the power used by energy-sipping models and that used by the most powerful PCs.

Here's how you can distinguish the green PC from the rest.

Computer Case:

The size of a computer case doesn't have to mean anything about how power-efficient a computer is, but it's often a clue. Larger cases are typically used when heat dissipation is an issue, and heat dissipation is a concern when power-hungry components are at work.

Smaller cases are often used to house lower-power or energy-efficient components. So, while smaller doesn't always mean better, it's a safe bet to assume that it is.

Notebooks -- the smallest of all personal computers -- are typically the most power efficient as well. They are designed from the ground up to be able to perform standard computing tasks while drawing a minimum of power, and they go into power-saving mode more quickly than a standard desktop, since at times they have to run on a battery. So, notebook users today can almost always boast of having the greenest computers.


You might think that the latest crop of powerful processors are also the most power-hungry. But you'd be wrong.

Advanced manufacturing techniques have not only allowed the big chip makers to cram two or even four processing cores on a chip that used to house only one, but the latest dual-core processors use about half as much energy as earlier models. Quad-core processors aren't quite so energy efficient, but they're still better than the older generation of chips.

So, if you're looking for a green desktop, look for mid-range chips from the latest lines from Intel and AMD.

Intel's new Core 2 Duo vPro line improves upon the already stellar power-saving features of the original Core 2 Duo line, and AMD's Phenom processor with its "cool and quiet" technology puts energy-savings in the forefront.

Power Supply:

Power supplies -- the piece of a computer that supplies power to the rest of the parts in a computer system are not a component that computer buyers generally pay much attention to. But for those buying green, that needs to change.

It's true that the amount of energy that a power supply draws depends greatly upon what exactly is installed in the computer. But, power supplies themselves have often been energy-wasters in the past.

If an earlier generation power supply had to provide 300 watts of power to the components in a PC, for example, it might actually use 500 watts in order to produce that power. The industry's answer has been the relatively new 80 Plus certification programme, which requires power supplies that wish to wear the 80 Plus logo to be "at least" 80 per cent efficient.

In other words, a power supply that needed to provide 300 watts of power to the components in a computer could draw a maximum of 375 watts in order to gain the 80 Plus seal of approval. So, when you're buying a green PC, look for computers that boast an 80 Plus logo.