Low-Power Computing, On The Cheap

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When I read this ZDNet blog post an idea began to form in my head.

My wife and I have been talking about selling my desktop and buying a laptop. Her concern is clearing some deskspace, because right now the desktop IS the only thing on the desk. She wants a more spartan look. I was going along with the idea as it made sense to save a few hundred on the electrical bill.

But then I read George Ou's post, and began toying with an interesting idea. Why not sell my desktop, build a PC based off the Intel D201GLY and use old parts I have lying around. The goal would be to get the same power savings at half the cost of a low-end laptop. The Celeron 215 processor included with the board runs at 1.33 GHz consuming around 27 watts. That's quite low compared to the usual 60+ watts of a desktop processor.

Running the numbers, I came up with the following options:

You'll notice the only thing different in all three options would be the LCD screen size. Price increased by roughly 800 pesos for each increase in screen size. I deliberately chose to go with a large hard drive as well. Three-and-a-half inch disks generally run faster and are sturdier that their mobile counterparts. The downside is that they eat more watts and produce more heat. I did not include the ATX case in the list as well, since I have a spare tower at home gathering dust. The small footprint of the board would have fit nicely with a micro-ATX case like the Focus Nemesis, but that would up the cost by 3,500 pesos. That's money better spent on something else.

Now the better equipped of the value niche in the laptop segment is usually in the 25,000-30,000 peso range. Compare that to the above, consider that the only constantly running power hog in that configuration would be the hard drive, and you've got yourself a comparable system at a little over half the price.

I'm going to wait for the D201GLY2 though, as that version of the board will use a 15-watt CPU and incorporate SATA support.

Here's more information about the board from Intel: Intel® Desktop Board D201GLY Overview


r.Y.s.T.r.A.u.M said...

I had the same idea as your set-up for my upcoming computer shop and here in our country, PH, it's surprisingly difficult to get your hands on a low-power system.

Any ideas where to get micro-ATX cases around the QC area? I've been looking in the major malls but to no avail.

Ed said...

Currently, low-power PSUs are still a niche thing. What you can buy locally are PSUs in the 300W-400 watt range with the 80+ energy efficiency rating. Most of the branded PSUs have a line for this, cheapest would be HEC's. Antec has it's EarthWatts series as well. Pair that with one of the new Sempron and Athlon LE processors (45-watt TDP)and you've shaved off some watts. It's far from the set-up I posted about, but it's the best you can do with what's available locally.

Ed said...

By the way, the Sempron LE 1150 (2GHz, Php 2,000) and the Athlon LE 1600 (2.2GHz, Php 2,200) are available in a local store here in Angeles City (Pampanga). So I'm guessing there's a greater variety of models available in the Gilmore area. Shop around bro, you might be surprised at the bargains you find.

r.Y.s.T.r.A.u.M said...

yeah, I just read about those PSUs recently. Thanks for the second opinion, though.

Anyway, what I liked about the D201GLY is that I need not buy a separate motherboard and video card for it.

I got myself a set-up..
D201GLY - Php 3,100
Casing(w/ stock PSU)+keys+mouse+speaker package - Php 1,700
512 DDR2 533 RAM - Php 1,500
CD-RW, DVD-R - Php 2,000

Throw in CRT monitors, for a max of 2k per, and I've got 10k per unit costing. (I'll be running on DSL, a Linux distro, with toram option so I've got no problem with licensing fees and I get to run without a HD - which means slightly lesser power consumption)
All of these is just in the experimental phase for the meantime. Once I get everything up and running, I'll be seeing how well this set-up would work.

Still a lot of canvassing to do. :D

Ed said...

You'll have to remember though that the power savings may be offset by the lack of video capabilities on this board, that is if you're going to use it in a computer shop and allow gaming on it. Another thing you might want to wait for is the D201GLY2 which is scheduled for release in early 2008. It's going to give you more power savings and SATA connectors. It'll run on 15 watts, way lower than the D201GLY's 27 watts.

r.Y.s.T.r.A.u.M said...

Neh, I'm not going to have games on my PCs due to security reasons (right across the bridge on our street is a very big "informal settlers" area, if you get what I mean.)
The 'sequel' to the D201GLY is a good call though. I'll wait for it. For the mean time, I'll try finding a dealer for the D201GLY2 in QC area. I've had enough trouble finding the D201GLY.

Anyway, I better sleep. :D

Ed said...

I've seen a few posts on the TipidPC.com forums of seller's selling the thing. The forums are also a great resource for following leads on great finds, what store you can find what part and so forth. Greats deals going on there.

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