The $99 Green Computer
Here’s a “before” photo of my old setup. It’s a Gateway 507GR computer that I bought about 5 years ago. Its Pentium 4 processor is notoriously power-hungry, using up to 100 watts for the CPU alone! It also generates a lot of heat, which requires powerful and noisy cooling fans to keep the system from overheating. While the Gateway system meets my modest computing needs, I couldn’t help but wonder if a “greener” solution was possible on my limited budget.
The answer came in the form of a “barebones” system from Foxconn. These barebones systems start at under $100! I decided to spend a few extra dollars on a more powerful version with a dual-core processor, the Foxconn R10-S4.
What is a barebones system? Designed for do-it-yourself users, a barebones system is simply a computer case and motherboard, the “bare bones” you need to build a computer system. You can either purchase the other “ingredients” separately, or recycle parts you already have.
In my case, I reused the hard drive, CD drive, monitor, keyboard, and mouse from my old Gateway system. The only additional part I needed to buy was RAM (memory). The total price for the dual-core R10-S4, 2 gb of RAM, and shipping was under $175.
Assembly is easy if you’re handy with a screwdriver and good at following directions. Foxconn includes a color assembly guide with photos of each step. In less than an hour, my green computer was assembled and ready to go. Here’s an “after” photo of my new setup.
I simply moved the hard drive over from my old computer. This drive has two operating systems installed: Windows XP and Ubuntu (Linux) 9.04. Ubuntu was able to detect the new hardware without a hitch. All of my applications and documents were exactly as I remembered from the old computer. Windows had some minor issues at first (such as the wrong display resolution), but fortunately Foxconn provides a CD with all the necessary drivers.
So how does it perform? Next week, I will share some detailed benchmarks and observations, but the short version is, very well thank you! The processor is an Intel Atom CPU. This is the same chip used in “netbook” computers like the Asus eee PC or Dell Mini. This chip is low-wattage (under 10 watts) but also low-powered. I would not recommend an Atom-based PC for gamers, multimedia professionals, or power users. However, for everyday use like checking email, watching Youtube, or typing a letter, it is more than adequate. If a barebones kit is too DIY for your tastes, you might consider a “full” Atom-based system (such as the Asus eee-Box or Acer Aspire Revo) for your next desktop purchase.
In conclusion, my new “green computer” is green twice: Once when I built it (by purchasing a barebones kit, I recycled my existing hard drive, monitor, keyboard, and mouse) and again every time I use it (power consumption is much lower). Eco-win!
Matthew Edward Liston is a writer, editor, musician, and green computing consultant located in the rural hill towns of New York. You may contact him through the comment field below or at www.matthewliston.com.The $99 Green Computer,