A Greener Home Office: Belkin Smart AV And Moneual Sonamu G100

Final Words

In the end, the idea of a greener home office turns out to be a bit of a wash. It's great in concept, but more limited in practice, at least for the average user. For example, many of us prefer not to turn off our router because of the time it takes to initialize the network (Ed.: or how about all of the other wireless devices connected around the house?), even though this appliance alone consumes more power than all other idling peripherals combined.

If you want a greener home office, you would be better served by choosing more purpose-built machines. Our Sandy Bridge-based configuration uses close to 40 W, and that's just for light Web browsing. Compare this to a dual-core Atom/second-gen Ion system that consumes around 13 W.

Enthusiasts planning a full-ATX built, consequently sizing themselves out of Moneual's form factor, should consider Belkin's Conserve Smart AV. It gives you a good way to save a few extra bucks on power over time, especially if you were going to spend money on a power strip anyway. Just remember that you need a reasonably efficient power supply that consumes less than 4 W in standby if you want its switch mechanism to work properly. A power supply so inefficient as to use more than that could keep the Smart AV's slave power outlets active.

Even if you're planning a micro-ATX build, we still have to recommend the Belkin solution. Moneual's design is clever, but its inefficient power supply almost eliminates any benefit. The money you save by shutting off peripherals is weighed against higher power consumption of the system during use. Ideally, Moneual could probably see some success selling the power module as a separate device. If this is something we could just slap onto any power supply, it could become a must-have product for the Prius crowd. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Almost everyone in the SoCal lab tends to leave their work computers on 24x7, because we either want our systems available on short notice locally, want to access them remotely, or have tasks running in the background that can't be interrupted. We really only have the option of turning off monitors, printers, and speakers to cut back power consumption. If your usage pattern is similar to ours, you'll save less than $10 per year with the Sonamu. The Moneual case really only makes sense in denser deployments, where you might have 50 machines in an office with displays. That's a more appropriate combination, considering the Sonamu only controls one device anyway.

The Green Side of the Argument

16 Hours Standby, 8 Hours of Use (Peripherals & System)
Intel System
Energy Used Per Year
Cost Per Year
Sparkle PSU (power strip)
328 kWh$43.02
Sparkle PSU w/ Smart AV241 kWh$31.67
Sonamu w/Power Module268 kWh$35.23
Sonamu w/Power Module & kill switch during shutdown236 kWh$31.02
Sparkle PSU (power strip) & kill switch during shutdown
229 kWh$30.02
If 30% of PCs In The US Used The Sonamu...
Intel System
Energy Used Per Year
CO2 Produced Per Year
Sparkle PSU (power strip)
26.0 billion kWh35.6 billion lbs.
Sparkle PSU w/ Smart AV19.0 billion kWh26.2 billion lbs.
Sonamu w/Power Module21.2 billion kWh29.1 billion lbs.
Sonamu w/Power Module & kill switch during shutdown18.7 billion kWh25.6 billion lbs.
Sparkle PSU (power strip) & kill switch during shutdown18.1 billion kWh24.9 billion lbs.

Moneaul makes some bold claims. It states that if 30% of PCs in the United States were built using the Sonamu case, we would save approximately 6.7 billion kWh of energy per year. This is based on 16 hours per day of standby time (and an eight-hour workday) times 264.1 million desktops. When we run the math in reverse, we find that Moneaul is using a standby figure of about 14.5 W. Unfortunately, this number only captures the power used by peripherals. It doesn't take into account how much more power the PSU in this chassis consumes when the system is active. 

When we compare the different options tested for this story and use the same math, we see that the Sonamu PC would save roughly 4.8 billion kWh per year. Belkin's Smart AV saves more power because it doesn't rely on a lower-quality power supply. That's for those of you who care most about the bottom line environmental message.

But in the end, if you really want to save money, neither solution is appropriate. What you really need is a behavioral adjustment. Honestly, we really hate to sound like your mother here, but we're trained to turn off the lights when we walk out of a room (and how many years did that take?). Similarly, if it's your energy bill you want to cut, get in the habit of turning off your PC and then hitting the kill switch on your power strip to cut all power to connected devices when they're not needed. That's the only way to gurantee lower energy consumption, save money, and reduce your carbon footprint. Also, you get the double-benefit of not having to give up any performance from your primary workstation when you do, in fact, need the frame rates enabled by its six-core CPU and dual-GPU graphics card.

Enthusiasts who can't be bothered to remember to hit a switch, and you really want an automatic solution, Belkin's Smart AV is a much better choice that doesn't tie your hands down to a specific enclosure. Coupled with an energy-efficient power supply, it's our choice for anyone looking to be more eco-friendly.

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  • compton
    I'm no eco-terrorist, but I do consider power efficiency of my PC as one metric of it's performance -- one I do try to make lower in general. I have a 80+ gold PSU. I'm using a 2500k and SSDs. Even with my GTX 460, Asus Essence STX soundcard, ect I max out at ~208 watts at the wall during intensive games.

    If you really want to save some electricity and have more fun doing it then build a more efficient PC. These two products are just a little too gimmicky. At least in a PC with efficient components you get less heat (and noise) as well as a lower utility bill. The energy cost to make and distribute these two products will far, far exceed any energy or power savings realized.

    Still, it's good to see a different style of review. I'd like to see more in the series (like the GPU energy cost article). I know there are some products out there that can make a difference when it comes to lower energy bills.

    Good job.
  • alikum
    Disappointed with Belkin's customer support
  • newnow
    yes,it look wonderful
  • ngazi
    Really nice to know to avoid these things.
  • Olle P
    There are other, more elusive and difficult to assess, factors involved as well:
    - Environmental impact during production of the equipment.
    - Environmental impact of storage and transportation to your home.
    - Environmental impact once the equipment is taken out of service.

    To reduce these effects one must use the equipment for as long as possible, and then possibly re-use it for less demanding tasks.

    Personally I use one of those "smart" power strips to kill everything but the 5Vsb line when the computer is off.
  • JohnMD1022
    How about those of us who believe 'green' is a crock?
  • MU_Engineer
    JohnMD1022How about those of us who believe 'green' is a crock?

    It's only a crock to people who have a basic grasp of math or any clue as to what manufacturing a product entails. For the rest of the people, it's an excellent and highly effective advertising strategy because it's an emotional argument and not a logical one. "Our product uses less power and are environmentally friendly." [shows pictures of baby seals and icebergs falling off into the ocean] "Don't you want to save the environment?" The sheer number of highly non-environmentally-friendly to manufacture and uneconomical Priuses out on the road will tell you the "green guilt" ad strategy works very, very well.
  • Anonymous
    It's a crock sometimes, sometimes it's not. Just like most other things.

    Using a more efficient PSU or driving a Ford Fiesta instead of a Humvee is perfectly reasonable both for the environment and for the savings provided.

    But yes, not all green products are actually green. Not all low fat products are actually low fat, and so on. Are you really surprised?
  • huron
    I do hate when everyone jumps on the "Green" bandwagon and uses it primarily for marketing, but I look forward to a day when I don't have to pay for heat or electricity, or at least as much...that'll be a great day in my world.

    The interesting thing about PCs and electronics in general is that they are always getting greener for the most part, right - newer generations use less power, produce less heat, and offer greater performance.

    I am an enthusiast, so I get that high-powered GPUs and CPU overclocks are not as green, but for the same power output, I have a significant jump in performance vs a machine only a few years old. Wouldn't it stand to reason that if I wanted the same performance, I could get it at less power = GREEN?
  • jonahkirk
    Sticking these on smartly built, newer peripherals probably would never pay-out. However, if you have an older monitor, 5 yr. old Logitech 6.1 surround sound which your 3 kids never kill at the power button, older printer/scanners or an entertainment system with a variety of vampire appliances including powered subwoofers and gaming systems which only get put in stand-by, then these strips might save you some cash.
  • enzo matrix
    Interesting how all these comments are either "pro green" or think "green is a crock" when the article emphasised money savings more than it did environmental impact.
  • adamcom25334
    Excellent product Belkin!! Why hasn't anyone thought of that before?
  • Onus
    I'm with compton on this one. I try to go for measurable efficiency improvements over "green" gimmicks, and maintaining awareness of what I'm "using" (pretty much any amount is ok) vs. what I might be "wasting" (i.e. consuming to no purpose; any amount is bad).
  • falchard
    adamcom25334Excellent product Belkin!! Why hasn't anyone thought of that before?

    You mean an excellent product from Belkin? Its because Belkin only comes out with cheap crap with the exception of the n52 gaming pad.
  • MU_Engineer
    Anonymous said:
    Interesting how all these comments are either "pro green" or think "green is a crock" when the article emphasised money savings more than it did environmental impact.

    The thing is that these products don't really save money. You can already unplug your computers and electronics from the wall outlet or turn your existing power strip switch "off" to prevent any standby power use when you are done using them- and that costs absolutely nothing. The computer case is also not that great of an idea for a similar reason- you can just suspend your computer to disk (hibernate) rather than suspending to RAM and shut the power strip off rather than going out and buying a considerably more expensive case than you otherwise would have.
  • lamorpa
    JohnMD1022How about those of us who believe 'green' is a crock?

    You're wrong. Why do you ask?
  • JohnMD1022
    Perhaps it's you who is wrong...
  • adamcom25334
    The Belkin power strip will come in handy to turn off my DVD player as the TV shuts down with its own timer. The laser in most (if not nearly all) DVD players is active, even if the player is on but not playing. And the lasers do have a finite life span, much shorter than I would have guessed. We (me and the Mrs) occasionally watch a DVD as we're going to sleep, so this product should help to extend the life of DVD player. The savings on the power bill would obviously be fairly minimal in this case.
  • ngazi
    Why are all these people talking about getting that Belkin when it eats more power than it can possibly save you?
  • c911darkwolf
    40% of the 4 computers in our house runs on solar panels : ) thats green boyos!