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Final Words

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

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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