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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 SystemEnergy Used Per YearCost 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 shutdown229 kWh$30.02
If 30% of PCs In The US Used The Sonamu...
Intel SystemEnergy Used Per YearCO2 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.

  • 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.
    Reply
  • alikum
    Disappointed with Belkin's customer support
    Reply
  • newnow
    yes,it look wonderful
    Reply
  • ngazi
    Really nice to know to avoid these things.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • JohnMD1022
    How about those of us who believe 'green' is a crock?
    Reply
  • 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." "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.
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply