OLPC’s ARM-based tablet, laptop can run on solar power alone

OLPC XO 1.75 running on solar power

Modern computers aren’t just a lot faster than the PCs you probably used ten or fifteen years ago — they also use a lot less power. But most computers designed to run desktop operating systems still use enough energy that they can’t, say, run directly off the power generated by a small solar panel.

But OLPC is demonstrating that its upcoming XO-1.75 laptop and XO-3.0 tablet will be able to run on solar power. We’re not talking about using a solar panel to charge a battery while the computer’s not in use. You can plug these devices directly into a solar panel, remove the battery altogether, and then use the computers.

The XO-1.75 and XO-3.0 both use low-power 1 GHz Marvell Armada PXA618 processors. The laptop and tablet can also be configured with Pixel Qi low-power LCD displays which use about 80 percent less power than a traditional LCD when you turn off the backlight.

The result is a computer that typically uses just about 5W of power. So if you connect either computer to a 10W solar panel on a sunny day, it should be able to run continuously.

Of course you can also use solar power to charge a battery so that you can use an XO laptop or tablet after dark — and it’s not clear that you’d need to be able to run without a battery very often. But if you need all-day run time in an environment where there’s no electrical grid and plenty of sunshine, it looks like that’s now possible.

Given OLPC’s goals, it’s more likely that we’ll see large solar panels used to charge a group of students’ laptops or tablets in environments without reliable access to electricity.

via Laptop.org

  • Jonas

    THis is actual technology. I wish more manufactures understood the superiority of a solar powered devices. Speed is important but lets focus on efficient software that doesn’t require power sucking ghz. to check an email. Popular engineers need to go back to the drawing board. Great job OLPC.

    • Anonymous

      Solar power isn’t practical for most computers, the OLPC is just low powered enough to get away with it but solar technology has to improve quite a bit before we see wider use of it.

      Meanwhile, the market is moving to ever increasing energy efficiency but they can only reduce it so much without impairing functionality.

      OLPC is nice for its intended purpose but they won’t be doing much besides basic web browsing and using basic purpose apps with it.

  • JJ

    Not terribly impressive.  An ancient Thinkpad 600E runs on 6.5 watts and a modern Thinkpad X120e runs on 5.5W (though with both cores clocked at 800MHz).

    • http://www.liliputing.com Brad Linder

      That’s just the power usage of the CPU. This is the whole computer.

      • Noway

        No, that is the power consumption of the whole computer.  Not just the CPU.  Do you want me to post photographs of an ammeter or something?

      • http://www.liliputing.com Brad Linder

        The Thinkpad X120e has an AMD E-350 processor with a TDP of 18W. That’s the processor alone. The LCD likely draws another 2-3W, and then there’s the hard drive, RAM, and other components.

        While it’s certainly possible that from time to time the power draw will dip below 6W, I find it unlikely that you’d be able to run it off a solar panel generating an average of 7W without the laptop shutting down repeatedly due to lack of power. 

        I could be wrong… I don’t happen to have that particular setup in front of me, so I can’t test it myself. 

      • Anonymous

        Brad’s right, don’t confuse low power usage with the actual needs of a system that has a much higher max power usage than the OLPC.

        Typically for example you need 1v higher than the output voltage of a li-ion battery in order to charge it and that alone means you need more power to support a regular PC laptop than you ever would for the OLPC.

        The idea of the OLPC is to provide a very basic PC that can be powered either by solar or even a hand crank generator for poor nations with little to no electricity.

        Even smart phones would be hard pressed to be supported by so little energy.

        Remember also, if made in large quantities that the cost per unit is also far cheaper than even many smart phones.  So we’re talking about a very basic design for very basic usage but it’s enough for the intended markets the OLPC is made for… You can do a lot more with a Thinkpad X120e but that’s overkill for the purpose of the OLPC.

  • Vanan33

    The majority of the developing world has sufficient access to electricity.  Placing an expensive laptop out in the sun to charge is a 1st world gimmick.

    No one is interested in doing such a thing other than nature hobbyists.

    Just ask yourself if you will ever charge your smartphone in the sun and maybe it would become more clear just how ridiculous OLPC is.

    Not just that but a smartphone is much more energy-efficient, by the way.

    • http://thepete.com thepete

      Do you have any idea what you’re talking about? 1) From the beginning the XO has been designed to be an inexpensive laptop. The first XOs cost $200. They were the original netbook. 2) The plan doesn’t appear to be to “place” the inexpensive tablet or the older laptop in the sun, but to use them continuously. 3) The majority of the world having “sufficient” access to electricity isn’t really an excuse to stop innovating, is it? 4) I’m not a nature hobbyist and I look forward to the day when no one, anywhere needs to plug into a wall socket or a USB port for power. 5) I would be happy to charge my smart phone, laptop, iPad, etc, in the sun if the tech were affordable. 6) Smart phones being energy-efficient is a great step in the right direction, but what if you never needed to plug them in to charge at all?

      Hey, we’re all entitled to our opinions, but when someone is disparaging against a program that is trying to innovate and put innexpensive computers into the hands of kids who would never be able to afford them, I just wonder why.

  • Kobaljov

    How long does it take to charge the battery with this solar panel?

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