energy star logoNetbooks are, by there very nature, low power devices. But dos that mean they’re better for the environment than larger computers? Maybe. Maybe not.

Treehugger tackles this question today, and came up with a few interesting points. On the one hand, netbooks are smaller than typical laptops, and therefore use fewer materials. They’re more energy efficient, and require less electricity. And they embrace the concept that you don’t need the latest or most powerful gadgets to get things done.

On the other hand, netbooks are often so cheap, that you may think of them as disposable and replace them more frequently than larger laptops. What good is it to buy a machine with fewer materials if you buy two of them a year instead of one every three years? Netbooks are also considered by many people to be secondary computers, which means that you’re using it in addition to a larger computer, thus negating some of the benefits (although at least you’re using less power when typing away on your netbook). And most importantly, the manufacturing processes behind netbooks don’t differ very much from those used to build larger laptops. In other words, a fair amount of waste and pollution is still generated, and many netbooks include toxic materials.

What do you think? Are netbooks better for the environment than traditional laptops or not? And do you care?

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10 replies on “Are netbooks better for the environment than laptops?”

  1. My netbook has replaced my creaky old work laptop as my primary (soon to be only once the old, creaky one has died) portable computer at home and away from home. I like to sit at a desk with a “proper” screen and keyboard when I’m doing real work though.

    I could replace my desktop with a nettop and probably recoup the expense in electricity savings over a year or two. There’s only one thing stopping me – Flash video playback on the Atom.

  2. there are quite a few people i know that are using a netbook for their primary computing needs in college, including me meaning that here are quite a few people who dont have secondary computers because some college students are too poor to afford a nice one. But thats okay because it is sufficient enough to type papers including this review.

  3. Buying all those laptops, netbooks and ARMbooks trap a lot of carbon. 😉

  4. To know more about the best environmental laptop (the OLPC XO-1) see this link:

    Regarding the comparison at hand:
    Current netbooks have proprietary batteries that have a lifetime, and when that lifetime is over, if you have no source of a replacement, then you have to scrap the entire unit. Lithium Ion in laptops have 2000 recharge cycles, and the OLPC XO-1 had a battery that was rated for 5000 recharge cycles. See the video above for more.

    If they all had AA battery, then use could be for more years (as with a proprietary battery, you have the problem of having a unit that you can not buy a “fresh” battery anymore, and if you do, sometimes it is NOT FRESH and has been sitting on a shelf waiting for order, and might be several years old.

    If you have no battery, then you HAVE TO scrap the unit.

    With a netbook that has AA batteries – well, you can always get them! So, then the unit can be used even beyond the date of those with hard or impossible to get proprietary batteries. This is where the Gecko Edubook with the AA battery is such a good idea.

    Also – Pixel Qi screen are not on the market yet, when they are they will save even more electricity. ARM Qualcomm Snapdragon designs that use less than 2 watts of power will also IN THE NEAR FUTURE provide even more environmental benefit.

    So, this comparison today, is not fair… tomorrow or this fall will see systems that will blow away the regular laptops and desktops regarding environmental friendly designs.

    1. The problem with devices that use AA or AAA batteries is that some people are too stupid or lazy to use rechargeable batteries and will use non-rechargeable batteries, which will cause a LOT more damage to the environment that those proprietary rechargeable batteries ever will.

      1. The rechargable batteries that come with the Edubook, recharge inside it.

        So, most likely changing the battery, is solved by having a label inside the AA compartment, telling users what batteries to go and buy.

        Granted some people are stupid and lazy, however if you spell it out for them, they might get it. THE REST OF US WILL BENEFIT with AA Batteries. I use the 15 minute recharge type for everything I can – camera, etc. Being that most sensible photo folks use AA batteries then having a device that uses AA, just fits in the bag with the rest of the stuff much better than anything else.

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