Real Gear, Real Green
Green technology guides often feature attractive, sustainable and energy-efficient products that also happen to, well, suck. In this article, we’re highlighting only products that that will stand up to the competition in each product category. Your purchases can reflect your conscience without sacrificing your desire for performance. Forget non-functional green accessories and add-ons—today we’re tackling the gadgets you care about most: desktop PCs, laptops, peripherals, home entertainment gear, phones and more.
Cables Unlimited RFID Mouse USB 2545
In most cases, wireless mice are powered via disposable AA or AAA batteries or though a built-in rechargeable battery. Such is not the case with the USB 2545 mouse from Cables Unlimited. The 2545, with the help of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and induction technology, is a battery-free mouse that is constantly supplied with power via its special mousepad. No disposable batteries means you aren’t throwing Duracells (and your money) in the trash every few months, and while rechargeable power is preferred, the creation of such batteries has a very negative impact on the environment.
Just because the 2545 is eco-friendly doesn’t mean it lacks the features you need for productivity. With six mouse buttons (left, right, center, auto double-click, and two on the left side), as well as two scroll wheels (there is an extra one horizontally across the middle of the mouse), the optical 2545 should satisfy most when it comes to day-to-day computing.
I-Tech Virtual Laser Keyboard
Keyboards don’t exactly sound the alarm when it comes to environmental awareness, but the less plastic used for items like computer peripherals, the better, right? Enter the Virtual Laser Keyboard, or VKB, from I-Tech. At $170, the VLK is a little more expensive than your 104-key QWERTY board, but its compact size (about the size of a Zippo lighter), and unique user interface make the VLK a winner. Once connected to your computer or smartphone via Bluetooth, the VKB shoots a laser-based QWERTY layout out onto whatever surface it’s sitting on. The lack tactile response from a depressed key may take some getting used to, but once you get beyond the lack of physical keys, the VKB is a compact and eco-friendly alternative to standard keyboards. Plus, if you find yourself working in clean rooms all day or need a germ-free alternative to standard keyboards, the VKB has no moving parts and is easy to clean/disinfect.
Our one major gripe with the VKB: No USB? The VKB uses Bluetooth, which is great for the PDA and smartphone crowd but less so for desktop users.
Sennheiser PMX80 Headphones
Eco-friendly headphones are hard to come by, since plastics are found in virtually all of them. However, Sennheiser is doing its best with the PMX80 to make these sport headphones environmentally conscious. Sennheiser starts with the packaging, using less material overall and making sure that what they do use completely bio-degradable. Since the packaging of any product is typically thrown away after you open whatever it is you’ve bought, bio-degradable materials are a great way to reduce a company’s negative impact on the planet. The PMX80’s are sport headphones, meaning they come around the back of your neck instead of going on top of your noggin. While the PMX80 still rely on plastics for construction, the design and build material make the headphones sweat-proof and water-resistant. So after your next five-mile run, you can toss your PMX80’s into the sink and keep them as clean as they day you bought them.
ThinkSound takes the term eco-friendly and applies it to its products in every way possible. From the PVC-free cables to bleach-free and recycled material-based packing, to the wood and cotton from renewable sources, the rain (9mm) and ts01 (10mm) in-ear headphones are environmentally-conscious.
The smaller “Rain” headphones are designed with premium sound in mind, and the ts01 model brings enhanced bass and a lower pricetag ($80 versus $100). Both sets of headphones use wooden housing for “crisp, accurate music reproduction”, and come with four sets of silicon ear inserts. The Rain and ts01 are available in two finishes – Black Chocolate and Silver Cherry.
Merkury Do-It-Yourself Cardboard Speakers
DIY projects are always fun, and getting an eco-friendly end result is even better. DIY cardboard speakers from Merkury are such a project, and at $14.95 they’re hardly a considerable investment. The speakers included in the kit are the same as you would find in a standard speaker setup, but the housing is made of recycled cardboard. Once assembled (the final product leaves you with two 3.25-inch cubes), Merkury includes a set of colored pencils so you can decorate the speakers however you want. If that isn't cool enough, the speakers actually fold flat for easy, hassle-free transport.
Kodak ESP Office 6150 All-In-One Printer
When it comes to imaging devices (printers, scanners, all-in-ones), the term “eco-friendly” really refers to power consumption. While the specifics of the Energy Star label aren’t as crystal-clear as we would like – all we know is that newly certified models use less power actively and in idle mode than older products do – energystar.gov states that imaging devices are major culprits when it comes to wasting power in the home or office. The Energy Star moniker is applied to a bevy of different products in this category, but we like the Kodak 6150 above other products because of ink usage. The 6150, as well as other printers and AIOs from Kodak, tend to be more resourceful with ink than the competition. This, combined with the Energy Star certification, and you’ll save some green on your electric bill as well as your home office expenses.
The 6150 also comes with a plethora of standard all-in-one features, including WiFi, Ethernet, built-in fax, printing speeds up to 32 ppm, and photo printing. Two-sided printing is also a great eco-minded feature, and should save you plenty of paper over the life of the 6150.
Aleutia D1 Mini Atom PC
When we think of green computers, we think about power. The fewer watts consumed by a desktop or laptop solution, the better. Aleutia is a UK-based computer company that keeps this philosophy in mind, and its D1 Mini Atom PC is no exception.
Inside the D1 Mini, which measures in at a tiny 7.88”x12”x2.92”, you’ll find an Intel Atom D510 (dual-core, 1.66 GHz), integrated GMA 3150 graphics, 4 GB of Kingston DDR2 memory, one 40 GB Intel X25-V SSD, integrated LAN and audio, and a slim DVD burner. The D1 Mini retails for about $550.00 USD, or 359 British Pounds. The configuration includes the 4 GB RAM option as well as the SSD upgrade. For storage, you can go with a 320 GB magnetic hard drive or a 40 GB SSD from Intel. We prefer the SSD to the magnetic hard drive because it’s quieter (makes no noise whatsoever), produces less heat and provides a much faster environment for the operating system (Ubuntu Linux 9.10, 64-bit) to live in. While the D1 Mini ships with Linux, it has been fully tested with XP, Vista and 7, so if Ubuntu isn’t your cup of tea, don’t be afraid to install Windows.
By Aleutia’s numbers, the D1 Mini is roughly two-thirds the size of Small Form Factor (SFF) machines offered by the competition (which Aleutia lists as HP, Fujitsu-Siemens and Dell), and typically uses 80 percent less power. At peak consumption, the D1 Mini uses 23W, and only about 19W on average.
The D1 Mini isn’t a computing powerhouse by any means, but it isn’t pretending to be. The D1 Mini is a great machine for someone looking for an office computer, a machine that can run productivity suites and get online without much effort, but is limited when it comes to multimedia applications. You could buy a more able desktop for $550, but the D1 has energy efficiency and a small size that most companies cannot touch at any price point.
Novothink Solar Surge
Since the iPhone 3G and 3G S were released in 2008 and 2009, a plethora of external battery cases have hit the marketplace. Most of these cases simply offer an external battery for the iPhone while also acting as a protective casing. Novothink took this concept, added a pinch of green to it, and the Solar Surge case was the result.
The Solar Surge, which retails for $79.95, is an iPhone case with an extra battery that can be charged via the solar panel on the back of the case. The integrated rechargeable 1320 mAh 3.7 V lithium-ion polymer battery has 105 percent of the capacity of the battery inside the iPhone 3G, so the Solar Surge essentially doubles your iPhone’s operating time. The solar cell on the back of the case offers 30 minutes of 3G talk time (or 60 minutes of 2G talk time) for every two hours of direct sunlight it receives. The case also has a four-bar LED status indicator on the back, so you know exactly how much juice your case can provide.
Solar charging is great, but the sun isn't always shining. The Solar Surge can also be recharged via its USB port on the bottom of the case (cable is included). The iPhone connects to the case via the “Apple certified” 30-pin connector, which then becomes USB on the outside of the case. This means you can charge and sync your iPhone with iTunes without removing the phone from the case.
The Solar Surge from Novothink is a great way to extend the battery life on your iPhone (there is also an iPod Touch version for $69.95), and the case offers what nearly every other external battery/case on the market offers. The addition of the solar panel is a green perk we'd like to see in all charging products, and should prove very handy the next time your battery starts to die while camping or at the beach. Plus, with six colors to choose from, the Solar Surge should be able to match whatever other accessories you’ll have in your backpack or purse.
Samsung G2 and G3 External Hard Drives
Traditionally, hard drives are not the culprit when it comes to power abuse. However, that doesn’t mean external storage can't be more eco-friendly! Samsung offers two lines of green hard drives--the G2 and G3 series, both of which promise to drastically reduce power consumption compared to other externals, while also doing away with harsh chemicals in the drive components.
The G3 series is based on 3.5-inch hard drives, and is available in 1, 1.5 and 2 TB sizes, while the G2 series is based on the smaller 2.5-inch form factor and comes with 640, 500, 320 and 250 GB capacities. All of the G drives connect to your computer via USB 2.0 and come with SafetyKey password protection and SecretZone data encryption. So, what makes them green? The G series can be turned on and off by whatever computer they’re hooked up to, which cuts down on power usage when the drive isn’t needed. Plus, the G3 drives use 95 percent less power (down to .09W from the “conventional” 2.5W), and they will also enter standby mode automatically after five minutes of non-use. Power consumption aside, Samsung managed to remove halogen and TBBP-A from the manufacturing process, and all G drives are RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) compliant, which should go over well with mother nature.
Beyond the green moniker, the G series is a solid buy if you need external storage. Both the G2 and G3 lines are extremely quiet, and their physical footprint (4.38x3.11x0.62 inches for the G2 and 7.11x5.27x1.85 inches for the G3) are smaller if not the same size as the competition. We also like the colors and textured patterns available for both models.
Samsung XL2370 LED Monitor
There are more than a few LCD monitors available today that use energy efficient LED-backlighting, but the Samsung XL2370 goes even further to reduce energy use.
Before we get into the environmental nitty-gritty, let’s talk specs. The XL2370 is a 23-inch monitor that offers up a 1920x1080 (Full HD) resolution, 2ms response time, and a 5,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio (or 1,000:1 non-dynamic). The XL2370's inputs include the now-typical VGA, DVI and HDMI, but also comes with a 3.5mm jack and digital optical out for audio.
So what makes the XL2370 a green machine? Well, the LED backlight contains zero halogens, mercury or lead, which traditional CCFL backlit panels cannot boast. Plus, the Touch of Color that Samsung is now using on many of its display products does not use spray paint or VOCs (volatile organic compounds). This, combined with its meager appetite for power (28W at peak, 1.3W in standby) means the XL2370 should satisfy the needs of nearly any user.
The XL2370 manages to be environmentally-friendly while still maintaining a high level of performance. It’s high contrast ratio and lightning-quick response time should keep the gaming crowd happy while the LED backlight and super-slim profile are welcome features that aren’t quite mainstream in the LCD monitor market, yet. At over $300, the XL2370 isn’t the least expensive monitor in its class, and its slim figure means the AC adapter is a small external power brick (think netbook power brick), but these caveats are a small price to pay for being sleek and eco-friendly.
Asus 1005PE Netbook
Energy efficiency and netbooks typically go hand in hand, so you can't be surprised that we included one amongst our green picks. The 1005PE netbook from Asus epitomizes the category with its 10.1-inch LED-backlit screen (1024x600 resolution), Intel Atom N450 processor with GMA 3150 integrated graphics, 1 GB of memory and a 250 GB hard drive. Going with a trusted formula, Asus includes three USB 2.0 ports, VGA, Ethernet, audio and mic jacks, an SD card slot, and a 0.3 MP webcam. All of this, plus Windows 7, will cost about $350 and $375, depending on where you shop.
The green streak in the 1005PE comes down to battery life. The longer the battery lasts, the less you have to charge it, right? Asus claims the 1005PE can hit the 14 hour mark, thanks to its six-cell battery, but most tests put the number between eight and ten hours. Still, even going with the lower number, eight hours is impressive. Asus credits the new Pine Trail Atom CPU and its own Super Hybrid Engine power management technology for the extended life.
We are still of the mindset that netbooks are “secondary computers” or machines that complement a desktop or larger laptop that you already own. The 1005PE is no exception, and if you're wading through the ever-growing ocean of available netbooks, and need something that offers te basics (office work, internet, video chat), then the 1005PE should prove to be a worthy investment.
Lenovo L512 Laptop
Lenovo, like many other major computer manufacturers, has been busy looking for ways to make its offerings more eco-friendly. The just-announced ThinkPad L512 reveals what the company has gotten for its R&D dollars.
But first, the specs. The L512 is a 15-inch laptop that can be paired with a wide number of Intel processors, from the low-end Celeron P4500 (1.86 GHz) to the high-end Core i5-540M (2.53 GHz). The screen is a 1366x768 (720p) anti-glare display. The L512 can take up to 8 GB of DDR3-1333 memory, up to a 500 GB hard drive (5400rpm), comes with integrated graphics (an ATI Radeon 5145 with 512 MB of DDR3 memory is also available), as well as four USB 2.0 ports, eSATA, DisplayPort with audio, VGA, and a 7-in-1 memory card reader. There is also a 14-inch version called the L412 that shares the same specifications.
Lenovo really aimed for the fences with the L512's eco-friendly features. The machine is made with up to 30 percent recycled plastic, sports a spiffy Energy Star 5.0-compliant badge for energy efficiency, and merited a Gold rating from EPEAT for its environmental attributes. The energy efficient LED-backlit display is free of mercury, lead and halogen. The entire computer is devoid of arsenic, and everything is RoHS compliant. Finally, the L512 ships in packaging that is 100% recycled.
Lenovo has an eco champion on its hands with the L512, thanks to the recycled material inside and out, as well as the LED backlit display. The L512 starts at $649, but if you’re looking for discrete graphics and a more powerful Core i5 CPU, don’t be shocked if the price jumps up to around $1,000. However, if you do stick with the entry model, you can still expect six-eight hours of battery life out of the standard six-cell battery.
The L412 and 512 will be available in May 2010.
HP All-In-One PC 200
Need an all-in-one (AIO) PC for the kitchen or family room? Look no further than the Pavilion All-in-One 200 series from HP. The 200 series is a step down in features and price from the TouchSmart line, but it’s still powerful enough for everyday computing while keeping in line with our eco-friendly theme.
The base price for the 200 series is $699.99, which buys an Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5300 (2.6 GHz), 4 GB of DDR3 memory, a 500 GB hard drive, DVD burner, integrated graphics and Windows 7 Home Premium. We prefer an upgraded version, at $889.99, which bumps the processor to a 3 GHz Core 2 Duo E8400. All models feature the same housing enclosure around the screen, which happens to be a 21.5-inch display with a 1920x1080 resolution. The 200t comes with seven USB ports (two on the side, five on the back), webcam with mic, stereo speakers, audio out and a 6-in-1 card reader. The 200t also ships with a wireless keyboard and mouse; no accessories are included, the only cable in the vanilla 200t setup is the power cable exiting the back of the chassis, leaving the setup to be quite sleek and streamlined.
Here's where it gets green: the AIO comes with a WLED (White LED)-backlit display, so there is no mercury, lead or halogens lurking within. That, along with an Energy Star certification, a Silver EPEAT rating and recyclable packing, should help the 200 meet the standards of most eco-minded PC users.
While the 200t lacks the touch-friendly input that makes its older TouchSmart brother so popular, it’s still a very capable machine that is up to any task besides intense gaming and heavy multimedia work. It’s small footprint, sleek design and clutter-free set-up makes us want to welcome it home.
Asus MS238H 23-Inch Monitor
Asus MS238H 23-Inch Monitor
We’ve looked at Asus’ Designo series of monitors before. The line caught our eye due to its striking O-ring design and its impressive price ($200 for a 23-inch backlit monitor). The design hasn’t gotten old yet, but in this version of the monitor, Asus’ made a few notable changes that make it an even better value. That’s why we had to include this monitor as a green pick—it is a more budget friendly option than the other monitor in this roundup, even though its specs may not be as ideal.
The specs remain the same as the previous version we looked at: 1920 x 1080 resolution, HDMI, DVI (with HDMI to DVI dongle), and VGA ports. The monitor looks even better than we remembered it—the 16.5mm profile makes it super skinny, the o-shaped stand makes it easy to adjust to the perfect angle, and the pain job practically sparkles with a subtle blue sheen.
But blue isn’t the color we want to focus on. Asus wants you to know just how green the mercury-free LED panel in its monitor is. According to the company, the energy efficiency in this panel could lower “annual CO2 emissions by 23.6 kg” and could save 37.2 KW hours of electricity. Asus estimates that this savings would reap the same benefits as planting two trees that can add two years worth of oxygen for a family of four to the environment. We’re in no position to put that to the test, but Asus’ monitor is rated at 22 Watts of energy use while it is active, and just about half a Watt when it is asleep or off.