Monday, April 21, 2008

The Monster under My Desk

I've recently spent a little time measuring the power consumption of a significant number of computers. I'd like to share a little bit of the results.

The machine with the highest power consumption of the batch was a quad-core beast which drew 196 watts under full CPU load (171 watts while idle). The machine that drew the least was a brand new laptop with 44 watts under full load (33 idle).

While we shouldn't get hung up about specific machines and configurations at this point because my data set is still pretty small, I had some general impressions:

  1. What you buy matters. Laptops are generally much more power efficient than desktops.

  2. However, the difference in power savings between a laptop and desktop is still dwarfed by the laptop premium.

  3. The performance of desktops can be much higher than laptops. Currently the top of the line Dell laptop is a 2.8Ghz Core 2 Duo. The top of the line "desktop" is a dual quad core running at 3.2Ghz.

Given these three factors, I suspect that many organizations will stick with desktop machines as a significant portion of their computer purchases despite the rising popularity of laptops.

For software engineers, like me, the difference in productivity and cost is large enough to keep us buying monster machines and pushing them under our desks. We just need to remember to turn them off.

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