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Old 12-05-2010, 06:13   #1
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Most Power-Efficient Computer ?

For those of you interfacing a GPS with a computer as a chartplotter, did you investigate power consumption as part of your research prior to purchase?

What models of laptops/netbooks have you come up with that draw the least amount of power when running?
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Old 12-05-2010, 13:09   #2
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In the netbooks the intel atom machines will use the least power. For the 1.6Ghz cpu's, in order of increasing power consumption, machines with the Z530, N450 and N270 will consume the least power.

For more computing power than the Atom processors can provide look for laptops with Intel processor numbers that start with U or SU. These are their ultra low voltage series.
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Old 13-05-2010, 10:16   #3
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Thanks Bob, that's very helpful.
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Old 13-05-2010, 10:20   #4
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I've got an nvidia ion, that's an atom with a graphics chip to play HD video etc. The unit is fanless and has no moving parts (SD hard drive). This should consume in the order of a few watts.

In the future, I may try and get an arm-based computer going, they consume mwatts only.
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Old 13-05-2010, 11:10   #5
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The Intel Atom systems using the dual core processors all use more power than the systems mentioned in my previous post. Order from lowest to highest they are the D510 with NM10 chipset, 330 with Ion chipset and 330 with 945GC chipset.

The ION based systems provide far better graphics than the Intel 945GSE, 945GC, NM10 or US15 chipsets but all of these systems are capable of doing a good job with most nav programs and they will all play a DVD.

SSD drives can provide lower power consumption than a standard laptop drive but it is rarely more than 1 watt and in many cases it is the same. If you want an SSD for power saving pay close attention to the specs of the one you choose. Their lack of moving parts is a big plus and they generally have faster response times.
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Old 13-05-2010, 11:14   #6
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Old 13-05-2010, 11:48   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BubbleHeadMd View Post

What models of laptops/netbooks have you come up with that draw the least amount of power when running?
My Acer has claimed 8 hour battery life.

I think it prol;ly draws a bit to charge the batt, but its far more usable than the old laptop.
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Old 13-05-2010, 17:10   #8
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Low Power Choices

As always, it depends what you want to do. Lowest power would probably come from an ARM based system. You can buy a Beagle Board that runs on under 5 watts.

If you want better access to pre-compiled applications, you may want an Intel compatible processor such as the Atom. The system I put together (see blog post) uses a small computer from Polywell. This is not a laptop. It averages under 24 watts (2A @ 12V). It requires an external monitor.

Another, possibly lower power computer is called the FitPC2i.

In any case, consider the entire system. You can easily lose hard earned CPU power savings in a voltage converter or display.
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Old 13-05-2010, 20:40   #9
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All I want to do is run OpenCPN on it. Maybe play music. No movies, no video games. If I use it to browse the web, it means I'm in a marina on shore power and power use is moot anyway.
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Old 14-05-2010, 14:45   #10
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It might be me, but I tend to use the computer far less than the GPS. I have the GPS on 24/7 and only power up the PC when I need to plan a route, upload/download waypoints, or want to see my vessel on a chart display when doing a particularly difficult passage.

But then I carry paper charts and no chartplotter.

ymmv
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Old 14-05-2010, 16:49   #11
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That Beagle Board suggested in post #8 looks interesting. It's very much a hobbyist device, though, despite sharing the same processor core as the current crop of iThings. If tinkering (and rewriting code to suit the ARM core) is your thing, it might be interesting to play with....

Netbooks may look appealing at times, but personally, I find any monitor less than 19" to be a bit cramped- a 10" netbook is four times too small a screen, IMHO. Add the driver issues that plague many of them and the fact that they're a pain to repair. But Atom motherboards are cheap and plentiful (an Atom N230/Ion board with all the usual ports is about $160). Add a big stick of memory, a small solid-state drive (or use a CF card) and you should have a system that would run OpenCPN on twenty, perhaps thirty watts (plus whatever your monitor draws) for perhaps four or five hundred bucks. The Atom also has the distinct advantage of not requiring you to recompile any of your apps or your OS (Gentoo Linux nuts excepted, of course).

The real thorny issue for low-power onboard computers, IMHO, is not the processor but rather the power supply. Losing 10% in the inverter, then another 30% in a normal desktop PSU, sucks. More efficient desktop and server PSUs (80% +) seem to be mainly in the 400+ watt class. If anyone has found a decent +12V to ATX power supply, that would be great- the thought of hacking together a custom one out of DC/DC converters is not appealing.
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Old 14-05-2010, 17:01   #12
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If anyone has found a decent +12V to ATX power supply, that would be great- the thought of hacking together a custom one out of DC/DC converters is not appealing.
M3-ATX 6-24V DC/DC (125 Watt) [picoPSU-format !]
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Old 17-05-2010, 09:38   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by capt_douglas View Post
It might be me, but I tend to use the computer far less than the GPS. I have the GPS on 24/7 and only power up the PC when I need to plan a route, upload/download waypoints, or want to see my vessel on a chart display when doing a particularly difficult passage.

But then I carry paper charts and no chartplotter.

ymmv
That's pretty much what I plan on doing.
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Old 17-05-2010, 16:54   #14
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All I want to do is run OpenCPN on it. Maybe play music. No movies, no video games. If I use it to browse the web, it means I'm in a marina on shore power and power use is moot anyway.
We do well running OpenCPN on an Asus netbook, which draws only 10 watts when running on 12 volts. Though we could plug it into a 15" monitor at the nav station and get 1024x768 from it, the netbook screen at 1024x600 seems fine and we never bother with the larger monitor.
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Old 17-05-2010, 17:29   #15
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Even netbooks can consume considerable Ah's when compared to a dedicated plotter. You also want to run it directly off the 12V system, not an inverter, as this can save you another 20-30+% in energy consumption.

My ASUS draws about 3 amps with the internal battery at a 50% state of charge running no programs other than Mozilla Firefox. When run off a 150 watt inverter running the same it burns 4.12 amps!

This is running direct off 12V..
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