Low-power, low-cost computing

Raspberry Pi and meter

If you need to be energy frugal, you can still have a real computer for real tasks that won’t cost the earth. Lance Turner shows you how.

OVER the years we have looked at many low-power computers in ReNew, and there are new models out on a regular basis. Many of these have considerable computing power for their size, but most cost in the realm of several hundred dollars and many are simply not available in Australia.

The needs of computer users vary widely—some need higher processing power whereas others, who do everything in a web browser, need far less. The same applies to energy consumption. If you live with a small renewable energy system, your main priority may be to minimise energy consumption.

So just what options are there for really low-energy computing? Let’s take a look at the options, and then look a bit more closely at a low-cost option with surprising power.

Phones, tablets and phablets

Mobile phones, tablets and phablets (basically big-screen phones) are everywhere, and they may be all many people ever need to get connected. They have considerable processing power, are portable and are, by design, energy sippers. But they also have numerous drawbacks that make them unsuitable for many computer users.

Trying to type anything more than a few words on a tablet’s on-screen keyboard is a real pain, at least to anyone used to using a ‘real’ keyboard. Most tablets can take some basic peripherals, such as Bluetooth keyboards, or come with optional keyboard docks that also extend battery life. These can make a tablet more like a tiny PC and can push them into the realms of usability for users who may otherwise have overlooked them as an option.

Read the full article in ReNew 127.