The search for the Lowest Power Computer

My brother is living in Vanuatu here, and he is after a very low power computer to run on solar panels in their library. So I’m running a competition to see who can find the lowest power computer. It can be a laptop, or desktop, or any variation,


  • Must have a full size keyboard at least 27cm wide.
  • Screen must be 12 inch or larger.
  • Must be able to run Ubuntu linux or OSX or Windows.
  • Must be able to be networked to a printer
  • Must have a USB slot for a USB thumbdrive.
  • Must run off 12V or 240V

One month. Entries close 20 Nov.

Winner recieves a free Vanuatu Shirt posted to them. (We may even do a shirt for the best computer and a shirt for the best monitor if they are found by 2 different people)

Contribute to the search by adding a comment below!


14 responses to “The search for the Lowest Power Computer”

  1. Well, there’s this one:

    Total of about 22W (with monitor), you need to check the datasheet for the power consumption details.

  2. An Apple 12″ G4 powerbook has a “50-watt-hour lithium-ion battery providing up to 5 hours of battery life”. That’s an average of 10 Watts.

    The macbook air has a 37-watt-hour battery and 4.55 hours, that’s about 8.2 Watts.

    Unfortunately these are probably out of the talua price range. Is there a price limit?

  3. We may put 6 or 8 laptops in the library and possibly more to teaching staff, so please help if you can! This is not just to help buy one laptop, but to significantly help a college in the developing world!
    Glen, Vanuatu

  4. Sorry, they don’t have to be laptops. Those two suggestions look brilliant!!!

  5. Steve

    What about a laptop w/o a hard-drive (using a large usb stick instead) and an external/detachable cd/dvd burner.

    Looks like there’s a lot out there eg down the right-hand side of the page.

    Here’s and interesting site – small screen and keyboard, and low specs… but looks strong!

    And this is really nerdy

    Anyway, you’ve probably got a plan by now.


  6. Thanks Steve, a few comments,

    1. ALL of the ATOM processor-flash drive based PC’s are 10 inch or 9 inch, so too small. No one has made an atom 12″ (yet!).

    2. The One Laptop per Child laptop would be perfect – it runs on 2 watts!!!!! It’s designed for low power and third world countries, but for various reasons, Glen has talked to them and they are unable to supply it in Vanuatu. You have to have a minimum order that is larger than the population of Vanuatu or something like that, Glen will correct me if I’m wrong, plus they refuse to sell them to anyone apart from Governments, plus I’ve heard it’s hard to get parts and service for them. So OLPC is a dud for Vanuatu.

    3. That guy with the ‘Low power laptop’ – it’s 30 Watts (compared to 22 above) which adds up if you have 20 or 30 going.

    I reckon we should aim at finding one that’s 10 or 20 watts – if there is such a thing.

  7. Steve

    Ah, I get it now… I think. Here’s an idea for the library.
    – You could get one decent pc/laptop and run edubuntu server on it. This would be your expensive purchase, especially if you want to keep it low-powered. For each client you ad you will need more memory (and storage?).
    – Then use inexpensive low-end, low-power clients with a small amount of solid-state storage (enough to run the client software) and a usb port for the user’s memory stick.

  8. I heard Dell released a low power 12″ laptop last week – the first I’ve heard of like this. I think it’s called the Dell Inspiron 12.
    Does it use the Atom processor like the Inspiron 9?

  9. Re Server/Clients setup…

    We’ve thought about that, but to find a low-power client is just as hard as finding a low power PC. ie, it’s the ‘inexpensive low-end, low-power client’ that we are looking for but trying to find a low power client, is as hard as finding a low power computer, especially when you want a 12″ screen and full size keyboard.

    For example a high performance macbook air uses less power than many low performance client servers, because the laptops are designed for low power, and perhaps the clients are designed for low something else.

  10. Wayne

    Here’s a good one, but only CPU – needs monitor and keyboard.

    COMPUTER: (no screen or keyboard) Uses 4-6 watts.

  11. Doug

    The large 12in netbooks such as Dell mentioned before (yet to be released) look the best option, with extra keyboard and mouse for the heavy use of library work. Also the Asus EeeTop when released would work well, but may use too much power. Using an Atom cpu, the power will be largely consumed by a screen whatever unit is used (as long as wifi, sound etc is all off, and graphics is slow).

  12. Matteo

    hi Wayne Connor, My name is atteo an I write form italy I found your theme for wordpress “Sliding doors” and I want to congratulate. I couldn’t find your direct mail so i decided to write here hoping you could leave me your amil or contact directly.
    about the theme, is it possible and “How can I” to change the images and the names on the header without knowing html? could you be so kind to help me a little.. than kyou very much and congratulations again!

  13. Clarice Rowe

    Great, thanks!

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