As of recently the market focus has moved away from high powered, ultra fast gaming rigs that spare no thought to the wallet or the environment. As of now, "Green" is the "IT" thing; and no, we aren't talking about the colour green, we are talking about environmentally friendly computing. Over the last two years we have seen some major strides from the computer industry in order to help out Mother Nature.
Up until recent years, all of the electrical components on the boards have been held on by using solder containing lead, and while this may be a good conductor, it's also a huge environmental problem as lead is deadly in sufficient quantities. Lead has been removed from petrol as well as paints, so why not remove it from computers? - Well, thanks to the RoHS standards, this is now a reality and boards coming left, right and centre are now using lead free solder.
While this is one small step, companies like GIGABYTE have managed to turn production around by producing much less wasted PCBs as well as recycling many materials that were thrown out in the past; these including old and damaged boxes as well as recycling PCBs that are potentially viable, but simply didn't make Quality Assurance.
Now, these steps have been good, but the biggest move forward has to be the introduction of power efficient computers that manage to save as much power as possible when in idle states. AMD was one of the first to really get started on this with Cool'n'Quiet; a power saving technology that slowed the CPU clock speed down and reduced the CPU VID when in idle states. This allows for a cooler running system as well as a more energy efficient product when compared to the Intel processors. While some energy saving technologies were added to the Pentium D and Pentium Extreme processors, they were power hogs, even at idle. Core 2 has been the most energy efficient processor that Intel has for the desktop, and the new 45nm Penryn based units are even better at saving energy.
While the processor implementations are exceptional, there is still wasted energy in the desktop PC, and the motherboard accounts for quite a bit of this. When in an idle state, traditional motherboards still run with their full amount of voltage regulators pumping away. This is wasted energy at idle; the CPU, memory and graphics cards are in a low function state requiring much less power. So far we have seen two major players come out with their latest technologies to help save power. ASUS has EPU and GIGABYTE has DES. In our recent tests we found that GIGABYTEs DES system has a more stable power output, better voltage stepping and even more phases to handle just about anything you can throw at it.
We recently built an energy efficient AMD based HTPC using the AMD 4850e processor to demonstrate what you can achieve. Today we are doing an energy efficient Intel based system that is for the same purpose; energy efficency and ultra quiet computing.