Desktop PC vs. Laptop Power Consumption

Desktop PC vs. Laptop Power Consumption




I remember there was a time when the electric bill in my pad went over Php14k, almost double the usual amount I pay on regular months. We use a lot of electrical devices, including 2 desktop PCs and a number of laptops so I thought of doing a simple experiment.

For about a month, I would not touch one of the desktop PCs in my room and use a laptop instead (even for the more task-intensive and gaming routines) and see how much would that affect the total power consumption.

My computation was this — a typical laptop would max out at 90watts in power consumption while a mid-range desktop PC (with a discrete GPU) would use up to around 500watts. If you include a large monitor, that’s another 50 watts.


 

Assuming the computer is on and running for about 12 hours a day, that’s 550watts x 12hours/day x 30days/month to give you a total of 198kW.

For a laptop, that’s just 90watts x 12hours/day x 30days/month for a total of 32kW.

The difference of 166kW amounts to about Php2,158 for the whole month (electricity rate pegged at Php13/KWhr). In a year, you can actually save enough money to buy another laptop. If you use a netbook instead of a full-sized laptop, that’s around 40watts/hour of power consumption and could drop your bill by another Php234 per month.

If you also have aircon in your room, the heat dissipation coming from the PC could add to the power consumed by the aircon to cool the room to the desired temperature (though there’s no way for me to figure that one out).



Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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84 Responses

  1. That is very true sir abe, a laptop is way cheaper on electric consumption.

  2. chinitoguy says:

    That’s the reason why I seldon use my desktop anymore. But a netbook is too small for me. I still prefer a 13 inch notebook.

  3. eljin says:

    This is so informative! Thank you very much! I am just about to replace my dying laptop for a desktop.Now I know.

  4. Deuts says:

    I have to agree, halos negligible ung power consumption ng laptop

  5. otepsphere says:

    Nice Abe! Clear and easy to understand explanations. But, performance talk, what do you prefer to use desktop or laptop?

    • nameless says:

      Performance wise, High end laptops could do almost everything a desktop PCs could do.

      The only downside of laptops i think, is the initial cost. They cost as much as thrice of a desktop with the same specs.

    • yuga says:

      @otepsphere – I prefer a high-end laptop plugged into a large monitor.

  6. nameless says:

    That’s why I choose laptop over desktop PC even though it just stays on my desk. :D

  7. Num Lock says:

    Hi Abe, by the numbers is it advisable to use laptops on net cafe due to high electricity costs. I will just use kensington lock for security.

    • yuga says:

      @Num Lock – essentially, yes if it’s just for surfing, chatting or video. However, some customers would want the size benefits of a larger monitor for gaming and other stuff.

      I was actually thinking nettops (dual-core Atom processors) for that one which could still be under 100watts.

  8. Dhan says:

    nice comparison sir Abe. but although a typical desktop could run for about 12hours without heat issues, that’s another story for a laptop running for the same amount of time.

    Running a laptop without a decent/great cooling solution that long while plugged-in could result in decrease of the laptop’s lifespan.

    Just my thoughts though ^^

    • yuga says:

      @dhan – a good cooling pad would easily solve that. Besides, most laptops nowadays have great power management policies built into the system.

  9. phiLLip says:

    Even though you have a 500watts power supply, it doesn’t really consume that much power (the actual power consumption). It only means that you can support a system with 500watts or lower consumption.

    you should use a watt meter so that you could see the actual power consumption straight from the plug/outlet

    • yuga says:

      @phiLLip – point taken, that’s why I also used the maximum power on the laptop for the computation (assuming both the laptop and the desktop maximizes power usage).

  10. thanks for the reminder. this is definitely true.

  11. jin says:

    Hmmm I was explaining this to my parents. We have a 32inch LCD TV and a netebook PC and they are still using the 23inch colored TV and a Desktop with CRT monitor. Mas malaki daw kasi mag consume yun kasi mas malaki daw ung monitor and the worst is I am paying the bills. I could show this to them! :)

  12. Name: IC DeaDPiPoL says:

    anyone know if there is a local store selling Kill A Watt (monitors power consumption of a device)

    Previously I relied on CPU Throttling under LM9~11 but under Windows its a tad bit difficult since I don’t know a program that can adjust the CPU Throttling on the fly under Windows 7 (other than setting CPU % on Power Options)

    IIRC there was also an ITX motherboard from ZOTAC that relied on an AC Adapter (identical to a laptop) with an Intel Atom CPU and Nvidia ION GPU handling the video decoding which would be sweet when used on an Internet Cafe

  13. eonzerimar says:

    Sir Abe, if your rate for electricity is accurate?
    then its nearly impossible to open a net shop? regardless of number of units? or is it just Manila/Urban city rate?

  14. Patricia says:

    try joulemeter to see an estimate of your machine’s watt consumption, and granola to save energy :)

  15. Cyberius says:

    Did you use a wall power meter? Im just concerned about how accurate your readings were. BTW a 500 watt power supply doesn’t max out @ 500 watts. If that happens your pc will crash. Try it yourself setup a crossfire system with a 500 watt power supply.

    Its not that im saying that a pc has cheaper power consumption. It really depends on what you use it for. If you’re just browsing around and not playing games a laptop would do just fine.

  16. Nika says:

    Naku, if Mom reads this lagot ako. I still use a desktop since laptops are still a bit pricey. Can you recommend an affordable laptop that can handle Photoshop/Paint Tool SAI well?

  17. Dan says:

    Interesting article, Abe. Glad you brought this one up.
    I’ve been eagerly monitoring power consumption at home, particularly that of my desktop and laptop. Using a watt meter, I was able to adjust usage accordingly. A typical laptop will consume around 40 to 50W (depending on activity). I’ve never seen my laptop reach near its 90W (adapter rating) even when pushing the laptop to the extreme (discreet gpu).

    My netbook only uses 18W, peaking at 21W at full speed.

    We do need to keep in mind, the Power Factor. Anything less than 1 will mean additional consumption, so a power factor of 0.5 will mean that my netbook’s 18W consumption will actually be 36vA (I think this is the one we’re getting charged by Meralco), kinda wasteful. So whatever your computer is rated at, if your power factor is less efficient, then it could potentially consume double the amount of electricity that it needs.

  18. Dan says:

    @IC Deadpipol

    You can try RMClock. This is the software I use to lock throttling down to minimum, and adjust accordingly if necessary. So my units are all on power saver mode all the time.

    you can also use this to underclock the CPU, for even further savings :)

  19. Dan says:

    @Abe

    Hehehe.. :) I only realized this once I had my watt meter on hand. The volt-ampere vs watt ratings are much higher when power factor is lower than 1. As our kuntador doesn’t distinguish between the two, it’ll just keep shoving electricity regardless of how efficient or ineffecient our wirings are.

    This is kinda sad, coz a laptop will normally only need 28W to 30W for normal operations, but is pulling way more electricity due to that power factor thingy. >_<

  20. Wakocoke says:

    new desktop processors automatically underclock their frequency if task is not that demandint (ie web browsing, office work etc)

    also there are energy efficient monitors, mine is LG e2360v around 30 watts of energy consumption

    it is given that laptop consumes less energy but performance wise, desktop miles ahead

  21. Nice little comparison, you got there sir Abe.

  22. watrboy says:

    very true.. before my power consumption is 7-8k.. now its down to 3-4k.. same almost 50%..

  23. wes says:

    I used Omni’s wattmeter (900 bucks in Ace Hardware) to measure actual wattage consumption of different computers in our office from the plug:

    Low-end netbook – 15 watts
    Mid-range laptop – 30 watts
    Low-end desktop (no videocard) – 40 watts
    Mid-range desktop (2-core, cheap videocard) – 150-200 watts
    High-end desktop (4-core, premium videocard) – 150-400 watts

    CRT monitor – 40 watts
    LED monitor – 15 watts

    I recorded the actual wattage consumption of other non-computer appliance here too:
    http://filipinofreethinkers.org/2011/03/25/earth-hour-2011-shocking-facts-and-figures/

  24. Iyan Sommerset says:

    Actually, building energy-efficient PCs has been somewhat of a sub-hobby of mine. There are a few energy-efficient, low-power solutions available locally, and much more “out there”.

    If building an energy-sipping desktop look no further than AMD’s Athlon/Sempron LE lines or Intel’s Desktop Atoms. They eat up way less energy than a full Core iX/Phenom and yet are fast enough for basic office tasks, surfing, even flash gaming, etc. Try to stick to 5400rpm HDDs, as few sticks of RAM as possible and onboard GPU. Use a USB optical device so it doesn’t eat up power when you don’t need it and stick to an LED-backlit LCD screen. We don’t have much choices in the way of low-power PSUs in-country so stick to a nice brand’s 300w offerings and below, or if you can get your hands on one, a low-power alternative like PicoPSU, etc.

    I’ve actually managed to assemble a few of these that are rated at a maximum draw of around 50w (including 15.6″ LED-backlit screen) full load, running Ubuntu well and Win7 (bells and whistles off) decently.

    One nice thing about low-power PCs is that they don’t heat up as much so you don’t need to spend additional electricity with active cooling solutions and thus end up with a more quiet system.

    Of course, gaming rigs are an entirely different matter altogether. :P

  25. mcometa says:

    Ahhhh this is nice!

  26. ross says:

    pero yari ka naman kung parati mo ginagamit ung laptap pag nasira ang mahal naman ng maintenance at parts

    • Mike says:

      My Laptop is 1 year and 3 months old, I can say that kawawa lagi, pero kaya nmn, running mysql,mssql 2k5 and 2k8, visual studio 2k5. samahan mo pa ng games. asus k42j i3 1gb video and 4gb memory

  27. John says:

    Please don’t hate desktops. With the ITX Motherboard platforms, they are a total power saver than their predecessors. Powered with processors from Intel (Atom) and AMD (Bulldozer), power consumption will never be an issue again. However, AMD looks promising with their Bulldozer line because it can provide the same power consumption and proc size compared to Atom with double of its processing power. Atom is definitely saving power but lacking on the performance.

    I still use desktops because I believe that laptop’s hardware is more fragile than desktop’s.

    • ross says:

      that’s right ako desktop din talaga madalas ko gamitin especially sa games

    • new says:

      Here is my AMD Zacate rig, measured by APC PowerChute, almost the same results using my OMNI Wattmeter (sorry, have not yet made a screenshot of the OMNI result).

      http://i56.tinypic.com/2aro1y.png

      Been using this as my all-around HTPC for about 5 months and I’m very pleased with the results for this kind of power consumption.

      1080p/720p MKV with DTS 5.1/6.1 audio playback, no lag via XBMC.

  28. icesaiah says:

    nice comparison…

    I should start saving money to buy a laptop! ^_^

  29. tipler says:

    a mid-range desktop will NOT use 500watts. my i5 and 6950 with lcd monitor uses 250watts tops on load.

  30. Lee says:

    while it is true that a laptop consumes a lot less power than a desktop, the comparison is a bit unrealistic/exaggerated, how many times do you think you maximize the power usage of your laptop/desktop? The price difference between the power consumption of a laptop and desktop is probably a lot less than the example given, if we are going to consider the usage of an average person.

  31. bennix says:

    A very helpful observation. Sa tinging ko depende din cguro sa pag-gamit mo kasi kahit laptop man ay magastos din sa power if laging babad sa gaming and movies.Tapos ang laptop madalas madaling mag-deteriorate ang battery if laging nakasaksak.

    Sa desktop set ko naman sa bahay, pinagtatangalang ko nag redundant na fan para maka-save tpos mas mainam pag LCD na monitor ang gamit kasi energy saving sya compared to CRTs.

    Yun lang…tipid…tipid patayin pag di ginagamit…:)

  32. bryan_mmx says:

    sir, there are digital wattmeter that allows you to calculate actual consumption of laptop and desktop. I tried that and compared. for my core i5 laptop, it goes as low as 18watts in eco mode and around 24watts in balanced mode. for my desktop (core2quad) it goes as high as 40watts if I remember correctly. i believe netbook will go lower than 15watts.

    but the difference is, while it took 8-9 secs to open up MS word (starter edition) in a netbook, it only takes 2 seconds in a desktop (student edition). also, what normally took a blink to render solidworks in desktop takes 4-5 seconds in my core i5 laptop (high performance) so I’d still keep a desktop to work with solidworks and photoshop, a laptop at the office for programming PLCs and HMIs, and a netbook to surf the net when I get bored in meetings.XD

    • bryan_mmx says:

      my bad, not 40 watts. i forgot actually. I’m gonna check it again.

    • pgk7 says:

      i agree with you bro. around 40-70watts for desktop. it goes like this 550watts divided by the max voltage of the psu which is 12 volts, so 550/12 thats around 46watts. im using a watt meter for my pc having a 700watts psu and discharges a max of 60watts of power consumption.

    • pgk7 says:

      sorry for the values i indicated. i was looking at the lcd power consumption. just plugged in my pc at watt meter and it displays 402watts.

  33. bryan_mmx says:

    and about the heat dissipation for air conditioning, if you wished to know, there’s a way to solve it though you’ll need tables (heat load of an average PC, the table I used in college I think was referring to a Pentium 2.XD). and the more people in the room the bigger the heat load too. lamps and bulbs dissipates heat too. if your ambient temperature is high then more power is consumed too.:D

  34. Name: says:

    This info will mislead other people. Oh no.

    But still, laptops are high maintenance and if your GPU or display or MoBo fails, big big problemo. Desktop is still better to use and much efficient overall.

  35. Dan says:

    bad comparison, desktop outperforms laptop in many aspects, such as durability, upgradability, and even with performance even if both has the same specifications, laptop cannot simply take the beating of a desktop, not to mention I haven’t seen a laptop server do you?

    • bryan_mmx says:

      I wouldn’t say it’s a bad comparison. read the title, yuga is comparing their power consumption, not overall. though it’s a given that laptops prevails in this category since those processor are built for mobile technology. then again there’s always an exchange, in this case, performance was given up to maximize energy efficiency.

    • dans says:

      I understand your article, however, the comparison of laptop consumption of power against a desktop is pointless, for one, desktop’s devices are totally different, therefore it requires more power. what you’ve done is you compared a truck with a motorcycle gas consumption, to compare laptop’s small power supply unit to a desktop PSU’s unit is like comparing a gas tank, it’s psu unit size should tell a tale of its power requirements. – so yeah, it’s a bad comparison.

  36. Name: says:

    power consumtion efficiency goes to LAPTOP.

    BUT

    Desktop:

    Upgradability (Easier in all aspect).
    Performance (Desktop is cheaper at high performance)
    Maintenance
    Safety (Laptops are prone to be stolen)

    For short: People who prefer laptops over desktop are the rich ones.

    • bryan_mmx says:

      wow, so you are saying those in the squatters are rich?

    • Noir says:

      @Name

      I agree with you except with the last part

      You forgot about portability in laptops

      @Bryan

      Not necessarily rich most like because Laptops are portable. Laptops in the 20K area are already capable enough more most tasks.

  37. Pusang Kulog says:

    Stopped using desktops in my house 2 years ago. I had an MSI laptop as desktop replacement But I think I will try whatever is the newest AMD APU this coming December. Miss playing RPGs for the last 2 years…

  38. new says:

    This is outrageous! A typical MID-RANGE PC does not consume 500 watts all the time. My PC at idle is using ~120 watts, and on full-on gaming around ~350 watts. I verified this using a digital watt-meter.

    Specs are: i7 860 (non-oc’d), ATI 5870, 22 inch monitor, back-lit keyboard, Logitech X540 5.1 speakers and a bunch of high-performance cooling fans.

    I think that is a pretty high-end system. YugaTech indicated that a MID-RANGE system consumes 500 watts. Maybe there is something wrong with the rig to consume that MID-RANGE PC a lot of power.

  39. Jose says:

    a little out of topic, but I wonder how much would you save if you use one of those solar chargers for your phone, tablet and laptop. I figured if you leave the solar charger out in the sun for the day to charge its batteries and use it to charge your devices at night. How much would you save? Is it worth the cost of the solar charger? Wonder if anyone has done a comparison?

  40. lilwayne says:

    it’s a mac G4 way back in 2007. P40K preowned (original price 54k). then a samsung blackjack 24K. the laptop bogged in 2009. the cellphone got held up after a few months of joyful texting. hayz.

  41. Noir says:

    I am sorry but this article is misleading.

    All/Most Desktops does not consume 100% of their PSU wattage.

    Just like laptops, desktops also save power when necessary. GPUs downclock as well as CPUs, total power consumption is still high when compared to laptops but not as much as your computation turns out to be.

    We have 2 Desktops and 5 laptops in our home and our electricty bill is only in the 4.5K range.

    I suggest that you correct the computation. A lot of people are being misled. (AND a lot of PC enthusiasts are also angry)

  42. Mark says:

    “a mid-range desktop PC (with a discrete GPU) would use up to around 500watts.”
    Proof? Source?

    “Assuming the computer is on and running for about 12 hours a day, that’s 550watts x 12hours/day x 30days/month to give you a total of 198kW.”

    WTH. dude, even if a PC does peak consumption at 550W, it doesn’t mean it draws 550 watts all the time! so your assumption and computation, unless you prove otherwise with hard data, is in error.

  43. mike says:

    the article clearly said “max out” at those power consumptions. the parameters (eg 12hr a day at 30day usage) were also given. the article just says that if you work on the same parameters then you end up saving that much. now if anyone uses his pc lightly using less power or perhaps for a shorter period of time then naturally the difference in consumption using either laptop or pc would be smaller. so cmon people nobody is wrong here.

    • Mark says:

      you may want to read some of the replies again. we are pointing out that even if it maxes at a specific number, it doesn’t mean it will draw THAT much all the time.

      to me more accurate, yuga must provide the average consumption (not the maximum, unless his rig DOES consume 550 watts the whole 12 hours, then put that number in his equation.

      also, maybe yuga could be more specific by stating what his definition of a “midrange” desktop PC is, what the specs are.

    • Noir says:

      Basically what Mark said as well as

      There are points in the article that are just not conclusive enough to support.

      PSU wattage is not the right way to check power consumption. A Buyer can have as much as 1000 watts and only use less than Half(~500) for his rig.There are several reasons why enthusiasts buy high wattage PSUs but I wont go there.

  44. Kenetsu says:

    Guys, don’t forget the Mac Mini!!!

  45. jarod_0122 says:

    Been using my Acer 5052 laptop atleast 8 hours a day for 4 years and 3 months. No problem whatsoever. Battery is always plugged in and still run for 1 1/2 hr but once a month I let it drain.I just placed it on laptop cooler with cover open.I say keeping it cool is the key to its long life and I can say that I have saved enough money from the electric bill that I could afford to buy a new one to replace it.(pag nasir :p)

  46. becky says:

    Good point! dami kase parts ng Desktop eh pag laptop all in one na! I had my Neo Laptop for about 3 yrs already at buhay pa!

  47. qwertbvcxzi says:

    desktop is so versatile,not like laptop so fragile. In my desktop I can download torrent for 1 week. unlike laptop

  48. goodha says:

    ang tanong ay kaya ba ni yuga hindi gumamit ng desktop for 30 days?lol

  49. Wakocoke says:

    550watts constant consumption? maybe his midrange desktop is running Crysis with 6990 and i7 at 1600p with 16x AA LOL

  50. Epstein says:

    Guys, ever heard of approximation?

  51. Delecroix says:

    I use Asus’s EPU technology to save power with my desktop, honestly it works cause my father has a voltage indicator on how much does my PC use up in terms of watts and I’m getting an average of 89 watts in power saving mode but when doing Adobe After effects I turn it off and usually have around 230 watts without power saving mode. So that I can get the best performance in rendering graphics :D

    My AVR can support all of my devices then its connected to the voltage indicator

    2 – Chimei 196VD Monitors
    1 – i3 – 530, Asus P7H55 Motherboard
    1 – DDR3 1GB Graphics Card
    1 – Altec Lansing Speakers

  52. Steve says:

    I usually use desktop computers 10 years ago. I read their comments and their right too. But laptops are really energy saver and regarding their durability I use laptop cooling fans connected to usb which draws power from the same laptop.With regards with the battery, there is a battery maintenance software which you can download too for free.Desktop are good for games and video editing work but consumes lot of power or electricity especially if you use it 24hrs. a day.

  53. Earl says:

    I believe the age and technology of your desktop will mostly determine if it will consume more or less electricity.

    With technology nowadays, with the latest cpus and gpus, i dont feel any increase in electricity consumption. Add in the age/tech of your monitor, with an LED, you’re saving more than you’re consuming.

    On the TV alone, our household spent more having the old 32in LCD, compared when we replaced with a new 42inch.

  54. Edwin C says:

    Isn’t it obvious?

  55. zsc says:

    It’s basically wrong to compute the power consumption of your desktop or laptop based on its rated power. The 500W rating of a power supply in a desktop is the maximum theoretical load a PS can handle, the same principle applies to a laptop power supply. On the average, desktop draws 50-70W, 15″ CRT monitors draws 75W, while a 19″ LCD consumes 35W. New led backlit laptop barely consumes 20-40W…

  56. The new desktop and laptop are more economical compared to old ones. The LED and LCD monitors had reduce a lot of power consumption.

  57. Habits of leaving all the lights on in the house can cause the electric bill to sky rocket.

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