You may have heard that laptops are greener than PCs, but that isn't necessarily true. Learn how much energy a laptop uses and how to choose the greenest computing option.
There seems to be a vague consensus online that laptops are greener than PCs. Laptops do not have separate monitors. Some people are still using CRT monitors, which not only make for more power usage than a laptop, but also contribute more to toxic waste in landfills around the world. It has even been suggested that laptops draw less power when in sleep mode than a personal computer does. While most of that is basically true, one needs to look deeper when determining whether laptops or desktops win the green battle.
Among one of the most popular reasons I found that people claimed made laptops greener than PCs was that they have no separate monitor. There's no argument that CRT monitors are no good. They use loads of power and they pollute the environment when disposed of improperly. However, there are hardly millions of people lining up to buy brand new CRT monitors. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a new desktop computer that comes with a CRT. As for companies that purchase large amounts of PCs directly from manufacturers like Dell, they're not getting CRTs either. CRTs no longer figure into this argument.
Another thing to consider is new power management options. As the world has turned it's focus on cleaner, greener computing, software and hardware companies have been working hard to meet our demands. Microsoft made serious upgrades to power management settings in Windows Vista.
The truth is that laptops tend to use less power than desktops, but that isn't the only consideration when buying green. Check out this general guide to buying a green PC based on power usage. Laptops use batteries. Those batteries are terrible pollutants that often end up in landfills. Also, the lifespan and upgrade-ability of PCs is superior to that of laptops. In theory, that means laptop hardware is disposed of more quickly than desktops.
There are a number of guidelines and certifications now to help you find green laptops or desktops. Energy Star and EPEAT are good places to start. These organizations help make it easier on the consumer to make an informed decision. You can read more about those here.