Are “green” hard drives really all that green?

When a drive is “green,” the designation usually just means that it runs on the slower side—5400 rotations per minute, as opposed to the more ubiquitous 7200 RPM. But in some cases, this slowdown can translate to drives that are quieter, cooler, and less power-hungry. We’re not talking the same power savings as, say, switching to fluorescent light-bulbs from incandescent ones. But there are a few watts to be saved here, which makes green drives a decent choice for a platform that will see a lot of use, but doesn’t necessarily need to be high-performance. (If you’re really looking for power savings above all else, though, the absolute best option is a solid-state drive.)

The three features that are touted the most often by manufacturers of green drives, as we said, are their relatively quiet and cool operation and their lower power consumption. These specs are measured in decibels, degrees Celsius, and watts, respectively, and can usually be found on fact sheets for various drive models on the manufacturer’s website (here’s a Western Digital sampling) or from third-party benchmarks, if you don’t trust Big Data Storage.

Some green hard drive models perform decently well in these areas over their desktop-standard counterparts. For example, a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Green model that runs at 3.0 Gb/s with a 32MB cache consumes an average of 4.8 watts when reading or writing, 2.82 watts when idle, and 0.38 watts when in standby or sleep mode. A WD Caviar Black with the same specs consumes 8.4 watts when reading or writing, 7.8 when idle, and 1 in standby or sleep. You’re not exactly slashing your electric bill with a green drive, but it’s something. You also drop a couple of decibels in loudness going from Black to Green.

Of course, what facilitates the difference between these two drives are their speeds— the Caviar Black runs at 7200 RPM, and the Green uses a mysterious system that WD calls IntelliPower. Theoretically, this is supposed to mean that it runs between 5400 and 7200 RPM depending on the demands being made, but most third-party tests have found the Caviar Greens pretty much stick to 5400 RPM.

 

Should I get a laser or an inkjet printer?

oki c3600n printer

It’s true that the cost of color laser printers has come down significantly, particularly on the higher end. Most still don’t beat inkjet printers in terms of price, but some of their other advantages—speed and volume, namely—can make a high-end laser printer a good investment if you have the up-front money for it. The higher cost per page of a middling laser printer will quickly close the price gap over time between itself and a higher end printer, so the only reason you’d go that route is if you need to start printing right away but only have a couple hundred dollars to spend up front.

 

Color laser printer prices now bottom out in the $200-$300 range, while higher-end ones are priced at $1,000 and beyond. Inkjet printers, on the other hand, can be had for under $100. But the price of hardware is somewhat less important in dealing with printers than the cost of inks and toner, and this issue complicates things a lot. There are many, many ways that you can approach this, mostly because of the wide variety of retail sources for both ink and toner cartridges. There’s also the question of refilling those cartridges, which is a whole other beast.