Here’s something I’ve been thinking about, and it’s less cut and dry as I previously thought.

For many people, a laptop is required for their job, as they need to move around with it. However, a desktop is still better for productivity. Assuming you’re not doing work that needs a really high-end desktop with multiple GPUs or exotic hardware, you can just use your laptop as a desktop by obviously just straight up using it on a desk, or if you want better productivity, get a monitor, peripherals, and a Thunderbolt dock, and basically get everything you could want from a non-portable PC.

Obviously, this seems environmentally friendly because laptops tend to be more energy efficient, plus you’re eliminating an entire computer from your life, which saves on materials, including rare earth elements, and reducing E-waste when the compute inevitably breaks or become obsolete to the point of unusability.

However, the major strike against this is the laptop’s battery. Heat, and constantly charging the system is really bad for Lithium ion batteries, and will cause them to fail sooner, maybe even a lot sooner. Even if you got a repairable laptop with a removable battery or one where you just have to unscrew some screws to replace the battery, that’s a still problem as batteries are toxic and their production (and recycling) is environmentally damaging. I also don’t know if those enterprise grade laptops can still work while plugged in without their batteries, but I’m going to say it’s unlikely as higher performance laptops can actually drain their batteries while plugged in if they hit their full load (please let me know if there’s a modern laptop that works plugged in without the battery).

So what do you think of this? Does anyone more knowledgeable know whether the benefits of eliminating a PC by using your laptop as one outweigh the issues of premature battery failure, from an environmental standpoint?

@linkert
3edit-28d

The non-repairable nature of laptops these days is disturbing. My X230 would have ended up in rEcYcLiNg if its battery or its display weren’t replaceable like it is. Still going strong thanks to parts being available a decade after its initial release.

I think the MNT Reform laptop does some interesting things and it is to a large extent my dreamtop from an environmentalish or activist perspective. But that’s only because I do no actual work or intensive tasks on my personal laptop. Although the news of Diablo II Resurrected has awoken some powerful feelings, corrupting my otherwise eco-aligned thought process - funny how that works.

Comparing the desktop and the laptop is futile, which desktop computer what laptop?

If you take the energy efficient laptop CPUs and put it in a serviceable desktop case plug in a monitor of the smaller variety you will instantly have a environmental win over a laptop with the same cpu because of the need for a battery. If you turn the LAPtop into a all in one portable computer, i.e rip the battery out of it, you still would have the desktop win the battle because of its serviceable nature.

That’s my take on how a comparison would work, might be flawed idk.

@geopoliticssuck
3edit-29d

An easily repairable second-hand laptop that is well maintained (not charged constantly) is, in my opinion, the most eco-friendly solution.

This is basically my laptop, which is a second hand HP Elitebook 840 G6.

@k_o_t
admin
4edit-29d

btw there are laptops that can be powered directly from ac bypassing the battery when plugged in, primarily macbooks, but i think there are others as well

tbh it’s ridiculous that this functionality is not included with every single device that contains a battery, probably would have saved a ton of resources by significantly delaying battery degradation, especially in laptops…

@ksynwa
39d

Thinkpads do this too. You can set a threshold. If the battery is charged more than this, the power bypasses the battery so it doesn’t get overcharged.

@k_o_t
admin
49d

is this a sortware or firmware feature? i never noticed that setting…

@ksynwa
29d

I guess both. I used to set it with TLP. Found about it here: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/TLP#ThinkPads_only

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
creator
19d

Sounds like a no-brainer, but I guess it’s because higher end hardware can exceed the wattage of a normal charger (which, why they don’t just put in a more powerful charging system is beyond me).

poVoq
29d

Size & weight of the charger. They get really big and heavy if specced to max instead of average use. Gaming laptops usually have a charger that can cover the full load and they end up weighting half as much as the entire laptop.

@peppermint
19d

There is no differnce, use whatever makes it easier for you to work with. for example, if you are a computer scientist, you should use both. If you rarely use a computer that isn’t a mobile, you should use a PC, and if you travel a lot, use a laptop.

It matters when you have a bitcoin farm, in which case I suggest you to stop doing it or at least not use a laptop.

poVoq
19d

Hmm, wouldn’t elimination of the laptop be even more environmentally friendly? You can just put your stuff on a bootable USB drive or store it on the cloud, no?

Also the argument with the need of the laptop for work often actually means you need a second laptop just for work… so I guess that isn’t going to be any more environmentally friendly then.

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
creator
1edit-29d

Hmm, wouldn’t elimination of the laptop be even more environmentally friendly?

Not if one is required for your job, like if you do a lot of onsite work, go to a lot of meetings, etc

You can just put your stuff on a bootable USB drive or store it on the cloud, no?

Eh, I wouldn’t trust any cloud with my data, nor would I expect to be able to boot from USB off any random computer. The latter might even have legality issues. Plus, with a laptop, you can use full disk encryption on your own hardware and be reasonably sure (at least more sure than with a random computer) there aren’t any deeply entrenched rootkits that can steal data.

Also the argument with the need of the laptop for work often actually means you need a second laptop just for work… so I guess that isn’t going to be any more environmentally friendly then.

Fair point if your organization requires a separate laptop, but the consideration can still be useful if it doesn’t or if you’re a freelancer (I know a lot of the more “hip” companies just say you can use whatever the hell you want, and I’d imagine security issues can be mitigated by dual booting into an encrypted work-only partition). Overall, a laptop is more versatile and for the majority of jobs, if given the choice between a desktop xor a laptop, the laptop makes more sense.

It also depends on whether we’re talking about environmentalism beyond literally everything else, or environmentalism just as a priority. I actually had that discussion on here a few months ago, and got varying responses and attitudes, with the consensus it’s more capitalism that needs to go rather than personal conveniences.

poVoq
19d

There are a few jobs that require a laptop (but usually a second one), but just as many don’t and it is more of a status symbol paid for by the employer (and is hence also a second one in most cases).

Oh and with “cloud” I didn’t mean google drive or such, but rather one that is operated and owned by yourself or the company you work for.

As for bootable USB sticks, they can also be encrypted and pretty safe. Or you could turn your phone into a bootable OS (or use convergence, but that then doesn’t utilize the faster desktop hardware).

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
creator
19d

Oh and with “cloud” I didn’t mean google drive or such, but rather one that is operated and owned by yourself or the company you work for.

That’s better, but one also has to consider the fact that the internet is actually extremely unsustainable. If you use the cloud a lot, I’d wager that it’s actually more environmentally friendly to get a more powerful local computer.

poVoq
1edit-29d

Well, yes. But in that case you are just pulling off some data which really isn’t very resource intensive. I am not talking about thin clients that do everything in the cloud and just stream it to your screen more or less.

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
creator
19d

Any internet is massively power intensive because of the vast distances and long chain of devices. For example, I read that sending an email is only a little more carbon friendly than sending an actual letter.

poVoq
19d

You are going to use the internet anyways for that job, so that point is somewhat moot no?

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
creator
1edit-29d

Not really. The more you use the worse it gets, simply being connected to the internet doesn’t require that much energy compared to sending even an extra megabyte of data. The cloud also keeps the drive storing your data on all the time whereas a local-only server can have its drives set to go to sleep.

poVoq
29d

You are splitting hair here :) We are comparing it to the production and utilization of a full laptop.

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
creator
19d

I’d still argue that a laptop is better if you’re transferring large files every single day, but this is just based on the energy statistics of the internet. In the end I honestly don’t know. Plus, for onsite work you usually don’t just have a random computer lying around, nor do meeting rooms (if they did, that’d be even less green).

poVoq
1edit-29d

For the first part: maybe, but at least in theory the internet could be run on renewable energy and the server hardware is shared by many people. It is more like the electric public transport (which also uses a lot of energy) Vs. the individual car that is mostly underutilized but still resource intensive to produce (=laptop).

As for the second part: true, but that is the result of everyone having a laptop. Like cities build for cars because everyone has one. For a counter-example: there a projectors that allow connecting with a smartphone or just plug in a USB stick and thus do presentations easily.

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
creator
1edit-29d

Good discussion, but I’m not shy to admit that I had no idea which is better, and I still don’t. There are just too many numbers we don’t know.

poVoq
19d

One number I actually know is that people on average buy a new laptop every 4-5 years. And I think that pushes the discussion very heavily in my favour as it is totally unsustainable to have a new computer that often.

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
creator
1edit-29d

Fair enough if one replaces that often.

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