The greenest notebook computer is the one you have and keep using, but that can be tough; people say that notebook computers are the greenest because they sip electricity; it's true that they use less power than a desktop but you still have to choose carefully; there are a lot of other factors to consider as well. Notebooks are harder to fix and really hard to upgrade; where a desktop can be taken apart for recycling easily, a notebook often just gets thrown away. Being portable, they get dropped, spilled on and banged about, so you not only have to think about what it is made of, but how solid is it and how good is its service.
As in desktops, processor speed fades into irrelevance with most current machines; almost any unit out there will run most tasks that people do on notebooks. The upgrade cycle on hardware now is also much longer than it used to be, because the new machines do not perform significantly better on most of the common tasks that people use their computers for. So which are the greenest notebooks out there? The best way to tell is by it's EPEAT score -- "a clear and consistent set of performance criteria for the design of products, and provides an opportunity for manufacturers to secure market recognition for efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its products." But that is new, and manufacturers are being quiet about it.
What: XO Laptop (the computer formerly known as the $100 Laptop)
Where: One Laptop Per Child
Why: It's not just a computer, it's a community; "a unique harmony of form and function; a flexible, ultra-low-cost, power-efficient, responsive, and durable machine with which nations of the emerging world can leapfrog decades of development."
How much: 2 for $ 400, one for you and one for a kid who needs it.
Nice touch: Too many for our servers to store. Pull a cord to charge it; create instant wifi networks with everyone around you; filled with open source software; cute as a button. It doesn't get any greener than this.
More: One Laptop Per Child and TreeHugger
What: Toshiba Portégé R500
Where: Toshiba Direct
Why: Under two pounds with a solid state hard drive so that there are no moving parts.
How much: $ 2,000
Nice touch: It should last a long time but it is also EPEAT Gold, so it will recycle nicely.
Not Nice: No Wifi built in. Evidently they were trying to be so green that they thought they would minimize exposure to radiation, which limits its utility.
More: Toshiba and Treehugger
What: Asus eee
Where: Asus, eBay
Why: It's tiny, it's cheap, it's all solid state, it's loaded. What more do you need?
How much: $399
Nice touch: Under two pounds, the size of a paperback book, wifi built in, this may be the perfect mix of portability and price. Our bet is that this will be huge, with all kinds of aftermarket software being written for it. This could be the palm pilot of the decade.
More: Asus and Treehugger; the review at Laptop Solutions scores it well: "Pound for pound, the best value-priced notebook on the planet."
What: Dell D630
Why: It is EPEAT Gold, 21 points but you would never know from Dell's website, they don't even acknowledge the fact.
How much: $ 2100, it is a business machine.
Nice touch: Can't see many other than it meets the gold standard for green electronics. As a Dell business-grade machine it will be solid and stolid.
What: Apple MacBook Pro
Where: Apple Store
Why: Because no detail is too minor, because they are beautiful, because whenever I go anywhere with a lot of young, creative people, they all use Apples. Because it is EPEAT silver.
How much: Starts at $1999
Nice touch: Don't know where to start. New fast video card is a boost if you do any CAD or animations; last one was too slow. Good recycling program.
Check out TreeHugger's How to Green Your Electronics guide for more tips on greening your gadgets, and stay tuned for guides to buying green furnishings, apparel, electronics and more.