Notebooks/ Laptops

August, 2016
Note:  References to power, in watts, refers to average power consumption for a device with wifi turned on, and the display screen "half-bright".  Display screens with full brightness usually add one more watt of power, which is a significant percentage for an already low-power consuming device.

Guidelines for 2016

This model year saw a bumpter crop of suitable machines to purchase that were "low power consuming".  Why? Because many of the models were based on Intel's new (2015) "Bay Trail" technology which had smaller geometries that translated into several processor types that were even less power hungry than ever before.  Then by 2016, companies like Lenovo, Dell and Asus started placing them inside their boxes for sale.

Last year's popular models, like the Lenovo x140e were pushing 8-9 watts for comparison purposes here.  These models are no longer for sale anyway.  In the labs we easily sustained this type with a 55 watt solar panel, and sometimes we ran such computers for 16 hour work-days.  The target for SCOS is a sustained 8 working hours.

Basically if you want astounding and awe-inspiring "low power" performance, then look for these processor models inside the box: Intel N3700, N3050, N3150  (2015)   These will be running at around 5 watts.

If you want good low power that still is amazing compared to last year's (say as found in the defunct Lenovo x140e): Intel N2940, N3540, N3530  (2014)  These notebooks/ laptops will be running around 7.0 watts.

And if you want "flea power" and yet still have processor speed, go for the fabulous Intel M-5Y10c processor (2014-15), which we can now recommend. Evidently it has two speed modes, both 0.8 and 2.0 Ghz and in a recent field test by Kim Blewett comparing Lenovo 11e models but with different processor types, she reports that the M-5Y10c was significantly faster while doing a standard test under FLEx (SIL Linguistic Software), than other processors in the same 11e type machine.  That is remarkable really, and welcome.  

Also, for Linux users there are no reported issues under Ubuntu 16.04 and derivative OSs, as there has been reported by the N2940 box. This M-5Y10c processor should run well on a amazingly small 20 watt solar panel. Overall notebook power:  ~3.6 watts  (Lab observed; Intel TDP is 4.5 watts)   Go for a mere 20 watt solar panel on this one.  If significant village social pressures to "leach" power, then go for 30 watts.

See:  Amazon Store

Now the caveats:  You must purchase a box with 4GB RAM.... so you are going to find other models for sale ($150-200) that are only 2GB RAM and much less expensive to purchase.  Some boxes have the memory soldered on the motherboard and you cannot expand the memory.  Others have modular memory modules that might allow expansion to 8 GB.  FLEx users (SIL Linguistic software) are going to want that for heavy linguistic work.  If you are thinking Paratext (UBS/SIL) and Word Processing applications then go for 4 GB minimum.

We are no longer limited to 11 inch screen sizes.  We  suspect that a 15 inch model with any processor above, is going to be about 1 watt more power consuming than any 11 inch model.   Screen size is almost a "religious" like experience for some users. But the power consumed by the screen is a much more significant factor, now that the relative percentage of overall power by the processor is decreasing so dramatically.  Note the Asus 14 in Vivobook, far below.  One unit is coming to the labs and we will be able to report and confirm it's low-power consumption.

CPU Summary:

Modern CPUs and expected system wattage
Year CPU Typical Wattage Speed (Ghz) Cores
2014 N2940 7.5 1.83 4
2014 N3530 6.5 2.16 4
2014 N3540 6.5 2.16 4
2014 ? M-5Y10C 3.6 0.8 / 2.0 (Turbo) 2
2015 N3050 5.0 1.6 2
2015 N3150 5.0 1.6 4
2015 N3700 5.0 1.6 4

Note:  Processors manufacturered in 2015 arrive in notebooks for sale in the year 2016

Lenovo Netbooks Preferred

Presently the recommended line of low-power consuming notebooks are the Lenovo Brand.  Last year's model of choice was the Lenovo x140e models, but that line was discontinued in 2016.  Nowadays the best choice appears to be the Lenovo 11e machines.  An example would be found below.

The Lenovo 11e inch model still sports a full RJ-45 ethernet port and normal HDMI port which might be advantageous to some.  Wifi is included of course, but not with the new "ac" standard.  Lenovo, like Dell makes several different "flavors" of 11e models so you need to be careful with the specifications if you purchase on Amazon.com for these units.  For example, normally a Paratext software user would want a minimum of 4GB of RAM.  A solid state drive (SSD) would be preferred over a mechanical rotating drive, but the latter offers significantly more storage if that is imporant.  For Bible Translation and Language Development tasks a 128 GB SSD drive should be more than enough to purchase.

All newer 2016 11 inch models are now 64 bit processors, and every new machine uses the EUFI boot process, so beware if you are used to the older BIOS method of booting a machine from a USB stick.  This has a bearing on future Wasta-Linux users, who install by booting up on a USB memory stick.  It all works, but the boot process is different.

Note to Linux users:  As of this writing (June, 2016) there appears to be a problem with Ubuntu 16.04 and derivatives, where the machine can lock up, related to the graphics processor on-board.  This only seems to be a problem with designs based on the Intel N2940 processor and now witnessed with a N3540 machine.  One fix was applied setting a flag at boot time, but the power consumption rises about 0.6 watts.  If you are content with Wasta 14.04 there will be no problems. Newer models with even lower power consumption based on the N3700 and the N3050, have so far not reported any problems.  Watch out for this with on-line purchases, for example the Lenovo 11e, which can have old or new processors and even AMD processors in the box.

Where do I Purchase a Notebook?

Eleven inch notebooks are pretty ubiquitous now, and there are several makes and models that qualify for ultra-low power.  However, any store will really do, and many stores advertize on Amazon.com.

Be sure to work with a reputable store with 4 or 5 star ratings, and hopefully that you have worked with before: Good companies include: buy.com, bestbuy.com, newegg.com, frys.com, beyond amazon.com if you are so inclined. Also any major office supply store, dell.com, tigerdirect.com, mwave.com and B & H Photo. There are others of course. Also look for deals that include extra installed main memory, especially if you are doing Windows and not Linux.  You will notice that most of the stores carry the same makes and models, and it's really all about price point as they compete for your dollars.

11 Inch Lenovo 11e                                     


Lenovo 11e Model
Lenovo 11e Model


An amazingly low powered box, and still not the lowest to be found today.  It has the Intel N3150 processor and runs around 5 watts using Paratext/ Word Processing.  The overal construction of these boxes seems stronger, at least in appearance, to the Dell and Asus models below, but they are heavier to carry.  Approximate size of solar panel required:  30 watts  (Calculated;  not yet observed)

Price: $320

See:  Lenovo Store

And:  Amazon Store    Special Note:  8GB RAM included  $316

Highly Recommended:

And for the M-5Y10C variant which could be running at 3.6 watts.  Solar panel required: 20 watts   (Lab observed)

Price: $370

See:  Amazon Store   Note: Might have search around for this one

But the Amazon link might have changed by the time you read this.  Just search "Lenovo 11e" under Amazon search bar.  Be sure to check for the processor model inside the box of purchase, as not all Lenovo 11e models are made the same.  I have now counted at least 4 different processor types found in the 11e series.  (Same with Dell line as well... beware!)  Always check the processor model number, before you purchase.


11 Inch Dell Inspiron 3000 series

Dell Inspiron 11 3147 640

We have had very good success with an older Inspiron 3000 series (Model 3147) with the N3540 processor, however, we note that the Dell store now sells something similar but with a newer N3700 quad-core processor.  It being a 2-in-1 model it has an advantage in a non-soldered RAM memory module, so if you purchase the 2GB RAM model from Dell, you should be able to expand to 4GB easily in the field.  The touch-screen interface might be desireable, but some may still prefer a mouse and the touch-screen does not matter.  The screen is glossy however, and for some that is a severe distraction in the village.  The main advantage of this line over a similar non-touch screen Dell line, appears to be the easy RAM memory upgrade with a RAM module socket.  The other line has RAM soldered on the motherboard.
In the USA one can purchase in stores and units can be found with 4GB RAM preinstalled, commonly at $349.  One older model purchased at the MicroCenter store, in Northern VA. has been tested.  The older processor type was N3540 and runs at about 6 watts.  The newer N3700 should run at a mere 5 watts.  Approx solar panel:  25-30 watts  (Lab: N3540  Linux: 7.5 watts; with TLP utility: 6.5 watts; N3700 model, not observed yet, however see Asus below)
Note: there is presently a kernel problem with N3540 processor, if you are planning for Wasta/ Ubuntu Linux at 16.04.  No problems with older 14.04 versions.  See Linux notes above.
Price: ~$300-$349 with 4GB upgrade
See:  Dell Store

Asus 14 inch Vivobook

Asus is a well known company and actually performs well under user surveys in terms of reliability and user satisfaction ratings.  Sometimes they are the top of the second tier, below Apple, which is alone in the first tier.
This particular model sports a larger 14 inch, anti-glare, screen which is imporant for some Paratext users.  The processor is the Intel N3700, 4GB RAM, and typically with 128 GB SSD (eMMc) drive.
This box was tested in the labs, (special thanks to translator, Jan Gossner) and measured a true 4.9 watts.  Approx solar panel:  20-25 watts.  The predicted value for an 11 inch screen would have been 5 watts, and here is a machine with a much larger 14 inch screen at the same observed power spec in the lab.
Price:  ~$389
See:  Asus Store

12.5 Inch Lenovo x260

Lenovo X260 1024 Back to the Lenovo line.  This one is for the "power users" who want a faster processor and also have the extra money to spend for it.  It still manages to weigh in with an acceptable wattage for solar. Any field testing and power data was provided by Nate Marti.  This is probably the machine one would want if they were an avid FLEx user (SIL software) and doing a lot of processor intensive tasks, and the x260 starts with 8 GB RAM standard.  Upgrade to 16 GB possible.
The 12.5 inch screen is a bit larger than the 11 inch models above, and the Intel Core i5-6300U is a good performer.  The hardest spec to nail down is the battery run-time spec and hence the power consumption because there is a built-in internal battery that is non-removeable and then one of three extra battery packs that can clip onto the unit as well. (3 cell: 23 Wh; 6 cell: 46 Wh; 9 cell: 72 Wh)  Hence various on-line reviews give different battery run-down results on the Internet, confusing the analysis.
We have now witnessed in the field that a model with 23 Wh built-in battery and then a clip-on second battery of 72 Wh runs for around 11.5 hours.  This with screen half brightness and wifi on.  Running normal chores for the 11.5 hours (please no videos here), the processor is humming along at a mere 6.8 watts.  This combined with a Mil-Spec build by Lenovo will hopefully yield further field reports as to ruggedness in the field.
So with a power consumption of 6.8 watts.  Approx solar panel:  30 watts.  (Predicted; No lab observations)
Price:  $999   (there are various configurations for this unit)
Contributors to this page: BChap , sewhite and jjhh .
Page last modified on Saturday August 27, 2016 05:46:47 ICT by BChap.


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