Low Power Distraction Free Writing
Posted on Jan 02, 2021
I’ve recently found myself in need for distraction free writing, of which I have several options to choose from on hand. Ultimately, my goal is to have something to write personal notes and letters to family that is as low power consumption as possible without spending any additional money on new equipment. Let’s review my options!
iMac 24" (late 2006)
|CPU||Intel Core 2 T7400 @2.16GHz (2 cores, 2 threads)|
|GPU||nVidia GeForce 7300 GT|
|OS||Solus 4.1 32-bit|
HP Mini 210-1000 (netbook circa 2010)
|CPU||Intel Atom N450 @1.66GHz (1 core, 2 threads)|
|GPU||Atom Processor N450 Integrated Graphics|
|OS||Arch Linux 32-bit|
Raspberry Pi 400 + 32" TV
|CPU||Broadcom BCM2711CO @1.8GHz (4 cores, 4 threads)|
|GPU||Broadcom VideoCore VI|
|OS||Rasberry Pi OS|
I’ll be placing the machine on a 19 inch writing desk in my living room- let’s try placing the equipment to see how it works.
The iMac fits the desk fine, so long as I accept the display to be placed at an angle. Twisting my neck to view what I’ve written is bad ergonomics, making using the iMac a pain in the space I have. I have to deduct a point from the iMac for not fitting the space given.
The Mini fits the space perfectly, plenty of space for anything additional I may want to have on my desk- photos, knick-knacks, what have you. Plus one point to the HP Mini.
The 32" TV is far too large for the space, making using the Raspberry Pi difficult to use. Both fit the desk, however it leaves me physically too close to the display to review what I’ve written without turning my head. Minus one point for the Pi400.
Does the machine itself lend anything to the decoration of the room?
The iMac has a “mid aughts” look to it, making it an interesting object on it’s own. Plus one to the iMac.
A netbook laying out on a writing desk isn’t terribly interesting in appearance- a small, thick laptop laying out looks more like I haven’t put it away. However, the netbook does fit in the desk drawer, so it can be near but not visible. Plus one to the Mini.
The Pi itself is an interesting looking bit of technology, however the TV looks bulky and out of place. Removing the restraints of not purchasing a small monitor this could be a plus, however as I am looking to not buy at the moment I am not going to give or take a point away from the Pi.
How are they to type on?
Currently I am using a stock Lenovo keyboard and mouse with the iMac, which is honestly about the same in feel to the keyboards Apple supplied in 2006. Neither a plus nor a minus, a rubber dome keyboard is functional and not indicative to the iMac itself.
Built for compact over function, the ¾ keyboard can feel cramped to type on for long periods of time. The keyboard deck itself has no noticeable flex while typing, which is uncommon for a cheap laptop even for the time, but does not make up for the pain in my hands caused by the under sized keyboard. Minus one point to the Mini.
Raspberry Pi 400 bringing back the PC micro form factor of the late 70’s-early 90’s is very welcome, even in spite of the chicklet keyboard. The key travel isn’t as shallow as many ‘high-end’ laptops I’ve tried (form > function seems to be the laptop trend), leaving an acceptable experience typing. Plus one to the Pi400.
Now for the nitty gritty- if I’m looking to lock in on distraction free writing, does it’s performance lend itself to letting me do more with it, leading to distractions?
CPU test is calculating prime numbers to 20000, and MEM test is writing 3GB to RAM.
|Machine||Sysbench version||Test||Events per second||Time Elapsed|
From a performance perspective, seeking the lowest performer overall, the Mini seems like the obvious conclusion. The odd thing I noticed, however, is the experience with things other than work processing overall comparing the Pi400 to the iMac leans heavily towards the Pi400, despite the disparity between the performance scores I can see. I think- without testing or verifying- it shows how much more the GPU has come into play in 14 years, and how much low end graphics have improved since this iMac was current. The Mini takes the point here.
Since this isn’t a device I intend to utilize full time, I would like it to be as low power as possible- something I can set up and forget about when I’m not using it.
|Pi400 (TV off)||0.0W||2.3W||5.3W|
|Pi400 (TV on)||0.0W||42.0W||44.9W|
Overall power draw in use, the HP Mini wins the day. However, since the TV attached to the Pi400 will be mostly off, the Pi400 takes the crown in overall usage. Point to the Pi400!
iMac: 0 points HP Mini: 2 points Pi400: 1 point
This means the Mini takes the throne as the writing PC, yes? Not so fast, a computer isn’t the only option here.
Smith-Corona Galaxie II
Physical Constraints: The Galaxie II typewriter was a popular choice for students in the 1970’s. The typerwriter sets perfectly on the 19 inch deep desk without concern for positioning the keyboard around a display. Paper fits flatly in the drawer, ready to compose another greeting.
Specifications: With no computational power to speak of, this is literally the most distraction free a writer can be.
Look: A typewriter in 2021, not a rusted broken thing from a boutique shop, kept to be used? A stand out feature for a living room devoid of any electronics!
Feel: The key travel on the Galaxie II is very deep in comparision to computer keyboards, making for a unique experience. Pre-IBM Model F keyboard layout is mostly as expected, with a few exceptions causing momentary confusion while looking for certain characters (e.g single quotes are shift+8, double quotes are shift+2, @ and ¢ taking their place to the right of the :; key). Finality to anything put down to paper makes for a fun experience where computers rule in corrective ability.
Performance: This keyboard is entirely mechanical- no power needed! No battery to charge, no need for electricity- a lamp, perhaps withstanding- truly a pinacle of electrical efficiency.
The Galaxie II will grace my writing desk for quite some time to come, meeting my expectations for all I’m looking to accomplish with it while offering a unique look and experience outside the day to day norm.