Why a good green tablet is hard to find

Energy Star omitted criteria for tablets in its classifications, leaving EPEAT -- and green-minded consumers -- in a lurch

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Notably, EPEAT found itself embroiled in a bit of a firestorm not long ago when Apple threatened to stop using the registry entirely after its MacBook Pro with Retina Display initially failed to meet the registry's minimum criteria. The brouhaha died out quickly enough once Apple reversed its decision to bail on EPEAT, and the device went on to earn an EPEAT Gold rating. EPEAT insisted it had not caved to Apple in granting the device a Gold rating. Even though the machine includes proprietary pentalobe screws that require special tools to undo them, it meets EPEAT's disassembly criteria, which focus on recycling and shredding, not upgrading. "The test lab went through the process and reported that the products were all easy to disassemble with commonly available tools," O'Brien said.

A second bar for assessing a computing device's greenness comes from the website iFixit, whose engineers periodically break down machines to inspect how they're constructed and to assess how easy they are to repair and upgrade. iFixit just published a convenient scorecard rating the reparability of 18 tablets, ranging from various Apple iPads to Microsoft Surfaces to Nooks and Kindles. The scores are determined based on how easily a device can be opened, repaired, and upgraded with non-proprietary tools and parts.

By iFixit's reckoning, Apple's and Microsoft's tablets are the least repairable of the bunch: The iPad 2, 3, 4, and Mini all have reparability scores of 2 out of 10, generally due to the fact that "excessive amounts of adhesive holds everything in place" and the "high chance of cracking the glass during disassembly." The Mini also suffers from "hidden screws [that] complicate disassembly."

Meanwhile, the Microsoft Surface Pro received an abysmal reparability score of 1 out of 10 for containing "tons of adhesive [that] holds everything in place" and the fact that "opening the device risks shearing the display cables." The Surface, meanwhile, earned a repairability score of 4 because it's difficult to open and its LCD is fused to the front glass.

On the other end of the tablet-reparability spectrum is Dell; its XPS 10 is the only tablet on the list to have earned a score of 9 out of 10. It's easy to open and remove the battery, plus it has color-coded screws and labeled cables, according to iFixit. Dell's Streak earned a reparability score of 8, as did Amazon.com's Kindle Fire, the Motorola Xoom, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.

Green-minded organizations and individuals in the market for tablets and other next-gen mobile computing devices may need to work a little harder to find machines that meet their requirements because they won't find one conveniently marked with an EPEAT or Energy Star sticker any time soon. However, buyers can press hardware manufactures on the green credentials of their wares -- and pressure companies that are clearly falling behind to work a little harder.

This story, "Why a good green tablet is hard to find," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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