All-In-One Desktop PCs

Category: Hardware

All-in-one desktop PCs strive to save desktop space by integrating normally separate components of a desktop computer system into a single, compact design. There are pros and cons to the all-in-one desktop PC approach. Find out if an all-in-one computer is right for you.

Should I Buy an All-In-One Computer?

In many all-in-one designs it's hard to tell exactly where the computer is. The motherboard, hard drive, and different ports may be concealed inside of a pedestal that looks like it simply supports a monitor. Slots in the side of the monitor accept optical discs in tray-less CD or DVD drives. USB and other external peripheral ports are cunningly (or inconveniently) tucked into the front (or back) of the pedestal/case.

A keyboard may plug into the pedestal/ case, or a radical all-in-one desktop design may substitute a touchscreen for a separate keyboard. Instead of a mouse, a keyboard may have a touchpad or tiny joystick embedded in it like most notebook computers. If keyboard and mouse are separate components, they are often wireless to eliminate cables.

So an all-in-one desktop can take up less than a square foot of desktop space and appear to be just a modest-sized flat-screen TV set. All-in-one designs are ideal for cramped quarters such as a college dorm room or kitchen-table home office.
All-In-One Desktop Computers

Besides saving space, all-in-one desktop computers minimize cable tangles and conserve power outlets. Setting up an all-in-one system is simpler than setting up a traditional desktop model; typically, there's just one power cable to plug in and, maybe, a keyboard and mouse.

Apple's iMac is probably the best known all-in-one desktop computer on the market. The entry level iMac ($1199) sports 4GB of memory, a 500GB hard drive, 3.06 GHz processor and a 21.5-inch screen. Other popular Windows-based contenders in the all-in-one arena include:

  • Dell Vostro All-in-One ($598) - 2GB memory, 320GB hard drive, 2.8GHz processor, 19-inch screen.
  • Lenovo A300 All-in-One ($729) - 4GB memory, 500GB hard drive, 2.2 GHz processor, 21.5-inch screen.
  • HP All-in-One 200 Quad ($979) - 6GB memory, 1000GB hard drive, 2.8 GHz quad-core processor, 21.5-inch HD monitor.

Drawbacks of All-In-One Desktop Systems

There are a few downsides to all-in-one desktop computers. First, they typically don't have much expansion space built into them; extra empty slots for add-on cards and hard drives are eliminated to get that compact form factor. Second, if a drive or other component needs to be serviced you may have to leave the whole unit in the shop for a few days. Third, the price of an all-in-one design is generally higher than a traditional design with the same features; just like laptop computers, miniaturization and convenience come at a premium price.

And speaking of laptops, one could say that all-in-one desktop computers look a lot like laptops on a stand, with a keyboard. And of course they're less portable than a laptop. So what's the benefit? First of all, the all-in-ones are not quite as compact as a laptop or notebook, so you tend a get a bit more power and speed for the money with a desktop all-in-one. And if you care about screen size, you can get a larger screen (up to 27 inch) on an all-in-one system.

If you need a lot of computing power for online games or heavy number-crunching, a traditional desktop PC system may be better than an all-in-one design. More powerful processors generate more heat, and the cramped quarters inside of all-in-one desktop PC cases limit them to less-powerful, cooler processors.

When shopping for an all-in-one desktop , there are a few things to keep in mind. If you plan to use a touchscreen model, look for the largest screen and highest resolution you can afford. Also look for at least four USB ports so you can add external devices (printer, camera, external hard drive, etc.) if you want them later. Ask about the serviceability of components: what can be removed and brought in for service, where the nearest service center is, and the usual turnaround time for repairs or replacement parts.

For home, student, and small business users who prefer a sleek design and smaller footprint over the highest level of performance, an all-in-one desktop may be just the ticket.

Do you have an all-in-one desktop system? Tell us about your experience, or post a comment below...

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Most recent comments on "All-In-One Desktop PCs"

Posted by:

01 Dec 2010

As someone who has just gone through this decision, and finally deciding a traditional desktop served my needs better, let me point out that your reference to HEAT is spot on!

I really like Apple, and have tried to completely divorce myself from Windows whenever possible.

But in this case, a HP Desktop was able to fulfill my need for a higher-end graphics card (Nvidea 460), where the 27" iMac I was drooling over only offered an obsolete (to me) integrated ATI chip. Apple knows this chip is about the limit for an All-in-One, mostly due to the inherent heat buildup which is inevitable.

Bottom line, if you need decent graphics abilities, then stay away from ANY All-in-One computer.

A welcome benefit to choosing the HPE-480t was that I was able to buy "more" computer (i7 960 Quad 3.2MHz, RAID 2x1.5TB HD, 12GB RAM, 1GB NVIDIA Geforce 460) for considerably less money than I would have paid for the 27" iMac.

Posted by:

01 Dec 2010

If you need Windows 7 Professional x64 to run an application best, all of its features may not work on a particular All-in-One due to hardware limitations. Your analysis of the All-in-One compromise is really well done.

Posted by:

02 Dec 2010

I recently bought an iMac 21.5". I have had nothing but PC's since I first started using computers. This new Mac, is one of the best investments I have ever made! I'm not a big gamer, but am building a large music library, and have tons of family photos, and this computer is fantastic for that. It takes a little studying to convert from all the years with windows,,, but the extra effort seems worth it to me.
On a personal note Bob, I have subscribed to your newsletter, for about 8yrs, or more I think, I first heard you on WGN Radio, on a late show with Don Crabb, I think his name was,,,,you have helped me learn alot! Thank you very much!!!!

Posted by:

Jim Doc
02 Dec 2010

I bought a Sony all-in-one eighteen months ago.From the beginning I had to change registry settings to have the DVD be seen on the machine.Now the monitor does not work and I am told it will cost $1200 to repair.That's more than I paid for the all-in-one.Since I refused to pay that much I wasn't told what went bad but I suspect the mother board was fried.

Posted by:

Ravi Raina
08 Dec 2010

Try Lenovo AIO's. They have wide range

Posted by:

Gene Branam
14 Dec 2010

I purchased a Dell INSPIRON ONE all in one system about a year ago. I have Windows 7 and 64 bit on the machine. I added wireless keyboard and mouse. So far I have been very happy with this unit. I am not doing major processing so it suits my needs very well. I would use it for a small business if needed without a worry. It runs MS Office and Quicken effortlessly. I added my old Dell speakers for sound and a Western Digitial external hard drive for added storage. I would recommend this machine for the average to a little above averge user.

Posted by:

mel cohen
06 Mar 2017

I have a Lenovo presently which my wife uses. she hates it and spoke of getting another. Leveno idea pad 500. seems to have problems, anyway she wants a change. at best buy we looked at Dell & they recommended a HP all in one.
Reason she uses it for nothing but emails, facebook, maybe calander, etc. No Graphics,
retail around $600.00
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