All-In-One Desktops for 2012

Category: Hardware

Are all-in-one desktop PCs a good buy? I'm replacing an old computer, and am considering an all-in-one because they look sharp and don't take up a lot of desk space. What should I know before I buy?

Should You Buy an All-In-One Desktop PC?

All-in-one (AIO) desktop computers are hot. Compared to a traditional desktop tower PC, they are a thing of beauty. From 2009 to 2010, shipments increased 45-50 per cent in each of those two years, offering a glimmer of hope to a PC industry stricken by the recession. But shipments of all-in-ones grew by "only" 31 per cent in 2011, and are expected to grow by about 20 per cent in 2012. About 15.6 million AIOs will ship in 2012, predicts Digitimes Research, accounting for 10.5 per cent of PC shipments.

Intel is pushing AIOs in the hope of injecting some excitement into the flagging PC market. According to the chipmaker's marketing spin, the latest Intel chips are (surprise!) ideal for AIOs: smaller, more energy efficient, and more powerful. So of course, now is the time to buy an AIO with an Intel i7 chip inside, according to Intel. Also, Intel's new mini-ITX motherboard specification is only half as tall as previous models, enabling thinner AIOs.
HP Z1 All-in-One PC

Apple's iMac was the top-selling AIO in 2011, followed by Lenovo and HP. Digitimes notes that the iMac is not evolving (it still lacks a Blu Ray drive and HDMI in-port) while Windows/Intel all-on-ones are proliferating. Lenovo may well overtake the iMac in AIO sales this year, if only on the strength of sales to China.

A slew of AIO computers were introduced at this year's CES show. Retail prices range from as low as $379 to a high of about $2000 for the biggest, baddest iMac. In between are many price points and feature combinations to suit every budget.

Some AIOs to Consider

In the past, all-in-one desktop computers were dismissed by some, because they were difficult or impossible to upgrade. After fitting an entire computer inside what looks like a monitor on a pedestal, there wasn't much room left for expansion. But the newest AIOs are far more easily upgraded than previous generations.

HP's new Z1 Workstation AIO, for example, features a chassis that simply snaps open to allow access to the motherboard. Users can swap hard drives, graphics cards, and other components as they please. The spacious 27-inch Z1 is powered by an Intel Quad-Core Xeon processor. Aimed at business users, it will be available starting in April at a base price of $1,899.

The SOLO 21 is the first AIO entry made by boutique PC builder Maingear. Its 21.5 inch 1080p display hides an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 500 GB hard drive with 32 G of SSD cache. That basic configuration sells for $999. You can upgrade to a 10-point touchscreen, i5 or i7 processors, up to 16GB of RAM, and a hard drive that holds 2TB.

The Samsung Series 7 all-in-one ($1,099) sports a 23-inch screen, an Intel Core i5 processor, 8MB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. The screen is full HD, touch enabled, and has the unique ability to lay flat, so you can use it more like a tablet.

Oh, and speaking of a hot commodity, about 50,000 of Lenovo's all-in-one computers are a little too hot. That's how many Lenovo ThinkCentre M70z and M90z systems were recalled in March due to overheating problems that, in at least one case, resulted in a fire. If you own one of the recalled models, stop using it (even if it's not shooting flames) and check this Consumer Products Safety Commission bulletin.

All-in-one computers will save space on a cramped desk, eliminate cable tangles and use fewer power outlets. Setup is simpler than a desktop model, and they're more portable as well. The downside is that you can expect to pay a bit more for an all-in-one than you would for a desktop with similar features.

With pressure from all-in-ones, ultrabook laptops and tablets , the days of the standard tower PC may be numbered. Do you own an AIO, or are you considering a purchase? Post your comment or question below…

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Most recent comments on "All-In-One Desktops for 2012"

(See all 21 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

23 Mar 2012

and when 1 part goes down you send the whole thing out to get fixed, leaving you high & dry

Posted by:

Sidney G.
23 Mar 2012

Until I read this article, I was unaware of the serious differences between the traditional tower PC and the all-in-one units; the objective info here has convinced me that my ailing desktop (a Dell with problems that will keep me away from other Dells in the future!)should be replaced with the all-in-one. Hope I'll be able to keep my speakers, which are high quality and have a long life expectancy. Meanwhile, thank you Bob Rankin!

Posted by:

Michael Bohler
23 Mar 2012

I purchased an HP TouchSmart 610 AIO in August of 2011, after my PC finally died. With a 750GB HD, 12 G's of RAM and an Intel Core i3 chip, and a 23 inch display I couldn't be happier. This little beauty is loaded, fast, good-looking and takes up minimal desk space. Set up was a breeze and everything was plug and play, including my broadband internet.

One note of caution. The HP TouchSmart comes pre-loaded with Norton Internet Security, which I have previously avoided like the plague. I removed Norton and substituted with another highly recommended suite. This substitute proved to be a nightmare resource hog, and constantly caused both Windows Explorer and Internet to freeze. Norton is preloaded for a reason, it works well on this system, as do many of the 'freebies' out there.

The huge advantage of these systems is a combination of minimal desk space, large display size, cool running temperature, ability to easily upgrade and the absolute silence of their operation.

Posted by:

23 Mar 2012

I would definitely consider buying an AIO next time I'm in the market for a new PC if newest AIOs really are far more easily upgraded than previous generations, as the thought of not being able to replace components was the main thing that has always put me off them. So thanks for the heads up Bob!

Posted by:

23 Mar 2012

I "love" Ask Bob Rankin. This was a very helpful article.

Posted by:

Frank Woodman Jr
23 Mar 2012

I just wish that the computer manufactures would wake up and make tv tuner cards a regular feature on these units.

They make a lot more sense when you also get a tv as well as a computer for basically the same price. I would tell anyone getting one to be sure it can take a tv tuner card. With that you have a great device for DVR, Movies, as well as a great computer.

Posted by:

23 Mar 2012

What a timely article.

My desktop PC is kaput and I do not think worth repairing. I look to upgrade to i7 and a big screen. (Though my Dell Ultrasharp 21 inch is excellent and was £800 alone, at the time.

An AIO seems the answer, and will complement my ASUS laptop. Problem: Which one to buy?

Something I learned has knocked me sideways. A 27 inch Mac seems to have a screen resolution approaching 3,000 pixels across. I cannot get my head around this as I was under the impression the highest resolution was 1080p, which is what all other monitors and all other AIOs are maxing at, apparently. I quote Apple, "The 21.5-inch iMac features 1920-by-1080 HD resolution. Apple engineers could simply have stretched that resolution up and out for the 27-inch iMac. Instead, they took the display well beyond HD with 2560-by-1440 resolution. That’s 78 percent more pixels than the 21.5-inch iMac display."

Could you comment upon this aspect, please? I suppose I could get the big Mac and load it with Windows, as all my (expensive) software is for Windows OS but that seems slightly silly and, besides, as you say the iMac is not yet getting hardware we expect for that level of expenditure.

Thanks, Bob, and anyone else looking in on this conundrum.

Posted by:

Igor F.Naftul'eff
23 Mar 2012

I have played with one, and honestly would never consider buying it. Too inconvenient, and their target group is obviously only those who need more space on their desks. Mine is 7 by 3 feet, and even with a scanner, a tower PS, a laptop (connected to the 'Net 24x365/366), a monitor. a keyboard, and two printers. I still have about 2 sq.feet to spare.

Posted by:

24 Mar 2012

I cannot understand the allure of AIO vis-a-vis reasonably robust notebook computers.

Posted by:

24 Mar 2012

As always, I'll just stick with tried and true dependability, rather than just jumping on the bandwagon of the latest fad.

Posted by:

24 Mar 2012

I do have an old iMac (not upgradable) & pc at work, but I would buy an AIO pc for all the reasons you mentioned in your article. Thank you.

Posted by:

24 Mar 2012

I love my iMac....and why would I need space to upgrade (chief complaint against AIOs) when it already comes with everything in it.

Posted by:

David Pike
26 Mar 2012

You forgot to mention the ASUS AIO's. Probably the best of the lot.

Posted by:

Linda Thompson
26 Mar 2012

I am so old school I doubt I would buy one even if I could afford it! My daughter has an AIO HP fully loaded and has touch screen.Every time I go there I see a million finger prints all over the screen because the kids use it also.
I just bought a really nice HP slim and I couldnt be happier.It came with a terrabyte of space and the on sale price was only $330.
I have a very old crt moniter that has a huge screen and weighs more than I do but the display is wonderful!
I guess you think I am wierd but I dont have pixel problems and I like the fact that I can interchange things when I want to and not be restricted with an AIO.
* just my humble opinion..*

Posted by:

Ashraf Sabry
28 Mar 2012

Do these AIO's have batteries like laptops? This is important to me as power goes out sometimes in my district.

Posted by:

John Giere
22 Apr 2012

Why don't articles like this talk about the new, but not on the market yet, Vizio all in one. Is there no information available for this product? It sounds like this all in one has it all together

Posted by:

22 Apr 2012

Hmmmmm, not much mention of HP AIO's. Was that an indication that you don't approve of them in general, or maybe that you don't think they are worthy?

I don't own one and maybe never will, but from what I have seen in the past, it seems like HP was one of the leaders in AIO's as well as touch.

I think many would be interested in your views of the HP AIOs.

Thanks for your atitcles, I read them often and they have helped me a lot.

Sincerely, Bill

Posted by:

23 Apr 2012

Who puts a tower on their desk? The last thing I need is all the cords connected to my tower cluttering up my desk space. And as pointed out, when an AIO breaks the whole thing goes out for repairs. With my tower I simply replace what needs replacing. I know of a few businesses which are already regretting their purchases of their troublesome AIOs. No thanks!

Posted by:

23 Apr 2012

I stumbled on to a HP AIO after my laptop died (not the hard drive, the motherboard. I have been very happy with it, especially the HD screen. I subsequently purchased another laptop, but find that I usually go to the AIO. Despite having a touch screen, I use the mouse about 99% of the time. These are not laptops, and are not battery operated, but I devised a carrier so that I can take the computer to do work at clients offices, which I used to do on the laptop.

Posted by:

Dell James
23 Apr 2012

I have a Packard Bell AIO and, boy, is it quiet. I love it. That aside, I may change my mind. I think something's wrong with the graphics. What're the odds it'll die on me the instant the guarantee runs out.

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