When it comes down to purchasing a new PC, many of us forget that there is a valid alternative to the tower-based desktop you’ll find in the majority of homes and offices. An All-In-One PC brings with it a whole host of benefits that simply aren’t possible with a tower-PC. But what exactly is an All-In-One PC, and why might it prove a wiser choice for you?
What is an All-In-One?
All-In-Ones are essentially a category of desktop PC, and visually they come similar to your normal desktop setup, minus that chunky tower-case full of components. The internal workings of an AIO are built into the back of the monitor, negating the need for a separate machine hooked up to a monitor.
As with tower PCs, all the major computer manufacturers are active in the market, and the larger your budget, the more power and additional features you’ll get.
Advantages to an All-In-One
One major plus point can be drawn purely from standing an AIO next to a tower PC: space. Given an All-In-One comes as a pre-built package, the room required to house one is obviously much smaller. Tower PCs can be bulky and a little ungainly. Often with large, impressive screens and a slick design, AIOs a much more attractive proposition in your home or office environment.
Given AIOs are built with everything you need, straight out of the box, their superior ease in setup and general day-to-day use is also a huge draw. Finding all the right specifications and peripherals for a desktop PC can be a time confusing process. With an AIO, all the systems features are built in from the off. This is particularly advantageous in the display, which often comes with an inbuilt camera for video conferencing and a touchscreen for fans of the metro tiles of Windows 8.
Similarly, TV-Tuners are also a common feature in All-In-One PCs, lending itself well to replacing the TV in your bedroom. With Blu-Ray players and HDMI output (allowing you to hook up a games console) also widely available in mid-to-high end systems, the potential for your AIO to become the focal point of your all your entertainment needs is clear. And again, these features are unleashed as soon as you plug the system in, keeping cumbersome wires, power units and numerous external devices to a minimum.
Disadvantages to an All-In-One
Before you hare down to the shops and pick up a new All-In-One, there are a couple of significant drawbacks you should aware of. Central to which are components. AIOs great strength of a slim, space and user-friendly design also leads to its greatest failing. The sacrifice for a smaller system is less powerful components. In fact, AIOs are often powered by laptop versions of the listed CPU and graphics card, which pump out considerably less power. Obviously, this leaves anyone with even a mildly serious interest in gaming at a bit of a loss.
To add insult to that initial injury, upgrading those lacklustre parts is a pipe dream for many AIO users. Given the restrictions on space, users aren’t able to upgrade the internal components, aside from perhaps the RAM.
In terms of value then, AIOs align themselves more favourably with laptops. Line-up the specifications of a tower-PC and All-In-One at the same price point, and the desktop will no doubt house far superior components. Sub in a similarly priced laptop, and the gap is likely to narrow. Obviously though, the laptop’s superior portability shines through.
All-In-One or Desktop?
The trade-offs required for All-In-Ones does lend them quite heavily towards certain types of users. Given the large screens that AIOs typically come bundled in, they are often favoured by those who intend to use the system for video editing or graphic design. Most AIOs will tend to range between 21 and 27-inches in screen size, with a Full HD display coming increasingly as standard. Of particular interest to designers is Apple’s version of the All-In-One, the iMac. Harnessing Apple’s designer-friendly software, video and graphic designers will often swear by the advantages of an Apple AIO for their purposes.
The AIOs potential as an entertainment core can also lend itself well to users who use their computers for a large amounts of content viewing. If you’ve got no particular interest in a PC strapped full of powerful components, and you want a PC with a great screen for streaming, playing DVDs and using the inbuilt TV tuner, an AIO is a genuine alternative. Given the superior design, an All-In-One can slip seamlessly into your office or bedroom, without becoming an ungainly lump loitering in the corner of the room.
A point which also makes the AIO a great option in the office environment. As previously mentioned, creative workers often prefer the use of Apple’s AIO for the advantages their software brings to design work. In general however, the sleek design of an All-In-One can aid in the creation of an uncluttered office. If space is a genuine concern in your cramped workplace, consider replacing your hulking tower-PCs with AIOs.
If you fit one of the criteria above, then considering the wide range of All-In-Ones available today is a viable one. Without specifically aligning yourself with these needs however, a standard tower-based desktop is always the most sensible recommendation. Greater power in the internal components allows considerably greater levels of gaming sophistication. Indeed, if you’ve got anything more than a casual interest in PC gaming, an AIO is tricky sell. The greater capacity of inbuilt storage allows you to run more demanding software, as well as holding considerably more data such as movies and music. All of which of course, comes with superior value for money.
Even when your PC starts to feel a little bit ropey, opening it up and swapping in some new parts can keep an original PC purchase running well beyond an AIOs sell by date. Time can very quickly sneak up on your All-In-One. Should you require a new one then, the entire system will need to be replaced.
If you’re still convinced an All-In-One is for you, then one piece of advice runs central to making a purchase; maximise your budget. So little is the scope you will have to upgrade your PC’s internal operation, and development into PC components advancing at breakneck speeds, it may not be too long before it’s considered out of date. Minimise this effect by investing in the best set of components your budget will allow. You many not need the extra level of CPU right now, but pretty soon, you probably will.