All-In-Ones: The future of Desktop PCs

All-In-Ones: The future of Desktop PCs

All-in-one computers are really just a style of desktop computer system. They still have the same requirements in terms of features and functions. The only difference is the number of components. All-in-ones have a single box that is the display and computer versus the desktop that is comprised of the computer case plus a separate monitor.
This gives the all-in-one computer system a smaller overall profile than a desktop computer system.
One might counter by bringing up whether it’s worth getting the latest small form factor computers such as the Apple Mac Mini. These new class of extremely small computers that can easily sit beneath or behind a standard desktop display.
The all-in-one PC still has an advantage over these systems in the number of required cables. Since the monitor is integrated into the system, there is not a need for a monitor cable or separate display power cord. This reduces the clutter on, underneath or behind a desk.
Buying a desktop does have some distinct advantages over an all-in-one PC though. Due to their small sizes and need for lower power and less heat-generating components, many all-in-one PCs feature mobile designed components including processors, memory and drives. All these help make the all-in-one small, but they also hinder the overall performance of the system. Typically, these laptop components will not perform as well as a traditional desktop. Of course, for the average user, many of these low powered mobile components will often prove to be fast enough.
Another issue that all-in-one computers have is their upgradability. While most desktop computer cases can be easily opened by the consumer to install replacements or upgrades, all-in-one systems tend to restrict access to the components due to their small nature. This typically only limits the systems to having their memory upgraded. With the rise of high speed external peripheral connectors such as USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, internal upgrade options are not as critical as they once were but still make a huge difference when it comes to some components such as the graphics processor although external graphics units could change this.
First and Foremost, the Display
The first thing to look at (no pun intended) is the screen. While less expensive AIO PCs will come with a 20-inch screen, those are better suited to cramped spaces like classroom labs or dorm rooms. What you really want is a 23-, 24-, or even a 27-inch display. You’re almost guaranteed a 1,920-by-1,080 resolution (true 1080p HD) screen at this size, and larger screen will go even higher (up to 4K on some 27-inchers). What that gets you is the ability to view multiple screens side by side. Or you can view a three- to four-page-wide spreadsheet. If you’re a multitasker, the more screen room the better. Though it’s not a concern to those with 20/10 or better eyesight, a larger screen and higher resolution will allow you to increase the font size on your Word documents or Excel spreadsheets while still keeping a lot of information on the screen. Desktop screens are brighter than laptop displays in general, as well. Look for In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology for the best screen quality. IPS screens are inherently better at off-axis viewing, which means you won’t have to be sitting perfectly centered to see accurate colors and all the detail in your images.
To touch screen or not to touch screen—that is the question. It’s no secret that Windows 8’s user interface (UI) was designed with touch screens in mind. The initial UI with tiles and blocky icons is more suited to a touch screen or trackpad than a mouse. The spec for Windows 8 calls for at least a five-point touch screen to support gestures like pinch and zoom, but system builders are optimizing for a 10-point touch screen so each of your fingers can be recognized during a computing session. The rationale is that it will support at least one whole hand’s input (five fingers), but having both hands register (ten fingers) is better for usability and for using virtual keyboards. If you have a need for virtual keyboards (changing languages on the fly, entering complex mathematical formulas, playing keyboard-based instruments, etc.), then a touch screen is almost a must-have feature. If you’re a passive information consumer, swiping screens around may be easier on a touch screen.
A touch screen isn’t 100 percent necessary yet, even though Windows 8 UI is designed with one in mind. If you never leave Desktop mode in Windows 8 or would rather use Windows 7, a keyboard and pointing device are the way to go. There are some touch gestures in Mac OS X as well that could take advantage of a touch screen, but for Macs, it’s (also) not yet a necessity. Scrolling with a mouse or a trackpad will still be as quick or quicker than on a touch screen. Selecting text for copy and paste is easier with a mouse. If you fill out forms online and switch between text-entry boxes, pull-down menus, and checkboxes, then it’s likely that you’ll be able to enter data quicker with a keyboard and mouse/trackpad.
If you’re planning on using the touch screen at least 50 percent of the time, look for systems with screens that can recline down to horizontal (90 degrees) or almost horizontal. This lets you use the system like a large tablet, rather than holding your arm out constantly to use the touch screen. Think about using an ATM: The vertical screen is fine for a 90-second transaction, but will become tiring after 10 minutes or more. Leaning the screen back to almost horizontal will help people who use touch interfaces immensely. It’s simple ergonomics. It’s the reason why piano keyboards are still horizontal after hundreds of years, even though piano makers could easily situate the keys vertically.
Speaking of vertical orientation, some AIO stands let you pivot the screen so it is in portrait orientation. Portrait mode lets you view content like webpages and some pictures without wasted space to the sides of the screen. It’s a boon for Web developers and layout artists still working on print publications. If Portrait mode is something you’d be interested in, make sure the system features auto-rotate; otherwise, you’ll need to switch display settings every time you pivot the display.
Next, What’s Inside
While you can get a dual-core processor in a base configuration, look for a true quad-core processor on a large-screen, AIO PC. It will help with editing photos, videos, or playing back music in the background while you work on several tasks in the foreground. About 6GB to 8GB should be the minimum system memory you should accept. Although 4GB will work fine for basic users, you’re going to feel the limits of such a system quicker. That said, 8GB or 16GB will let you keep dozens of tabs open on your browser and still have room left over for Photoshop.
As far as storage goes, look for a hard drive of at least 1TB capacity if you’re going to store any video on your PC. Video files tend to clog up hard drives faster than just about any other type of file. If you’re a heavy download fan, then, by all means, grab a 2TB drive. The only issue is that a traditional spinning hard drive is relatively slow booting and loading apps. If you’d rather have a system that’s more a speed demon than a file storage unit, look for an AIO that uses a solid-state drive (SSD) as the boot drive. If you keep all your files on central network-attached storage (NAS) or stored on in the cloud, just about any SSD or hard drive larger than 128GB will be sufficient for most users. That’s enough for the operating system and a handful of oft-used programs. You can have the best of both worlds with an all-in-one PC that boots from an SSD, but has an additional spinning hard drive for storage. Look for a 128GB boot drive and at least 1TB of hard drive storage if you’re a power user. You’ll need more storage (2TB to 4TB) if you plan on keeping your entire video, music, and photo collection on your PC.
Adding an extra 1TB or so is also easy with a USB 3.0 external drive. SSDs cost more per GB than regular spinning hard drives, but SSDs boot up and wake from sleep so much faster than regular drives. Adding a 32GB cache SSD can speed up some tasks like loading apps, but for true speed, get a “real” SSD as your C: drive. Unfortunately, some of the new AIO PCs are becoming harder to upgrade by the end-user, so make sure you get what you need at the start.
You’ll want a system with a wireless keyboard and mouse or trackpad. While you could theoretically use the on-screen equivalents on a touch screen, using a touch screen for everything can get tiring, especially when you’re typing for more than a minute or two. A few dozen words are easy to type on a touch screen, while 3,000 words in a single session will be a challenge. It’s also arguably easier to use a mouse or trackpad than a touch screen when selecting large blocks of text for cut/paste operations.
A new subcategory of AIOs has appeared on the scene recently: the battery-equipped, portable all-in-one desktop. They use mobile components, including ultra-book class processors, low-power storage devices like SSDs, and touch screens to give users a tablet-like experience. These PCs run full versions of Windows 8 and Windows compatible software, so they’re more capable than the mobile device you carry with you in your pocket. A built-in battery pack will give you a few hours of unplugged computing, but their 18- to 27-inch screens are way too large to use on an airline tray table. Think of them as portable PCs that you can move from room to room easily.
The Pros
Even if you could purchase one, you can’t carry a 20-inch or larger laptop without looking ridiculous. You’ll also need strong arms to move a 17-inch-or-larger laptop. You’ll also need to be a blood relation to a WWE wrestler to have a lap that will accommodate a larger laptop. Since AIO desktops are plugged in, you can rest assured that you won’t ever run out of battery power, even when you leave your system in sleep mode for months. Some AIO systems with SSDs can update while sleeping, like the latest ultra-books. Since they use more powerful processors, all-in-one PCs will take care of your tasks quicker. Some 3D games are also smoother, thanks to discrete graphics cards in some AIO PCs.
You can share the PC among the members of a family, and use it to store centrally accessible photos, music, and videos. A large widescreen AIO PC makes for a great video-conferencing system. Rather than having the family crowd around your 7-inch tablet or 11-inch laptop, seat them in front of a 27-inch AIO desktop so you’re not subconsciously squeezing together to “fit on the screen.” Plus, a 27-inch screen is great for watching a movie from 10 feet away, so a few people can use it as a HDTV in your den equipped with a small sofa or loveseat. If you place the system in a central location, such as your kitchen counter, you can monitor your children when they’re online.
The Cons
Since they have larger screens, AIO PCs are physically larger than laptops. Of course, you’ll give up the ability to easily move the system from room to room, but AIOs are still more portable than tower PCs. All-in-one PCs doesn’t have the expandability that you’re going to find in most tower PCs, but towers lack the sleekness factor. That said, towers are still better than all-in-one PCs when you need to do intensive work like CAD/CAM or scientific exploration.
If you are looking for where to get quality and affordable all-in-one desktops that suits your need, you can visit ALL IN ONE COMPUTER category. At DreamWorks, you will find various types ranging from Lenovo, HP to Dell brands. Be sure to also check out our top picks overall for desktops, as well as our favorites for work or play at DreamWorks.