The Best All-in-One PCs in 2014
As usual in the home computing system, it all started with Apple. For a time the iMac was fairly unique, a computer that did away with the bulky, under-the-desk box, and somehow managed to fit all the computing power into the its gorgeous screen.
It was not until the appearance of Windows 8 and touchscreen technology that Windows based all-in-one PCs started to make a significant appearance on the market. Operating a touchscreen on a desktop computer has always been a bit awkward, but the ergonomic design of an all-in-one PC makes it far more feasible.
Recently many more people have opted for desktop replacement laptops, which are not particularly portable, and are generally used in the home, but have the advantage of not taking up as much space as a desktop PC. All-in-ones have many of the advantages, except they boast much larger screens.
In fact many of them are used as family entertainment centres.
What to Look for in an All-In-One PC
To a large extent this will depend on the way you will be using it. Obviously, since one of the big advantages of these computers is their looks, you should pick one that is aesthetically pleasing.
Many of the all-in-ones come with impressive 27" screens. IPS displays are becoming quite affordable, have wider viewing angles, and a much wider colour gamut than TNT screens. If you are going to use it for graphic design or photo editing than an IPS screen is particularly important.
If the computer will be a family media centre, it would be an advantage if it comes with a blu-ray drive. Unless you usually stream your movies through service like netflix. It is always good to check out the input ports on a computer, like HDMI or display ports, SD card readers, and of course plentiful USB 3.0 ports.
If you are planning to use the touchscreen a lot, it is good if the screen can tilt backwards to a large angle. Using the touchscreen on a vertical screen becomes tiring quickly.
It is hard to find all-in-one PCs with very powerful specifications. packing all the components into a small space makes cooling challenging. You will not be playing the newest computer games at maximum settings. Having said that, some all-in-ones do come with a graphics card, usually one designed for laptops, as denoted by the letter M in the name.
The Apple iMac
The iMac, the original all-in-one desktop computer, is still the sleekest and best looking of them all. You do get the looks and build quality for which made Apple products so hugely successful.
The display, a 2560x1440, is superb. Macs have long been the favourite computer of designers, photographers and digital artists, and they work hard to keep that position. Since the panel is IPS, you get excellent colour fidelity, covering all of the sRGB spectrum, resulting in vivid, bright images.
You can vary the specifications, depending on your budget (and of course you can get the significantly cheaper 21.5" version). The model shown to the right has an Ivy Bridge core i5 3.2GHz processor (you can choose from 2.7GHz to 3.4GHz), and 8GB DDR3 memory.
It also comes with dedicated graphics, an NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M Graphics Processor with 1 GB of GDDR5 Memory (the M indicates it is designed for laptops). This is useful if you are planning to play games, but also if you want to do photo-editing, using Photoshop or Lightroom, or for editing videos.
The iMac is a beautiful and powerful machine. Of course you end up paying a premium for an Apple product. Also, some people simply require a PC for their work. You also don't get a touchscreen, this might be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how you feel about Windows 8.
It also doesn't come with an optical drive, so if you are planning to watch Blu Ray, or even DVDs on it, you would need to get an external drive.
The Windows Premium AIO: The Dell XPS
If you can afford to pay for a premium product with beefed out specifications, but to use Windows rather than iOS, then the Dell XPS-One 2720 will fit the bill nicely.
Not only is the display 27", but, with a 2560x1440 resolution it is better than full HD, allowing for fantastic looking images and movies. The touchscreen is very responsive, and tilts backwards for ease of use.
The Dell comes with the newest generation Haswell Intel processor, unlike cheaper all-in-one PCS which are still powered by third generation Ivy Bridge.
The 8 GB RAM and 1 TB hard disk is pretty standard for desktops now. The Dell is inferior to the iMac in the graphics department, it only comes with integrated Intel HD graphics. This will not be a problem unless you are planning on running graphics intensive software or playing serious games.
It is rather ironic, from a gamer's point of view, that really the only AIO computer that comes with a dedicated graphics card is the iMAC, where the choice of games, without installing Windows simulating software, is limited.
It also lacks a blu-ray drive, which is worse than some of the cheaper computers below.
The Lenovo AIO Lineup
A couple of months ago, Lenovo announced the release of some new all-in-one desktops. The most impressive (and most expensive) of those, the B750 can only be purchased from the company itself at the moment, although it should be available in the high street and on Amazon early in the new year. With a stunning display of 29", this will officially be the biggest AIO computer at the moment.
The B540 is a dwarf in comparison, a space saving 23 inches. Although that might seem mean when compared to the 27" inch AIOs, 24" is the most common size for computer displays right now.
The screen is full HD, and it is IPS. It is also a touchscreen, which you really need with windows 8. The computer comes with an integrated Blu-Ray drive, a 6-in-1 card reader, an HDMI out port and 2 USB 3.0 (4USB 2.0) ports.
The mid-range specifications are pretty much what you would expect for a desktop at this price, 2.7GHz core i5 processor, 6 GB of RAM, a 1 TB hard disk and integrated graphics. It should handle most entertainment and productivity jobs with ease, but the lack of a dedicated graphics card disqualifies it as a serious gaming PC.
Acer Aspire All-in-One
The Acer Aspire comes with a 23" full HD touchscreen which works well (assuming you can get to grips with windows 8, which a lot of people hate. The specifications are what you would expect in a mid-range desktop, although the processor is slower than the Lenovo, and the integrated graphics will not be capable of handling most modern games..
On the plus side it comes with 8GB of RAM. However it loses out to the Lenovo in that it only has a DVD drive, and not blu-ray, if you have a large collection of blu-ray discs that you were hoping to watch on the new computer, this might be a strong point against it.