The top performers in our review are the Dell XPS 27 Touch, the Gold Award winner; Apple iMac, the Silver Award winner; and the MSI Gaming 24GE 2QE, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing an all-in-one PC to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 computers.
Most computers quickly become a tangle of wires and extra devices. Fortunately, all-in-one PCs store all of the components and many peripherals in the monitor, saving valuable space on your desk. Prices, though, vary greatly with each computer, with some PCs available for around $500. However, these computers are typically light on features and performance, so we recommend budgeting at least $1,000 for a quality computer. All-in-ones can be used for an array of tasks, from document processing to editing images or watching videos.
Desktop computers that cost under $1,000 but require a separate monitor are found in our home computer reviews. Multimedia computers are excellent for home entertainment and are able to connect to other media devices. Finally, business computers are best for offices that need networked computers and are able to handle a variety of professional tasks. With all-in-one PCs, the typically high quality monitor, measuring diagonally from 18-27 inches is an integral part of the computer. You’ll have little else to be concerned with, since all-in-ones generally come completely ready to use out of the box.
All-in-one PCs tend to utilize top-end processors, plenty of RAM and other components to extend the life of the computer. Users of this category of computers tend to be unlikely to upgrade the internal components since everything is packed into a small space. With an all-in-one PC, you can surf the web, stream videos, listen to music or run office software. And because the entire computer is packed inside the monitor, you don’t have to worry about plugging in a desktop, webcam or other peripherals. These computers usually include speakers, a webcam and a microphone making them ideal for video chatting. Many feature a touchscreen, providing you with a quicker, more intuitive way to interact with your computer. With a touchscreen, you can tap and swipe, which is more fluid then using a mouse. Touchscreens are also great for sketching.
In our evaluation of chose our lineup of all-in-one PCs, we focused on performance, popularity and comparability. When ranking computers though, we gave the highest priority to fast processors. We looked to our sister site, Tom’s Hardware, a company that provides online reviews of computer hardware, to compare the best processors, and we evaluated each one based on its specifications, paying close attention to base clock speed and cache. Additionally we incorporated the average evaluation scores curated by PassMark, a trusted, widely-cited testing body that consolidates user test results into valuable comparison data.
When deciding between a computers with an i5 or i3 Intel processor, it’s important to know your needs are; that is, what do you plan to primarily use the computer for? An i5 CPU, for example, is a quad-core chip that is great for multitasking and even gaming. An i3, on the other hand, has but two cores but adds hyper-threading, a process of improving performance by sharing workloads between the processor’s dual cores. An i5 processor suits most users but comes at a heftier price. An i3 processor should do just fine if you are only surfing the web, watching HD videos or typing documents. One computer on our lineup uses an older-technology Intel Pentium processor, and generally speaking, these processors do not perform as well as i5 or i3 processors. Tom’s Hardware agreed with this assessment, placing the Intel Pentium G3240T in the third and lowest tier on our lineup.
When choosing an all-in-one PC, you also want to consider how it handles graphics. Most all-in-one computers aren't meant for gaming, but they should be able to handle high-definition videos. In ranking GPU performance for our lineup, we evaluated each video card based on its specifications from information on TomsHardware.com. Dedicated graphics cards are rarely included with all-in-one PCs, but you'll have no problem playing games with moderate requirements like "Minecraft" with all-in-one computers. If you choose to purchase one, though, with a dedicated graphics card, you should expect to pay significantly more.
We have listed the manufacturers that allow you to customize your all-in-one computer before purchasing it online. Most all-in-one PCs are prebuilt, so you can simply walk into a retailer and buy the model we reviewed. However, it’s worth noting that oftentimes you can customize you all-in-one with specs and components to your liking. Some of the computers on our lineup can be upgraded with larger hard drives, faster solid-state drives or more RAM, if you buy online.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Storage and Memory
If you plan to store many photos, documents, music and videos, it's important to factor storage into the equation when purchasing an all-in-one PC. You'll find that it doesn't take very long to build up an expansive library of files. Not to mention, movies, music and photos take up quite a bit of storage space.
Most all-in-one PCs use physical high-capacity hard drives, some use solid-state drives, and others use a combination of the two. Solid-state drives typically are much faster and allow the computer to boot up quicker. Depending on the manufacturer, some all-in-one computers even include access to cloud storage, but this requires an internet connection and is much slower to access and transfer files.
Typically, all-in-ones include 1TB of storage, with more available if you choose to upgrade. If you are a professional and plan to use an all-in-one computer to edit large RAW files like photos and videos, the more storage space the better.
As for RAM, or random access memory, the standard 8GB is usually adequate. If however, you intend to run applications that need more, pre-purchase upgrades, available primarily online are preferable to adding RAM post-purchase in that most users are reluctant to open the compact, integrated computer to make internal changes.
Oftentimes, RAM is confused for speed, but this actually isn’t the case. Essentially, it’s the communications link between the hard drive and the CPU. More RAM, therefore, can have the effect of faster performance but how much RAM is right for you? If you are just going to use your all-in-one PC for work, it’s unlikely you need more than 8GB of RAM that comes standard with most of the computers on our lineup. That should even prove adequate for many gaming applications. If you plan to edit videos or photos, you should look into upgrading the RAM to 16GB. Editing media moves at a snail’s pace as huge files transfer from the CPU back to the hard drive, so doubling the standard RAM will likely halve processing time.
With the exception of the iMac, the all-in-one PCs on this site come with the Windows 8.1 operating system installed. Microsoft however has already announced its latest operating system: Windows 10. If you purchase a computer equipped with Windows 7, 8 or 8.1, you can upgrade to an equivalent full-use version of Windows 10 free of charge until a year after its debut. Before upgrading to Windows 10, though, you should first make sure that your software and programs are compatible. Sometimes updates to operating systems can render applications almost useless since they aren't designed to run for the newest version of Microsoft's OS.
In the event you need technical support for your all-in-one PC, most manufacturers offer at least a one-year warranty. In addition, they typically provide phone and email support. Unfortunately, these support options usually last only as long as the duration of your warranty.
For those who want extra peace of mind, several manufacturers allow you to purchase an extended warranty. This gives you a longer period for support options, repairs and replacements, and some even provide accidental damage protection to cover spills and drops. Other services range from file recovery to data backup. Besides support options covered under the warranty, you can get help online through live chat, forums or download drivers to keep your system up to date. For additional information, take a look at our articles on all-in-one PCs.
The ideal all-in-one should be a well-designed machine that houses powerful components in an attractive, thin high-resolution display.
Three all-in-one PCs – the Dell XPS 27 Touch, our Gold Award winner; the Apple iMac, our Silver Award Winner; and the MSI Gaming 24GE 2QE, our Bronze Award Winner – stood out from the other all-in-one computers. They outperformed other machines with their fast processors, graphics capabilities, memory and storage. An all-in-one computer should highlight each of these traits.
The Acer Aspire Z3 also deserves some recognition. It is a sophisticated midrange all-in-one computer that offers a sharp display, plenty of RAM and storage and has a smooth processor. It's definitely a wise choice if you are looking for an all-in-one at a great value.