All-in-One PCs are Nothing New

By Randall Sutherland
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As wonderfully designed and equipped all-in-one PCs appear on more and more desks, there are those who think of the all-in-one PC design as a radical new departure from the desktop computer paradigm of CPUs separate from monitors. Some people think of the traditional desktop PC as the beginning. Those who had desktop PCs but wanted less clutter and needed more space on their desks tried moving to a large laptop as a desktop machine replacement. And for a time, the desktop laptop was a perfectly acceptable solution for those who wanted to shrink the computer footprint. But when the current batch of all-in-one PCs began to appear, those with desktop-replacement laptops were drawn to the all-in-one PCs as a superior design. We were drawn to them enough to examine the current product offerings. If you are curious to know which ones we recommend, take a look at our reviews of the Toshiba DX, the Acer All in One Z5 and the ASUS All-in-One PC.

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The all-in-one PC design allows a larger monitor than is possible with a laptop. And, while the relationship between the laptop computer’s keyboard and monitor is always a fixed distance, an all-in-one PC lets you adjust the distance to the one that is most comfortable. The all-in-one PC design is optimized to save space and make you comfortable working at a desk. A laptop computer is optimized for commuting and mobility. A laptop takes up less room that a traditional desktop PC that has a separate CPU and monitor, but the size of the monitor and the fact that the keyboard is attached means that using a laptop on top of a desk that you didn’t have to commute to is never the most comfortable solution.

Innovative as they seem, are all-in-one PCs something new? No, they are not. Remember that the very first Macintosh had an all-in-one design as early as 1984. And prior to the first Macintosh there was the Commodore PET 2001 and the Kaypro II which had all-in-one designs. And after the Macintosh debut, there was the original Compaq PC in the DOS world, which resembled a sewing machine when assembled into carry mode. The Compaq was darn heavy, but it was all in one and provided its own carry handle. The iMac, which sprang to life in the late 1990s, continued the consolidated-design tradition. More recently, the Windows-based compact designs are fighting the good fight against desktop clutter.

So the all-in-one design is a concept that coincides with the early days of the microcomputer revolution. But it has only been lately that Windows machines have come to rival the gorgeous, sculpted look of the iMac. All in ones are the most attractive option for desktop users who don’t want to use laptops. The disadvantages of the all in ones are similar to the disadvantages of laptops. Neither design is easy to upgrade or customize in comparison with desktop computer that use separate CPU boxes and monitors. Even so, if you don’t need the mobility of a laptop, an all-in-one PC saves just as much space as if it were a laptop; even more, it gives you a larger monitor and allows you to adjust the distance between the monitor and the keyboard. And because an all in one plugs into current, it can run a more powerful processor than a laptop, which must always be able to operate on batteries. There is nothing new under the sun, but there is something like a renewal of interest in the all in ones on the part of Windows users because, finally, the all in ones that run Windows are starting to look as good as iMacs.

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