The all-in-one computer is a testament to how far technology has come.
Gone are the days of computers that reportedly needed their own entire king-size rooms. Desktops now come with the monitor integrated with everything else (ports, processing, and most peripherals), giving the impression that all you need (with the display) is a simple mouse and keyboard.
An all-in-one computer sounds like an amazing thing on paper (versus a full-size desktop). It takes up less space, is traditionally cheaper than buying all the components and putting them together separately, and might be good for a family computer, or if you have kids.
However, are they as customizable as PCs? As functional as Laptops? Where do they fall on the SSD vs HDD usability scale? Are they as up-to-date, fast, and packed with computing power as their peers and industry counterparts? Can you get 4K or 1080p display in an all-in-one computer?
Clearly, there’s a lot more than just one side of an argument to an all-in-one computer. We’ll consider the pros and cons in a systematic way, so as to help you to decide if you’d want an all-in-one computer or a traditional desktop with all the identifiable and spread-out bits and parts.
Recommendations For the Best AIOs
But first, if you’re here just for the recommendations, here’s a rundown in no specific order:
- HP Envy 34 Curved
- HP Envy 27
- Asus Zen AIO ZN242GD
The Apple iMac Pro and the similarly-designed Microsoft Surface Studio, are obviously industry leaders in their own rights with their premium design and obviously flawless build quality. However, our recommendations come from a place of affordability and the acknowledgment of a need for more variety in different people’s choices.
The HP Envy 27 is designed with a broad base that makes the display smaller, adds external USB ports, and even comes with its own wireless keyboard and optical mouse, making it a truly all-in-one.
The entry-level model of the HP Envy 27 is extremely powerful, with 8GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and while the display has been reviewed to be a bit too reflective, it’s still a 27-inch 2650×1440 display. The good thing is that it is priced extremely fairly. If you want to go for something a bit more expensive, then you might want to take a look at Asus Zen AIO ZN242GD with its many customizations.
Those looking for really high-end stuff should go for HP Envy 34 Curved or the Microsoft/Apple options mentioned above. All of them have impeccable build-quality and the value for money should be your only concern with them.
If you’re looking for something a bit simpler and cheaper, however, the Dell Inspiron 3464 is what you need. Priced around $600, it offers more than anyone would expect or want for their home usage: 500GB memory, 8GB RAM, 1080p resolution, and an Intel Core i3 processor.
For artists and gamers, we recommend the Microsoft Surface Studio. It is especially known for its artist-friendly design and gamer-oriented performance power. The prices start from around $3500 here, but we encourage you to shop around on Amazon: you can find cheap models if you do your research and find the right seller in this competitive market.
The Pros of an All-in-One Computer
The first “advantage” of having an all-in-one computer is the primary reason they even exist in the first place: the storage space. These are compact desktops, easy to move from place to place which makes them great in an office setting (more on this later!).
This modular design means that replacing some parts, such as an HDD, requires much less work and poking and prodding and probing around than would be needed for something with a proper CPU unit of its own. Any peripherals can be plugged in and used straight away!
It also generates less heat and consumes less electricity than the desktop, making your computer usage faster, efficient, and less taxing on your room temperature, electricity bill, environment, and overall peace of mind.
Most modern AIOs have integrated webcams, much like laptops, and of course, their own speakers/ microphones.
Investing in an all-in-one computer is a one-time payment and it is less that one would pay for a premium monitor in some cases. This makes them extremely cost-effective, especially for use of the whole family or for filling up an office.
Of course, speaking of office use, their sleek, uniform look (and affordability) makes them great for displaying in rows in a workplace, whether on different workstations or even separate offices, bringing unity to a place both aesthetically and functionality-wise (from maintenance’s POV).
It also makes spaces less congested and makes asset management easier for the administration, as well as enabling desk-hopping along with a more dynamic and faster workflow.
The Disadvantages of an All-in-One Computer
For all its ease-of-use, upgrading might be harder than for a CPU where all the spaces for options pre-exist.
It’s also near-impossible to upgrade anything other than the RAM, and apart from the replacement and repairs of HDDs, the modular design makes maintenance a chore. Optical drives may be absent, restricting users to only USBs.
And while it largely depends on your model, you may find that while you might have purchased an AIO for your kids and family, once those kids grow up a little and everyone needs more space for their Minecraft/Roblox and HD Video content, these AIOs are not as convenient as they seemed initially.
In many cases, laptops have essentially replaced AIOs – they’re more powerful, more compact and efficiently designed, as well as cheaper in both the short-term and long-run. The advantages of an AIO go out the window in an instant, forcing you to replace the whole thing, instead of being able to make it better bit-by-bit.
PC aficionados will also want customization and control, which an all-in-one personal computer won’t offer. This makes it a turn-off for anyone who actually invests themselves emotionally in their computer device, especially programmers and gamers, leaving it really only as an option for either offices, families, or as a low-use specifically-designated back-up device.