All-in-One Desktops Worth Buying this Holiday Season
I know what you’re thinking: all-in-one desktops?? LOL, wut? OK, it’s kind of funny. PC manufacturers are finding it increasingly more difficult to convince consumers to buy desktop computers in a sea of sleek, shiny and svelte laptops, tablets and smartphones. And those devices are great if you need a Mini Cooper. But all-in-one desktops are the Lincoln Navigators of the computer world — if you want some power, size, configurability and ability to block other people’s view (not that, really), the all-in-one (AIO) desktop is the best choice.
Actually, want to know what’s funny? Tower desktops. Now that’s really 1995 (apologies to gamers). Now on to our list of six favorite all-in-one desktops:
Buy This Because You Want to Out-Santa Santa: 2013 Apple iMac
The Apple iMac is one of the finest consumer desktops on the market. Redesigned in 2012, the iMac is a triumph of form and function, a smooth, skinny slice of aluminum that is as thin as 5mm around the edges and boasts an incredibly bright, colorful and low-glare display and surprisingly good sound. The 2013 line of iMacs (21-inch and 27-inch sizes) has been updated with Intel’s new Haswell processors, new graphics, 802.11ac and faster SSDs.
MSRP: starts at $1,299 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: n/a
- Pros: Fantastic display, especially the 27-inch with 2560 x 1440 resolution. The best iteration of the long-running iMac design. Fast “fusion” drive with large-capacity SSD combined with hard drive. Can run Mac and Windows.
- Cons: Can get ridiculously expensive ($3,000+) as you find yourself in the higher-end configurations. No touchscreen, no optical drive, no Blu-ray (because Jobs would’ve wanted it that way).
Buy This for the Chef: HP Slate 21
The new HP Slate 21 Android 21-inch Touchscreen All-in-One has a very singular purpose: as an appliance in your kitchen. Maybe even the bathroom (yes, we went there). It’s not your first computer or your second computer. Don’t even think of it as a computer. It’s an appliance in your kitchen that happens to be a computer. Running Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) on a Tegra processor, it’s kind of a kooky smartphone blown up to a 21-inch form factor. Cool.
MSRP: $399 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $349
- Pros: Cheap. Excellent display. Looks good in a kitchen. Perfectly adequate for surfing the net, which is what most of us do on a computer anyway. Expandable storage via SD card slot or USB.
- Cons: Beyond storage, non-configurable. Totally under-powered for intensive tasks like running huge Excel files or playing Call of Duty. 2-point touchscreen.
Buy This for the 24-Hour Party Person: Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon
This so-called “table” desktop gets extra credit because you can play air hockey on it. That’s right, you get two air strikers (and two joysticks) included with purchase. The Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon 27-inch All-in-One Table PC is a fascinating hybrid of an all-in-one desktop with a touchscreen tablet. It can lie flat like a tablet and, with its internal battery, can even be used “portably.” Scare quotes because, well, it still weighs 20 pounds. Hardly iPad territory. But can you play air hockey like this on an iPad?
MSRP: starts at $1,699 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $1,249
- Pros: Cool factor. Biggest tablet on the block. Huge 10-point 1080p 27-inch touchscreen takes full advantage of Windows 8. Fun game accessories. Well-built, attractive design.
- Cons: Definitely cheaper all-in-one options out there. No Haswell processor options (yet). No optical drive. Let’s face it: it’s also kinda weird.
Buy This If They Flee at the Sound of “Apple”: Dell XPS 27 Touch
The Dell XPS 27 Touch 27-inch All-in-One Desktop is the Windows answer to the iMac. Taking design cues from the iMac , the XPS 27 has a glass covered, high-resolution (2,560 x 1,440) display, Thunderbolt port and aluminum construction. Well, aluminum construction with a plastic backside (oops). With the dual-hinge articulating arm, the screen can be flipped up at an angle so you can peck at the touchscreen goodness of Windows 8.
MSRP: starts at $1,600 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $1,540
- Pros: Premium iMac-quality display. Powerful performance. Optical drive, even Blu-ray is available (gasp). Easy access to internal components for self-upgrades. Thunderbolt.
- Cons: High-end configurations can get as high as $2,500.
Buy This for the Media Savvy: Sony VAIO L Series 24 Touch
The Sony VAIO L Series 24 Touch 24-inch All-in-One Desktop is a high-performance beast that is media-ready with HDMI in/out ports (e.g. for connecting an Xbox), HDTV tuner and remote and optional Blu-ray burner. Other optional upgrades include a 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 620M, solid state drives up to 512GB, 16GB memory, and a quad-core Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor—but these upgrades will send the price skyrocketing north of two grand.
MSRP: starts at $1,299 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $1,540
- Pros: Great for media uses with TV and optional Blu-ray. Configurable with powerful upgrades.
- Cons: 1080p is adequate but not cutting edge. Not particularly innovative. Expensive. No Haswell processor options (yet).
Buy This for the Terminally Hip: Dell XPS 18 Touch Portable
Not a Mac, you say? Eh, Apple’s too big and hasn’t innovated in years. The Dell XPS 18 Touch Portable All-in-One Desktop is the ultimate in hipsterism: it’s retro (a desktop), it’s chic (think skinny jeans) and it’s ironic (not Apple). You just won’t find it at a thrift shop. If the Lenovo Horizon Table PC is too ginormous for your taste, the XPS 18 aims for a more sensible hybrid between the tablet and desktop with a super skinny 0.41-inch thickness—not much thicker than an iPad 4—and a weight of just 5.2 pounds. It features a built-in kickstand but you can buy an optional stand to make it look more like a traditional all-in-one.
If you prefer Sony, the newly released VAIO Tap 21 Portable All-in-One is a fancy 21.5-inch option starting at $999 but not nearly as thin or light.
MSRP: starts at $899 | Lowest Price on Ben’s: $850
- Pros: Well-executed hybrid desktop/tablet. Very thin and relatively light. 1080p touchscreen is good, although not spectacular.
- Cons: Glare on the touchscreen. Air Hockey nowhere near the same level as the Lenovo Horizon (because that’s important).