picture of all in one PC

Insider Advice About All-In-One Computers

All-in-one computers are desired for their sleek look and the fact that they take up less room on a desk. They look cleaner because there are no messy cables. I like the look as well, which is why I bought the Apple iMac G4 in 2002, which is shown below.

I am offering this Insider Advice about All-In-One computers because a reader sent a question asking how can [the manufacturer] fit an entire computer into a monitor?
If they can fit a desktop into a monitor, why do they still make desktop PCs?

picture of an 2002 iMac computer

The 2002 iMac G4. I liked the articulated screen.

Here’s the Insider Advice about All-In-One computers:

My old Apple iMac has a base that contains a full-size computer, with a full-size hard drive which has been cleverly engineered to fit that small base. It does not have a smaller, slower laptop CPU.

Unlike my old iMac, today’s All-in-One (AIO) PCs are essentially laptop components mounted in the back of a computer monitor. That’s a great idea because laptop computers, at least the most recent ones, are engineered to run more efficiently and create less heat. Heat is critical issue in laptops, mini micro PCs (size of a book) and AIOs.

The unwanted side effects of using laptop components is that they are not as powerful as those in  traditional desktop computers. Laptop CPUs are engineered for efficiency and low heat, not power. Desktop computers don’t have the same limitations with heat and do not require efficiency for longer battery life.

Servicing a laptop or AIO is also much different than servicing a desktop. A desktop has many universal parts in a mostly steel box that can be easily accessed using a screwdriver.

AIOs and laptops have a more complex body. The panels that must be removed are plastic that snap apart in a loud horrifying sound. It feels like you are breaking it but it is the correct way to open them.  That way of opening a PC cannot be repeated too many times before the plastic connectors break off.

One large drawback is the screen. Replacing a screen in a laptop or an AIO is a complex procedure that is a little different for every model. Every screen in every model is different and therefore more expensive. Touch screens even more so. If the screen fails and you have it replaced, during that time you have no computer. You can’t work. If you had a regular desktop PC, you could simply plug in a different or new monitor and keep working.

Of course, unlike a desktop PC or AIO, laptops are designed to travel with you. However, using a laptop on a desk isn’t the same experience as using a full size keyboard and large monitor that stands up high.

**Calm down fellow geeks; there are some exceptions to all of these descriptions, but I’m writing this for the lay person. It is not a tech manual.

An AIO is a compromise between a laptop and a desktop PC. Like most compromises, you might end up with the worst of both worlds. With an AIO, you lose the mobility of a laptop and you lose the power of a desktop. If one part dies on an AIO, and after considering the repair costs, the entire computer could become useful only as a doorstop. These are disposable Windows computers like most consumer-grade Windows computers. The Apple iMac can also have these problems, but they tend to be built better.

Having said that, I can certainly see the appeal of the AIOs cleaner look and the gained desk space. Moreover, it looks simpler and maybe that is part of the reason Apple has had so much success with the iMac. It looks elegantly simple which is appealing.

What it really comes down to is usage.

If you use a computer at home for work, or if you need a computer in your workplace, then reliability is critical. This calls for a business-grade computer. AIO PCs are not designed for workplace duty.

If you travel for work then obviously you need a laptop.

If you’re retired or only use your home computer for web browsing and emails, then an AIO might be the right fit for you. Gaming on an AIO won’t work well.

Having the right tool for the job makes life easier.

If you are an Engineer, Accountant, Architect or Bookkeeper, you need the ultimate power and reliability of a true workstation, not a personal computer of any grade. A workstation is essentially a server with a purpose-built graphics card. There’s much more to it but that’s another post of it’s own.

This choice is different for everyone, but if you want my advice about which AIO to purchase, my recommendation is “don’t”. Use a wireless keyboard and mouse with a smaller-sized regular desktop PC instead. Select a monitor or two of the size you want and one that fits your usage. Some monitors have a  very fast refresh-rate for gaming,  some are shiny and  sharp for watching videos while others are basic with a lower price. Some have a non-reflective screen.

Home PCs are less popular as more people simply use their phone or other touch device for web surfing, but if you work from home, consider a business-grade PC.