The Complete Guide to Choosing and Using All-In-One Desktop PCs

Sleek, stylish, and powerful – all-in-one PCs have a lot going for them. Combining the entire computer into a single elegantly designed monitor unit, AIO desktops are sought after for both home entertainment and workspace productivity.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about all-in-one desktop computers – from the top models on the market to factors to consider when buying one to frequently asked questions. If you’re thinking about getting an AIO desktop or just want to learn more about their capabilities, read on!

An Introduction to All-In-One PCs

First, let’s quickly define what an all-in-one desktop is. Unlike a traditional tower PC with a separate monitor, AIO desktops integrate all the key computer components into one unified display unit. This includes the motherboard, processor, RAM, storage drive, graphics card, webcam, speakers and more.

The key advantage of an AIO design is its sleek, minimalist aesthetic. With a thin profile and small footprint, AIO desktops save space while looking great on any desk. Cable clutter is also reduced to a single power cord similar to a laptop.

Despite their compact size, AIO PCs deliver powerful performance capable of handling productivity work, gaming, entertainment and more. The all-integrated configuration houses components like fast CPUs and GPUs you’d expect from regular desktops.

In this post, we’ll be reviewing the top AIO desktop computer models on the market while also discussing key factors to consider when choosing an AIO PC. We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about capabilities, longevity, upgradability and more. Let’s get started!

The Top 5 All-In-One Desktop PCs on the Market

1. Apple iMac 27-inch with Retina 5K display

For Mac users, the iMac remains the gold standard for AIO desktops. Apple’s meticulous craftsmanship shines through in the iMac’s stunningly slim aluminum enclosure and brilliant 27-inch 5K Retina display. Colors and details absolutely pop on this pixel-packed screen.

The base model packs a 6-core 10th-gen Intel Core i5 CPU, but you can configure an iMac with up to a 10-core Core i9 processor. Combine this with AMD Radeon Pro 5000 graphics, up to 128GB RAM, and up to 8TB of ultra-fast SSD storage, and the iMac transforms into a productivity powerhouse. Designers, video editors and developers will especially appreciate the performance.

Connectivity is solid with two Thunderbolt 3 and four USB 3.0 ports built-in. There’s also an SDXC card slot and headphone jack on the side. The included Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse keep everything wireless for a clutter-free desk. Overall, creatives who want cutting-edge power in an impossibly sleek package will love the latest iMac.

2. Microsoft Surface Studio 2

Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2 wows with an innovative adjustable display that literally moves with you. The 28-inch PixelSense touchscreen smoothly transitions between an upright monitor to a drafting-style 20 degree angle to a laid-flat canvas mode. This allows you to work however you want – upright for standard computing or angled down for drawing with the Surface Pen or editing photos by touch.

Inside is a powerful Intel Core i7 processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX discrete graphics, up to 32GB RAM and 2TB SSD storage. The ample performance combined with the expansive 28-inch diagonal screen gives digital creators a desktop experience unlike any other. Of course, the Surface Studio 2 runs Windows 10 Pro for access to all the latest programs and PC games.

While not as portable as the Surface Pro and Laptop devices, the Surface Studio 2 gives creatives incredible versatility whether working on detailed illustrations, graphic design, video editing and more. Just be prepared to open your wallet as prices start around $3500. But for professionals who want innovation, no other all-in-one comes close to the Surface Studio 2.

3. Dell XPS 27 AIO

The aptly named Dell XPS 27 AIO stands out with its visually stunning edge-to-edge 4K Ultra HD InfinityEdge touch display. The incredibly thin bezels on all sides make for a captivating viewing experience whether you’re working or playing. Dell’s CinemaColor promise also ensures accurate colors and enhanced HDR for crisp, vibrant visuals.

For power, the XPS 27 AIO offers 9th and 10th gen Intel Core CPUs up to a 10-core i9-10900. NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 and 2070 discrete graphics provide ample performance for gaming and creative workloads. Memory goes up to 64GB while storage peaks at 2TB via speedy SSDs. Connectivity is robust as well with USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports plus a full-size HDMI. Dell included a pop-up webcam that hides away for privacy when not in use.

As Dell’s flagship consumer AIO desktop, the XPS 27 packs an incredible viewing experience and high-end components into a beautifully contemporary frame. If you want a balance of form and function, put this XPS on your shortlist.

4. HP Envy Curved AIO

For a more immersive desktop experience, consider the uniquely designed HP Envy Curved AIO. As the name suggests, it has a massive 34-inch diagonal curved display for panoramic viewing. The WFHD resolution stretches across the ultra-wide screen for captivating video watching and gaming.

Inside is a speedy Intel Core i7 processor, generous 16GB RAM, and a 512GB solid state drive. Discrete AMD Radeon RX 545 graphics can be configured up to a powerful Radeon RX 580 for gaming or video editing needs. The speakers are also a highlight – HP partnered with high-end audio brand Bang & Olufsen to integrate a quad speaker setup pumping impressive volume.

To complete the premium experience, HP built gorgeous multi-color ambient lighting into the base which creates a futuristic mood. Wireless charging in the base lets you easily charge your phone by placing it on the stand. If you like bold, curve appeal and an immersive viewing platform, put the Envy AIO on your list.

5. Lenovo Yoga AIO 7

Flex your creative spirit with the brilliantly engineered Lenovo Yoga AIO 7. True to Lenovo’s convertible Yoga heritage, the AIO 7 has a hinge that lets the 27-inch 4K display tilt from upright down to a horizontal orientation. So you can use it as a tablet for direct touchscreen interaction or rotate it for different viewing angles.

Inside is an AMD Ryzen 7 4800H mobile processor providing snappy responsiveness for your daily tasks. Combine this with fast SSD storage, up to 32GB RAM, and AMD Radeon graphics, and you have a capable AIO for work and play. Dolby Atmos speaker technology built into the bottom front base provides impressive, immersive audio for streaming movies and music.

For connectivity, you get a USB Type-C port on the side plus additional USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports around back. Wireless connectivity options include WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. For peripherals, Lenovo includes a wireless keyboard and mouse so your desk stays tidy. Overall, the smartly designed Yoga AIO 7 delivers versatility and delightful engineering.

Now that we’ve highlighted the top all-in-one desktop PCs, let’s discuss how to pick the right one for your needs.

How to Choose the Right All-In-One Desktop PC

When shopping for an AIO desktop, there are several key factors to consider based on how you plan to use the computer:

Display Size and Screen Resolution

One of the first aspects to decide is what size display and resolution you need. Common AIO screen sizes range from 21 to 34 inches diagonally. If you plan to use the AIO for watching movies and general web browsing, a 27 to 30-inch display with Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution will work great.

However, graphic designers, photographers and video editors will benefit from a larger 4K Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 screen to showcase fine details. Curved screens like on the HP Envy can also provide an immersive experience for entertainment and gaming. Of course, higher resolutions and curved displays raise the overall cost.

Many AIO displays also now incorporate touchscreen functionality whether you need it or not. Having a touchscreen lets you interact directly by tapping and swiping instead of only using a keyboard and mouse. This can benefit creative workflows and general ease of use.

Performance Specs: CPU, RAM, Storage

For the internal specs, you’ll want adequate horsepower to run your desired programs smoothly. Most AIO desktops offer Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processors. Look for at least a Core i5 CPU but ideally an i7 or i9 chip like on the Dell XPS 27. Also pay attention to graphics – integrated GPUs work for general usage but dedicated AMD or NVIDIA cards provide more muscle for gaming and creative tasks.

RAM is important for multitasking capability. 8GB is okay but 16GB or higher is ideal if you tend to have many tabs and programs open at once. With storage, go for speedy solid state drives (SSD) over traditional hard disk drives (HDD). SSDs load apps and files much faster. Aim for at least a 512GB SSD but 1 to 2TB of storage space if you have large media libraries.

Graphics Card

This ties somewhat into performance, but dedicated graphics capability makes a huge impact, especially for creatives and gamers. All-in-ones with integrated graphics chips like Intel UHD will work fine for basic tasks but aren’t suitable for intensive graphics and rendering workloads.

Instead, look for models with dedicated NVIDIA GeForce or AMD Radeon GPUs. The level of VRAM (video memory) also matters – 4 to 8GB is ideal for gaming at high graphics settings and running 3D modeling software smoothly. Just remember, increased graphics capability raises costs.

Ports and Connectivity

Future-proof your investment by getting an AIO with a range of the latest ports. This includes USB 2.0, USB 3.0, USB-C, Thunderbolt 3 and HDMI inputs. USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 allow super fast data transfers from external drives and cameras. An SD card reader is also nice for quickly accessing photos.

For wireless, Bluetooth lets you connect peripherals like headsets and speakers while fast WiFi 6 or 6E keeps you surfing smoothly. Some AIO stands even integrate wireless phone charging like on the HP Envy Curved model. Just make sure the connectivity options meet your needs.

Audio and Webcam Quality

If you plan to do video calls and conference meetings, inspect the webcam resolution and microphone setup. Some include fancy hardware like dual 1080p cameras with IR facial recognition for logging in. High-end models may integrate name brand speaker systems too – Dell XPS has Waves MaxxAudio and HP Envy sports Bang & Olufsen. But external webcams and speakers can make up for deficiencies if needed.

Operating System

This decision is straightforward – either Windows or MacOS for the operating system. You’re probably already used to one or the other. Artists and creators often favor MacOS thanks to Apple’s optimization for graphics, video and design workflows. But Windows PCs offer a vastly greater software selection from Adobe apps to PC games. Both OSs have their merits, so choose what aligns with your needs.

Budget

All-in-one desktop prices vary widely from around $500 up to several thousand based on hardware configurations and specs. More affordable AIOs in the $500 to $800 range work well for general home and student use. Moving up to the $1000 to $1500 bracket gets you solid mid-range performance with speedy processors and graphics for improved gaming and content creation capabilities.

On the high end, premium AIOs like Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2 and Apple’s iMac can run up to $3000 and beyond. These investment-grade machines pack incredible processing muscle and gorgeous displays for professionals and enterprises. Evaluate what hardware capabilities you really require and set a budget accordingly. Paying extra for bleeding edge performance you may not need wastes money.

Design Aesthetic

Since AIO desktops take up prominent visual space, it helps to pick one matching your personal style. Most aim for sleek, minimalist designs in metal and glass with thin profiles. But some like the curved HP Envy and rotating Lenovo Yoga have more striking, unconventional designs for engaging interaction. Apple’s iMac sets the standard for elegant aluminum and glass construction. So consider your taste – understated or bold? – when choosing among the different looks.

Expandability

One limitation of AIO desktops compared to tower PCs is expandability – or lack thereof in many cases. Towers easily allow you to swap out parts and add more storage drives. Limited internal space and tightly integrated components make hardware upgrades a challenge with AIO units.

Some AIO stands provide quick access to RAM slots for upgrades, but storage and graphics expansion is often not possible. Before buying, research what (if any) internal hardware is user accessible. External expansion via Thunderbolt and USB ports does help. If you absolutely want easy internal upgrades later, a customizable mini or mid-tower desktop is a better fit.

Frequently Asked Questions About AIO Desktops

Are all-in-one PCs good for gaming?

Casual gaming is certainly feasible on AIO desktops, but hardcore gamers may want something more powerful. Many AIOs integrate graphics instead of using dedicated NVIDIA or AMD GPUs, limiting gaming performance. However, AIO models with discrete graphics in the GTX, RTX or Radeon RX class and plentiful RAM can run modern titles smoothly at high settings. For maximum immersion and frame rates, a desktop gaming tower with cutting edge graphics may be preferable to an AIO.

Can you use an AIO desktop PC as a monitor/TV?

In most cases, yes. AIO desktops have video input ports that allow you to connect other devices like laptops as external displays. Some AIO stands even have TV tuners built in so you can watch cable or streaming content directly on the big, beautiful AIO screen rather than your smaller TV. You can also mirror your smartphone screen to an AIO desktop. One caveat – resolution may be limited compared to a dedicated high-end monitor. But for casual use as a secondary display or TV, an AIO works great.

Is it difficult to upgrade hardware in an AIO desktop?

Compared to tower PCs, upgrading components like the CPU, RAM, and storage in an AIO desktop is typically harder. The compact all-in-one construction leaves little internal room, so access usually requires partially disassembling the casing. Only some models like Apple’s iMac provide convenient rear access panels for swapping RAM – but this is less common among AIOs. For most upgrades, external devices like external storage drives are easier to use.

Do AIO desktop PCs overheat?

Not if engineered properly. Premium AIO desktops incorporate smart airflow and cooling designs including internal fans and heat pipes to draw heat away from hot components. This prevents overheating and thermal throttling which degrades performance. Models with decent rear and bottom ventilation maintain good airflow. But dust buildup over time can still block vents and cause issues. Occasional cleaning helps combat this. Overall, modern AIO cooling systems effectively maintain safe thermal conditions for the powerful internal components during taxing workloads.

How long do all-in-one PCs last?

With proper maintenance and care, the average lifespan of an AIO desktop is around 4-5 years before becoming obsolete. However, higher end models with quality construction and upgradable parts can remain viable up to 6-7 years or longer. To maximize lifespan, be sure to keep the software updated, clean dust buildup from the fans and vents, and avoid sustained high workloads that strain the components. Following the manufacturer’s operational guidelines helps prevent premature failure.

Are AIO desktops better than laptops?

There are pros and cons to both. AIO desktops provide more screen space, powerful performance, ample storage and often easier upgrades versus laptops. But laptops win on portability for working anywhere. Consider your priorities – raw processing muscle or mobility? For frequent travel, a laptop is better suited. Students and creative pros often value portability. But for sheer performance in a stationary setup, an AIO makes sense over a laptop. However, today’s high-end gaming laptops now rival AIO gaming PCs thanks to immense power in a portable form.

Is an AIO or tower PC better for office use?

For many office roles, AIO PCs are excellent choices, thanks to their clean, compact, all-integrated design. Their slim footprint saves precious desk space in cubicle workstations. Cable management is easier too since everything plugs into the base. Tower PCs provide more flexibility for internal upgrades but occupy more room. AIOs are also quick and easy for non-technical employees to start using out of the box. However, large tower builds often provide better future upgradability and value versus AIOs with similar base specs. But the AIO’s slick form factor remains compelling for many business settings.

The Complete All-In-One Desktop Package

We’ve covered the key factors to know when shopping for an AIO desktop PC. Keep in mind essential usage considerations like display size, performance needs, graphics, connectivity, sound, operating system and budget when picking the right model for your home or office needs. Add in visually stunning designs leveraging premium materials like aluminum and glass, and you have quite a compelling overall package with AIO PCs.

While not as customizable as tower builds, AIO desktops deliver powerful, family-friendly computing in a compact, space saving form. So whether you want a living room entertainment hub or need a stylish home workspace, today’s AIO PCs have you covered. We hope this guide gives you the knowledge to choose the perfect all-in-one desktop to invest in now and enjoy for years to come. Let us know if you have any other AIO questions!

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