All-in-one PCs a smart idea for business? I don't think so

All-in-one PCs a smart idea for business? I don't think so

Summary: Dell has announced its Vostro all-in-one PC, the company's first all-in-one "designed exclusively for small business." According to a Dell poll of small businesses, "cramped spaces and overcrowded desks are a headache for business owners." So why not get a laptop?

TOPICS: Dell, Hardware

Dell on Thursday announced its Vostro all-in-one PC, the company's first all-in-one "designed exclusively for small business."

According to a Dell online poll of small businesses in the U.S., U.K., China, India, France, Germany and Spain, "cramped spaces and overcrowded desks are a headache for business owners."

Dell notes in the press release:

"Small businesses around the world are constantly looking to do more with less, and IDC predicts that by 2013 small form factor, all-in-one and ultra-small form factor desktops will make up nearly 38 percent of the overall desktop market,¹" said Richard Shim, research manager for IDC's Personal Computing program. "Solutions that help organizations migrate to space-saving desktops are well positioned to benefit from this trend."

The answer is the Vostro all in one PC, which "minimizes the amount of space the computer takes up on the desk to provide business buyers with a powerful, stylish and affordable desktop computer," according to Dell, adding that an all-in-one PC offers full desktop processing power.

[ZDNet Image Gallery: Dell Vostro all-in-one PC for small business]

Initial specs for the system are as follows:

  • 17-in. display
  • Supports up to 2GB RAM
  • Supports up to 250GB HDD
  • Wireless mouse, keyboard
  • Intel Core 2 Duo processors
  • Integrated webcam
  • Standard gigabit Ethernet plus optional integrated Wi-Fi 802.11
  • Optional Dell Backup and Recovery Manager for simplified data protection
  • Supports use of older peripherals that require serial or parallel ports
  • Optional video conferencing solution with integrated camera and included software
  • Starts at $629; available in China and Japan now; July 27 in South Asia, Australia and New Zealand; August 3 in India; August 11 in North America; and August 23 in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

But is an all-in-one desktop PC really the best way to reclaim your desk? I'm not convinced that it is.

It occurs to me that it's just as easy to order a laptop, dock and monitor for the most freedom. That way, if the monitor goes bad, or you need to upgrade, or the PC needs to be serviced, you're not completely at Dell's whim.

Sure, a desktop has more power than a laptop -- but it lacks the portability that many users prefer as an option (it doesn't hurt to telecommute once in awhile). Further, anyone who needs serious computing power that can't be provided with a laptop is likely buying a lot more computer than $629 worth.

You run into the same problem over the long-term, too: if you want to upgrade, you must upgrade the whole package.

Seems to me that an all-in-one PC isn't really the best way to spend your company's dollars.

What do you think? Is an all-in-one PC a solution for business customers, or is it a way for Dell to push desktops that few still want?

Leave your thoughts and experiences in TalkBack.

Topics: Dell, Hardware

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • All-in-ones might be good for some

    foot print, foot print, foot print. I've been buying PCs for business for many years now and there is a place for these types of computers, especially for the managers. No, I wouldn't put these with the developers or other power users. but for the standard person or manager that never taxes the computer, why not. We are always looking for more office real estate, this is a good place to get it quick.
    • Woot?

      How long will it be before we find this critter on Woot?
      Mihi Nomen Est
  • For some, aesthetics is everything

    "Sure it may be a bit underpowered, but it looks good doing it!" :)

    The downside is that if the monitor developes an issue, you lose the entire system.
    How do you retrieve your information before the system goes away for repair?
    • Question for you

      If the monitor goes on a laptop where are you with using it? No advantage to it at all. And which has more trouble with the monitor, a laptop or a desktop.
      • RE: All-in-one PCs a smart idea for business? I don't think so

        If the monitor goes on a laptop you plug in an external monitor and keep going until you have time to get it repaired.
  • As an iMac owner

    I think all-in-one designs are great.
    The reduction in cable clutter is worth a lot.
    The reduction in dust is worth something.
    The reduction in noise is worth a lot.
    • You are forgetting something.

      If the screen goes out in an iMac, it is extremely easy to get your data off and into a safe location. You can boot a Mac in target disk mode and it is incredibly easy... You can't boot a PC in target disk mode.

      I love iMacs, not sure I would like an All in one PC tho. I would be open to getting a few to test and see how I like supporting them. But I would want to see them in person and look at a take apart before finalizing that decision.
      • Apple vs. Microsoft vs. Linux vs. ____

        Linux is a no-brainer as an option.

        Why not make sure you've got a box which can dual-boot Mac and Windows?
        Mihi Nomen Est
      • On a PC

        you can just take the hard drive out and either put it in and enclosure like I just did to retrieve data off an old laptop or with a regular hard drive hook it up as slave in another PC.
      • data recovery has already been addressed

        Acronis TrueImage can boot off a CD or flash drive, then image the HD to an external USB drive. There are numerous freeware boot CDs that can perform similar tasks.

        Of course the old standby is to remove the HD and put it in another computer, though that's more hassle.
  • RE: All-in-one PCs a smart idea for business? I don't think so

    Seems like a good idea to me... most business PCs aren't upgraded anyway. Less likely that someone would 'borrow' this unit from a desk than a laptop.
  • Screen sounds mighty small

    The screen might be okay for younger folks or occasional users. But especially Microsoft loves to keep cramming more and more onto the screen with ever smaller fonts under the theory, "Just get a bigger monitor." For extensive use a 17 inch monitor will cause increased eye strain. Considering that 19 inch monitors sell for $100, I would rather have the PC equivalent of a Mac-mini with a separate larger monitor. The amount of extra desk space really wouldn't be that much. In fact, if the PC had support for a wireless keyboard and mouse built in, it probably would be possible to just attach it to the back of the monitor with Velcro tape or just use the PC as a riser for the screen.
  • Dell Commercial support makes it work

    The Dell support process has made our office run great. They are a savy support group and will send out someone to fix hardware ASAP... I agree a laptop and a docking station is great for business users who can use them but the bulk of our users would never carry it back and forth. The form factor is never more than a day or two if we have a hardware issue. Recently a monitor went bad and it took over a week to replace it because it was out of stock... If it had been a component of a all -in-one it would have likely been here the next day with a technician to swap it out... So don't shoot this down just because you are willing to spend a third more for a monitor, KB and docking station for a laptop...
    Rick in NOVA
  • RE: All-in-one PCs a smart idea for business? I don't think so

    This is not a bad option for our Will Call counters where space is ALWAYS an issue so yes, there is a use for this. Especially at half the price of a laptop which, as you point out, would fill the same need. However, we don't need laptops at our Will Call counters, the customers come to us in that instance.
    Mark Bryant
  • RE: All-in-one PCs a smart idea for business? I don't think so

    How long before this design overheats and cooks
    A) the RAM
    B) the CPU
    C) the hdd?

    However, I can see some situations where this design
    maybe worthwhile. But in general I would suggest a laptop
    over the all in one.
  • Laptop & dock only a good theory.

    I was looking for a laptop and dock setup with my most recent upgrades, but failed to find one that included a laptop with the specs I was after and a dock that supported all connections. (If anyone can recommend a good combo, let me know!) My reason for wanting laptops was not just for portability; I wanted to avoid lying on the floor with a flashlight working with a tower. An all-in-one could be an answer, but with a max of 2 GB RAM, this one wouldn't work for me.
    • How about 4 GB RAM?

      Apparently Dell is selling a 19" model for $898 with touch screen 4 GB RAM in colors, also advertised is a Sony 20" for that price. It looks like they are the rage as MSI also have an 18.5" touch screen model for $538. The Dell Hybred is cool but it doesn't say if the RAM can be more then 2 GIG.
  • RE: All-in-one PCs a smart idea for business? I don't think so

    How can this not have touch?

    Windows 7, iPhone, etc. show that some folks want touch. The Studio 19 has it for $100 kicker.
  • Sure it could work

    I bet that alot of businesses would be happy to spend a little extra money on a product like this to reduce clutter and floor/desk space. For businesses, this type of expense is a drop in the bucket. Plus they save in electricity costs in the long run. While it's nice to have the option to upgrade, reality is that most businesses probably never upgrade the components inside, and instead replace the entire system.

    Laptop is an option, but I bet there are plenty of businesses that don't want to risk laptop theft.
  • Only if Its TRULY Cost Effective

    In corporate business, no Co-wide purchase is made without complete financial scrutiny. PC's have a 3-4 year lifetime in corporate and monitors can easily last 2 times that lifecycle. Clue! For true desktop users, a SDC is also more upgradeable and less labor intensive to upgrade if needed. Desk space is not corporate IT's problem, keeping the cost to do the job at the absolute minimum is the edict they have.
    Fails the test from what I see. Wonder how much longer Dell will last if this is really an idea expected to succeed?