How to build an 'All-in-One' PC

How to build an 'All-in-One' PC

Summary: Why waste valuable desk space on an old-school PC tower when you can combine the PC with the display in a single all-in-one system.

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  • Introduction

    Why waste valuable desk space on an old-school PC tower when you can combine the PC with the display in a single all-in-one system? While PC OEMs offer countless all-in-one you can choose from, if you are after something special or custom, then building your own is the way to go.

    But what do you need to build your own all-in-one PC? Here's a tour of what you need.

    Image source: Intel.

  • Chassis

    When building a desktop PC, I usually don't list a case because they are very personal to the user. However, when it comes to all-in-one systems, the chassis is all important because this is both the display and the home for all your components.

    For this build I've chosen the Loop L5 LP-2150 chassis, which is based around a 21.5-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. It supports thin mini-ITX motherboards and LGA1155 processors up to 65W TDP. It features two USB 2.0 ports, and has integrated speakers, a microphone, and a front-facing camera.

    There are many others you can choose from, and if you are interested in shopping around, I suggest you take a look at Intel's Design Component Catalog for inspiration.

    Price: $265.

    Image source: Loop.

  • Processor

    There are countless processors that you can choose for for this build. I'm going for something that's middle of the road" the Intel Core i5-3570S.

    This is a quad-core processor which runs at 3.1GHz, and can be turbo boosted to 3.8GHz. It has 6MB or L3 cache and a maximum TDP of 65W, making it ideal for use in the all-in-one PC.

    Price: $205.

    Image source: Intel.

Topics: Hardware, Intel, Processors, Storage

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47 comments
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  • There are lots of motherboards to choose from that fit the bill

    Really I thought there were two in the channel DH61AG & DQ77KB, I know Gigabyte & Wibtek make some as well but they only tend to supply them direct or bundled with their chassis which defeats the point of thin Mini-ITX.
    And after Haswell there will be no Intel Desktop boards available in the channel anyway.

    Is this an Intel sponsored article?
    Peter Whitehouse
  • I will tell you why

    Because working on and upgrading them suck. The cooling tends to be inferior also. Floor space is usually not an issue, and you are kind of stuck with the monitor it came with or you built it with. They are not for me.

    But as they say in France: chacun à son goût

    And as soon as I post this, those nice French accents I put in there will probably be toast. :-(
    D.T.Long
    • Absoutely

      So many people (n00bs) rush out to buy the latest AIO or bargain-bin netbook / laptop, only to have them either feel like a dog inside a year, or when they fritz out just after warranty are too expensive to fix. The only time I'd EVER sell and AIO to a customer is 1) If it's dead easy to get into 2) Has an external VGA / DVI / HDMI port for when the screen dies and 3) Has a proper discrete graphics card. Anything else is just ripping off people who don't know any better.
      naibeeru
    • Yeppers.

      If i'm building it, and i'm gonna use it, it's gonna be built the way i want it, and that includes accessibility and expandability.
      fairportfan
    • Better than buying a pre-built AIO.

      If you are in a situation where you need an AIO, building it yourself is definitely superior to buying one. If you built it, you can fix it. AIOs from mass market manufacturers are far worse to work on than these. One example would be a kitchen counter PC. There is really no place to put a tower if it's sitting on a normal kitchen counter. Doctors office exam rooms could also benefit from no tower. This really applies to any situation where you don't want a tower taking up floor/counter/desk space.
      BillDem
  • Not interesting to me

    Lot of limitations for an all-in-one PC, stuck with one monitor or the monitor outlives the underlying hardware. I prefer self assembled tower PC's, best value for money generic computer.
    Owlll1net
    • The ones I've purchased for my job

      also have an HDMI-in port. So if I ever decide the computer itself is no good but the monitor still works, I can still use the monitor portion by attaching a tower.
      Michael Kelly
      • My home desktop is 5 year old dell, which is going for recycling soon,

        is attached to a 52" Samsung 3D TV. I prefer the towers than AIOs any day. AIOs or for printers, not for systems, just my opinion. OTOH, my wife prefers an AIO in the kitchen. But once we got her the Surface RT, she is happy with it. Of course we tried iPad 2, Sony Tablet S before there in kitchen.
        Ram U
    • I have to agree

      It's the weakest link argument or the all your eggs in one basket in that when one thing goes, it all goes. As far as an all in one computer is concerned, it ain't so; there are usually external drives, power supplies and cables added as after thoughts. It's a mess. A tower is a collection place for loose stuff. Everything is separate and can come and go, one piece at a time. I have both but the tower makes more sense and uses less space than an all in one spreading its bits and pieces all over the desktop.
      trm1945
  • Intel sucks at this

    For the reasons above, the Intel Thin ITX platform is effectively dead. Intel won't be making motherboards, so Thin ITX will go down in history as an aborted overpriced Intel measure, much like BTX, VBI, Centrino, Viiv, etc. Intel won't license the technology to AMD component makers either. Likewise, there are no discrete graphics options, so the barebone all-in-one setup is just utter crap. OEM's already make all-in-one systems with discrete graphics, so these overpriced barebones things are just junk.

    If you want a good computer but can't give up the desk space, just buy a micro barebone system that comes with VESA mounting hardware and attach it to the size of monitor that you want to use. Foxconn has some new Brazos 2.0 NanoPC models available along with Ivy Bridge models. Or if you want more flexibility, use a regular Mini-ITX motherboard in an Antec ISK110 VESA or any other monitor-mountable case (InWin has a bunch). Or just don't be a douche and properly run your cables to your tower and keep the slimmer profile of a standalone monitor instead of a thicker all-in-one.
    Joe_Raby
    • Joe_Raby......You are correct on this one

      After reading your post I took a quick trip over to NewEgg and they hve 6 models listed at $900/$1200 and they all had more to offer than the DIY unit being presented here on Zdnet. The ones I did notice on NewEgg all used Intel I3/I5's. With that in mind if you want a all in one why go through the hassle of building one.

      I persosally have been building my own boxes for well over a decade and enjoy building my rockets for a third of retail, but when I saw the article I got excited. Than I saw a $1,000 price hit for components and compared it to what NewEgg had.........I said why bother your not gaining anything and you do all the work.....no way that's going to happen.

      I have a friend that I showed a M.S.I. all in one (purchased it) and it just keeps moving on.......didn't see any M.S.I. at NewEgg.
      Over and Out
      • There is no market for DIY all-in-ones

        Intel is trying to invent a market here where none exists, and real System Builders should look at just turning to more-experienced OEM's and their prebuilt wares for resale.

        The DIY market should stay with full-featured desktops (and mini-ITX systems aren't too bad either). That is the only market where you can actually save money (AND get more choice) doing it yourself. Intel's options are just far too limited here.

        After spending several years drinking the Intel Kool-Aid in the DIY market, I can tell you that most of their platform ideas have been a complete failure (my previous comment is just a small sample) and did nothing for System Builders. Intel either didn't have enough sway with component vendors, or else they just gave up far too early for anything to be successful.
        Joe_Raby
        • There IS a market - sort of

          Intel have the right idea but it still needs work. The best place to build your own, where size becomes an important factor, is: laptops.
          Notebooks, whatever you call them. Trouble is, they need to be REALLY small, thin, and light. Laptop companies (cough Dell cough) Used to offer a custom build.
          These days, Retina screens or WUXGA 1920 x 1200 determine who you buy from. If you don't like it, the concept of building your own is radical.
          To radical, alas, for Intel. But at least they're trying.
          alan_r_cam
          • A few critiques on your comment

            1) "Intel have the right idea"

            No, they don't. And here's why:

            a) Vendor lock-in. Intel won't standardize on the Thin ITX form factor. They won't even license it to non-Intel platforms. In fact, in order for component makers to build motherboards for these AIO chassis designs, they have to pay a license fee to Intel.

            b) Intel leaving the motherboard business. ALL of the third-party companies (Gigabyte, MSI, etc.) offering boards for these designs are already offering complete AIO's, and there is no incentive for them to keep making separate boards when Intel leaves because they can reduce cost through better integration. With the limited chipset options available, it just isn't good business sense to continue it, and you can blame Intel for abandoning it because THEY HAVE DONE THIS TIME AND TIME AGAIN. You have the H-series with on-board video, Q-series for added vPro (most motherboard makers aren't making these), and the B-series that are just a stupid option wherein the user buys a low-end chipset but has to pay to unlock the higher-end Q features that are already built into the chipset. And then there's Atom boards that are just garbage. Component makers want more choice, and Intel isn't providing it. Remember Verified-By-Intel? I do. They were available on the market for about 2 years before Intel started exiting that market and leaving it to the component ODM's to do their own compatibility validation called "Common Building Block". Less than a year later and they were already starting to tell builders to stop building and just buy prebuilt whitebox machines from a larger builder.

            2) "Laptop companies (cough Dell cough) Used to offer a custom build."

            They still do - to a point. You can purchase pretty much any combination of hardware from one manufacturer or another. Besides, when you leave the job to system OEM's, they're going to start cost-cutting, and that means integration, not modularity - that's the job of the DIY component makers. If you want a computer to last, you're going to buy an extended warranty on it (especially on a laptop), but who really cares about how long their $400 system lasts anymore? You can't put any loyalty on a brand for being superior, because quite frankly, they're all just Chinese crap. Computers are commodities. And the root of that word is "commode", which is fitting considering that's where many of them belong.

            3) "Retina screens or WUXGA 1920 x 1200 determine who you buy from."

            No, it doesn't. There are only so many real LCD panel manufacturers in the world, and they all make the same stuff.

            4) "Too radical, alas, for Intel. But at least they're trying."

            Trying and failing you mean. They don't have a good record of trying and actually succeeding. Except for maybe that issue of anti-competitive deals with OEM's.
            Joe_Raby
      • @Enough Said Re: M.S.I.

        Good to hear about the MSI, had always wanted to try one out and see how it performed. The Staples I visited, never seemed to have any, and they're the only brick and mortar near me that carry them.

        TW
        T-Wrench
    • I'd rather use a laptop or AIO

      Using a tower makes you a douchey gamerlamer. Why such backwards thinking?
      beau parisi
  • My wish

    would be to have a 50+" screen with such a chassis, so I could make my own Smart TV that can actually record the TV I watch. Of course it would need a place to mount a Ceton or Homerun Prime CableCard receiver.
    Michael Kelly
    • It's possible

      You can get vesa mount itx boxes that you can mount to the rear of a regular TV. Hook it together using an HDMI cable and you have your solution. The only drawback would be that you'd probably have to have an external decoder as you're never going to cram one inside an itx case.
      keebaud@...
      • That's what I did actually

        Well almost. I still have an internal Ceton InfiniTV in my desktop in my bedroom, but I networked the feeds to the TV PC. The problem is that you can't really mount a BD-ROM back there without having to turn the TV completely around to access the slot, so I have that on an external drive on a shelf.
        Michael Kelly
  • why bother?

    After all, compartmentalization is more secure. With an all-in-one, one flaky power supply could fry both monitor and system board. My own solution, not for everyone, is attaching a Z-Box to the back of my monitor. Since tower PCs no longer come with optical drives standard, not much difference.
    hrlngrv