The All-in-One Z240 shows Asus trying to trump Apple's iMac hardware, and succeeding. It has a better specification, includes more advanced technologies, and is as well if not better made. The more advanced technologies include a 10-point touch sensitive screen, an Intel RealSense camera - which supports face-recognition log-on via Windows Hello, and "air gestures" - and an array microphone to get the best out of Windows 10's Cortana personal assistant.
Asus reckons the AiO Z240 will appeal to business buyers who want powerful desktops, and to creative professionals - the colour is accurate enough for photographers and video editors. The touch screen means it can also be used for many retail and point-of-sale applications. But, according to Asus technical PR specialist Tom Jenner, "it still works great as a family PC, including light gaming." That's probably a bit of an understatement.
The AiO Z240's raw specs include a 24-inch IPS "Ultra HD" screen showing 3840 x 2160 pixels (4K; 185ppi), a quadcore Sklylake Core i7-6700T processor, 16GB of DDR4 memory, an Nvidia GeForce 960M graphics processor with 4GB of memory, and a 1TB hard drive. On the back it has three USB 3.1 ports, one USB Type C port, plus two HDMI ports, a memory card slot, Wi-Fi etc. It comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse, and the keyboard includes a number key pad.
The GeForce 960M is a high-end mainstream rather than a gaming GPU, but it should be able to play all the major games at HD or even Full HD with decent frame-rates, if not all the effects. However, it only has roughly half (CORRECTED) the performance of the optional Radeon R9 M395X, which adds £200 to the price of the 27-inch iMac.
SonicMaster stereo sound is delivered by six small loudspeakers in two groups of three. According to Asus's website, two of these are "internal woofers". I tried playing the video of Prince's first public performance of Purple Rain on full volume. The result was some way from hi-fi, but it did have bass, and would fill a smallish room.
The AiO Z240 is a unibody aluminium design with diamond-cut edges. The stand is cut from one block of metal so there are no joins. As with the iMac, you lose the height adjustment, but the screen offers a small degree of tilt.
On the downside, the AiO Z240 is, like the iMac, a sealed box, not user-upgradable. However, 16GB should be enough of a safety margin for most users, and the motherboard can take 32GB, if Asus wants to offer it.
As is usual in the PC industry, there will be several models, from different suppliers, in different geographies. The AiO I looked at is available from PC World/Currys/Dixons for £1,499. A version with a Full HD (1920 x 1080) screen and an SSD should be more widely available for £1,399. There will also be an entry-level 21.5-inch Z220 with a Core i5 and 8GB for £899, which should appeal to the family market.
It will be interesting to see how well they sell. Windows PC buyers typically expect to buy PCs for half the price of an Apple product, or less. Not many firms have tried matching Apple's prices while providing a better product, unless you count Microsoft's Surface Pro range, where Apple had no equivalent product.