The all-in-one PC is alive and well

The laptop may have dethroned the desktop, but the all-in-one PC is still growing at a rapid rate. Several companies have announced new models with Intel's latest chips.
Written by John Morris, Contributor

The laptop may have dethroned the desktop (only to be challenged by the upstart tablet), but in the era of mobile computing one type of desktop, the all-in-one PC, is alive and well. At Intel's analyst day earlier this month, executives said they expect to see continued growth in all-in-ones. "In the desktop space we've also seen a new all-in-one category that for the last couple of years, I don't think people realize, has growing over 35 percent per year," said Kirk Skaugen, who heads up Intel's PC Client Group.

There are many reasons for this resurgence. The space-saving and clutter-free designs have long been attractive to home users. Desktop components continue to get faster and to integrate more features, largely eliminating the need for after-market upgrades. Processors now have both the CPU performance and graphics chops to handle all but the most demanding 3D games. And even entry-level all-in-ones often come with 4GB of memory and at least 500GB of storage.

In addition, the emergence of faster and more flexible I/O options, such as USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, makes it easier to add new peripherals without ever cracking the case.

No wonder PC companies, which are battling sluggish demand overall and new competition from tablets, are rolling out lots of new all-in-ones. Some of these new all-in-ones aren't shipping yet because Intel has not released the dual-core versions of its 3rd generation Core processor, or Ivy Bridge, but they should be available within a few weeks.

The latest is Dell, which has just announced three new all-in-ones. The top-of-the-line XPS One 27 has a 27-inch display with a resolution of 2560x1440 pixels. It will start at $1,400 with Intel's 3rd Generation Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive. Options include faster processors, Nvidia discrete graphics, larger hard drives (and a flash memory cache for better performance), a slot-loading Blu-ray player and TV tuner.

The Inspiron One 23 and Inspiron One 20 are less expensive models. The One 23 has a 23-inch 1080p display and starts at $750 with a 2nd Generation Core i3, 2GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive. Options include Ivy Bridge processors and AMD discrete graphics. The 20-inch model tops out at 1600x900 and starts at $530 with a Pentium G620T dual-core processor, 2GB and a 500GB hard drive. It has fewer options, but both models can be configured with more memory, larger hard drives, Blu-ray players and TV tuners.

HP didn't wait around for Intel's dual-cores. Last month it announced five desktops--including three all-in-ones--with quad-core Ivy Bridge processors. (My colleague, Sean Portnoy, covered the announcement here.)

The HP Omni series includes models with 21.5- and 27-inch displays. The 220qd starts at $950 with a Core i7 quad-core processor, 8GB of memory, AMD Radeon HD 7450A graphics, a 2TB drive and a Blu-ray player. The larger model, the Omni 27qd, has more configuration options and currently starts at around $1,200 with a 3rd Generation Core i5 quad-core, 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive and a slot-loading DVD burner (there are cheaper models with older Intel chips).

The TouchSmart 520xt is the latest in HP's line of all-in-ones with touchscreens and the company's own touch-optimized software. It starts at $900 with older Sandy Bridge chips, but at $1,000 with a 3rd Generation Core i5, 6GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive and a slot-loading Blu-ray player.

All three models have options such as AMD and Nvidia discrete graphics, larger drives (including SSDs) and TV tuners. HP has been taking online orders on these since April 29, but they won't be available in stores until late June.

Earlier this month Lenovo announced two business all-in-ones based on Ivy Bridge: the ThinkCentre Edge 92z, which has a 21.5-inch "infinity glass" display and starts at $700, and the ThinkCentre M72z, which has a standard 20-inch display and starts at $600. Both models have optional touchscreens and will be available this summer.

Vizio, a newcomer to the PC market, has announced two all-in-ones, a 24-inch model and a 27-inch one. The company announced the models at CES in January, and they will reportedly begin shipping in June, but we still have no details on the pricing or configurations.

The best-selling all-in-one, Apple's iMac, is also overdue for an update. The current models, the iMac 21.5-inch and the iMac 27-inch, are more than a year old. Next month Apple will hold its Worldwide Developer Conference, and while WWDC is likely to focus on iOS and Mac OS X 10.8, or Mountain Lion, the company may also use the show to announce new systems.

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