Last year saw Dell, Sony, and Gateway racing to bring out all-in-one desktop PCs that were clearly influenced by the success of the Apple iMac. And earlier this year, HP updated its TouchSmart PC with a friendlier iMac-style design and improved touch-screen interface. With Blu-ray options and included TV tuners, many of these units were pitched as "living room PCs." But recently HP and Sony have introduced new models in their all-in-one series that are even more clearly geared toward making these desktops into an HDTV alternative.
With its new VAIO LV, Sony is going with a 24-inch LCD option, wisely bumping the resolution to 1,920x1,080 (compared to the LT's 1,680×1,050 22-inch screen), so you can finally watch Blu-ray discs in full 1080p via the optional Blu-ray rewritable drive. It also offers an HDMI input, which means you can hook up a set-top box to it instead of having to use the built-in TV tuners (also included). Plus, it comes with up to 1TB of storage for DVR duties. Sony also announced the 25.5-inch VAIO RT (pictured), with the same HDTV features but designed more for heavy-duty multimedia-editing tasks with options for Intel Core 2 Quad processors and up to 8GB of RAM. Also beefy is the price, as the RT startsstartsat $3,299.99, whereas the lowest-priced LT configuration is $1,699.99 (though a model with the Blu-ray drive will cost you an additional $200). Both series will be available in November.
The 25.5-inch display also shows up in the latest TouchSmart series, the IQ800. For $1,899, you get a bigger screen than the equivalently priced LV, but the IQ804t doesn't come with a Blu-ray drive at that price, nor do you get an HDMI input. (The system is available right now, however.) For Blu-ray, you'll need to wait for November for the IQ816, which will cost a couple hundred dollars more, though you'll also get a superior graphics card (the Nvidia GeForce 9600M). And, of course, you get the touch-screen interface, which lets you easily flip through your media collection.
The all-in-one PC with the larger LCD is the latest attempt by the computer industry to establish itself in the living room. But is anyone buying these desktops to mount on the wall and use as an HDTV? With 25.5-inch screens these latest systems are more enticing if you're living in a small space, and being able to hook a set-top box up to the new VAIOs would seem preferable to using built-in tuners. Still, would you rather have a well-spec'd computer in the living room or buy an HDTV that has a touch-screen interface and basic capabilities for Web browsing and media storage and playback? Such a TV isn't available, of course, but is that going to be a more successful approach eventually?
Do you want a PC in the living room, or serving as one of your primary HDTVs? Would you rather have a dedicated set with more PC-like functions? Are you considering buying any of the all-in-ones described above? Let me know in the Talkback section below.