In the last few years, all-in-one desktop PCs have made a huge comeback. I say a comeback because the all-in-one concept really isn’t new. Some of the earliest personal computers combined the computer, monitor, and speakers into a single case— the Compaq Portable (circa 1983) and the original Macintosh (circa 1984), to name a couple. But in recent years, with the advent of slim LCD screens, the all-in-one concept has taken off once again.
So can a business case now be made for choosing an all-in-one over a standard desktop computer tower and monitor combo? There are a number of business-grade all-in-one computers available from several major vendors, but do all-in-one desktop PCs make sense in a small business environment? Let’s look at some pros and cons when compared to a standard tower desktop computer to find out.
Advantages of an All-in-One Desktop Computer
- Size - All-in-one desktop computers have the distinct advantage of occupying much less space when compared to their tower counterparts. The combination of a thin LCD screen, laptop-size internal components, and an external power supply yields a sleek final package that frees up a lot of space on your desk.
- Clutter-free and portable – While desktop computers clearly aren’t moved often, there is definitely something to be said for being able to quickly and easily swap machines from office to office and desk to desk without having to deal with plugging and unplugging a tangle of cords. Many all-in-ones also include a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse, which further reduces the cable clutter.
- Webcam – Almost all business all-in-one computers include an integrated webcam, which makes videoconferencing a breeze. Yes, an external webcam can be easily added to a standard desktop, but it’s one more thing to buy and one more cable to clutter your desk.
- Touchscreens – With the smartphone revolution, touchscreens are becoming more and more a part of daily life, so it makes sense for PCs to follow suit. Sort of. Clearly there are some perfect applications for a touchscreen-equipped desktop computer—a kiosk or a waiting room comes to mind—but until Windows becomes more touch-friendly later this year with Windows 8, touch capabilities on an all-in-one are a novelty. And no matter how cool you might look using a 23’’ touchscreen, nobody will be happy holding their arms up to a vertical screen for more than a few minutes at a time.
- Performance – Depending on the configuration, modern all-in-ones can have just as much processing power as standard business desktops, so this point is really more of a draw than an advantage.
Disadvantages of an All-in-One desktop computer
- Cost – While there’s no denying that computers are getting more inexpensive every year, all-in-one computers still command a hefty price premium over a standard tower/LCD combo. Add a touch-capable screen, and the cost rises even more.
- Upgradeability – Due to their compact packaging, all-in-one computers are inherently limited when it comes to upgradeability. There are a few business models that allow for some expandability, but a standard tower desktop is much more versatile. For example, there’s usually no space to add a powerful graphics card or additional hard drives to an all-in-one. And if you want to upgrade to a bigger LCD screen, your only real option, if your all-in-one has video outputs, is to go to a dual-monitor setup (or put your new screen in front of the all-in-one, but that just seems wasteful).
- Repairability – In general, it hard to replace broken parts on an all-in-one desktop. Some models allow for parts to be removed and replaced, but it’s not easy to disassemble an all-in-one, and parts aren’t as readily available. Fortunately, most business-grade models do come with a 3-year factory warranty, which helps mitigate this drawback.
To wrap up, yes, all-on-one desktops have some great features and, yes, they have an undeniable “cool” factor when compared to a standard desktop computer. But there are some definite drawbacks that you, as a small business person, need to weigh. Our advice to clients is generally to stick with the ubiquitous tower desktop computer unless there’s a specific need where an all-in-one computer really fits well.
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