The growing popularity of tablets and the release of the touch-centric Windows 8 last year changed the world of laptop design, ushering in hybrids like the HP Envy x2 and the Dell XPS 12 Convertible. Desktops also started adapting and one trend picking up steam today is the all-in-one (AIO) computer, where the CPU, RAM and other components are designed into a single, sleek unit with the monitor.
AIOs have been around for a while, the iMac was an early success for the design, but these PCs haven’t really been viable propositions. The value they offer has been going up, however, and recently, HP, Dell and Acer have all released Windows 8-based AIOs. Lenovo, one of the first PC brands to adopt the design, recently refreshed its AIO line, expanding it to 18 models, from bare-bones budget computers to a top-end dream machine.
One reason why these machines are gaining in popularity is because their power consumption has been declining steadily. According to Lenovo, the power consumption on its latest AIOs is nearly three times lower than what a similarly configured desktop would need, which is also useful in case of a power cut—the computer can run for almost an hour on a UPS, compared to around 20 minutes for a standard desktop. You’re still paying a premium for looks, as it’s possible to get a similar computer for less money if you opt for a standard desktop design, but the gap is fairly slim now, and if you’re looking to buy a new computer, then an AIO might be a good idea.
The IdeaCentre A720 is the top-end AIO that Lenovo has on offer, and despite the astronomical price, there’s a lot to love about it. The 27-inch screen runs a 1,080p HD display, and supports 10-point multi-touch. It’s also under an inch thick, and looks fairly unique. Unlike most AIOs, the CPU and other components aren’t integrated in the screen—instead, they’re a part of the supporting base. This makes it easy to connect the peripherals and use the Blu-Ray drive that comes with the system.
The A720 has a “frameless” monitor design which makes it look like a giant tablet. This is reinforced by the fact that it supports 10-point multi-touch inputs. It can also be leaned back flat against the table, making it seem more like a giant tablet.
There’s a lot of potential for board-game night with one of these—imagine a game of Risk where you didn’t need an hour to unpack the pieces each time you wanted to play, but you were still sitting with the board between the players, moving your armies around with your hands.
It’s also got a lot of power—an Intel core i7 processor, 6 GB of DDR3 RAM, 1 TB of storage and a 2 GB NVIDIA graphics card give you a machine that will be good for everything from gaming to watching HD movies, to running high-end software like Photoshop.
The A720 ticks most of the boxes for a dream machine. It’s stylish, powerful, and comes with a lot of bells and whistles. But at Rs.115,990, it’s also expensive, and many of the features you’re paying for, such as the touch input and the Blu-Ray drive, will be of limited use.
While the A720 is a dream machine, the C440 is the real deal. Lenovo launched several new models, but aside from the A720, the one that really seems to offer the most value is the C440. Its 2-inch depth makes it seem bulky after the A720, and Lenovo’s “book” design isn’t exciting, but the C440 offers good performance and a functional look, without forcing you to empty your bank account.
The C-series is Lenovo’s budget range, starting from a Celeron-based machine for as little as Rs.21,990. But if you’re looking for a little more out of your computer, then the C440 is a smart choice. It has a 21.5-inch HD LED screen along with Dolby audio. It also has an option for a TV tuner card.
The C440 is powered by a third-generation Core i5 processor, and 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, along with a 2 GB NVIDIA graphics card, so it should be good enough for most video games as well. It comes with 500 GB of built-in storage.
The C440 has all the components built into the screen itself, and isn’t meant to be leaned back the way the A720 is. Instead, it’s meant to be used more like a traditional computer, and its size, features and pricing all reflect this. It’s available from Rs.43,990 onwards, and if you’re interested in moving to an AIO from a standard desktop, then this is a good value-for-money option.
The best of the rest
Other brands too have released some good AIOs in recent times. Our picks:
If you’re in the market for an AIO then there are a number of good options available today. Since the Windows 8 launch in October, most brands have launched their own AIO models. We picked out three models, in a varying price range, which are only a couple of months old:
HP ENVY 23 TouchSmart All-in-One PC
It is the most expensive AIO but it is also one of the best-looking ones. At 23 inches with full HD, the screen is huge, and great for watching movies or playing video games. It comes on a “floating” stand and can be pushed back easily, so it’s really convenient to use the touch interface. It falters in the audio department, however.
CPU: Third-generation Intel Core i5 2.9 GHz
RAM: 4 GB
Screen: 23-inch full HD
Storage: 1 TB HDD
ACER ASPIRE Z
This 21.5-inch AIO is a good budget option if looks are not too important. While the screen resolution is high, the design looks blocky. But if you’re looking for a good feature-set at a low price, then Acer is the best option—it uses a Pentium Dual core processor, whose performance is similar to that of a Core i3, and includes two USB 3.0 ports.
CPU: Intel Dual Core 2.8 GHz
RAM: 4 GB
Screen: 21.5-inch full HD
Storage: 500 GB HDD
DELL OPTIPLEX 9010
All-in-One Desktop touch
The Dell OptiPlex 9010 All-in-One Desktop Touch is a little more expensive than Lenovo’s C440, but includes a Blu-Ray writer. It’s also got USB 3.0 ports for faster backup of data.
CPU: Third-generation Intel Core i5
RAM: 8 GB
Screen: 23-inch full HD
Storage: 500 GB HDD