Building your own PC lets you get the most performance in the applications you plan to run within a certain budget. If you need further proof, then check out our quarterly System Builder Marathon. Compared to pre-built systems, custom-configured machines are simply much more flexible. And for the do-it-yourselfer with an intimate knowledge of technology, the freedom to overclock and tweak BIOS settings makes home-built systems so much more satisfying.
But there are limitations to what you can do with off-the-shelf parts. For example, even seasoned system builders have a hard time building all-in-one desktops from the living room. That's because the form factors used in all-in-ones generally aren't standard (like ATX, microATX, or mini-ITX). Consequently, finding cases, motherboards, and power supplies that work together (and there's the whole issue of an integrated display) is a real challenge. But that doesn't mean we should write off all-in-ones entirely. Many of most aesthetic computer designs use this design approach, and given Apple's popularity, looks are clearly important.
All-in-ones trace their heritage back to some of the first 8-bit computers: the Commodore PET 2001 (1977), Apple’s Macintosh 128K (1984), and more recently, the iMac G3 (1998). Despite the popularity that each computer enjoyed in its time, more standardized towers and desktops came to dominate, as they more readily accepted a wider spectrum of add-in components in an enclosure able to cope with thermal requirements.
Today's reemergence of all-in-ones isn't nostalgic. Freed from the constraints of CRT display technology, tier-one vendors are using LCDs to build smaller, lighter, and more energy-efficient all-in-one PCs. Of course, there’s more to today’s svelte AiOs than just thinner screens: a good chunk of this new breed also benefits from mature touchscreen technology.
There are plenty of different models to choose from. We're going to start with two of the cheapest touchscreen models that we went out and bought from Best Buy.
|Display||21.5" Glossy LCD||21" Glossy LCD|
|Processor||Intel Pentium E5800 (Dual Core, 3.2 GHz)||AMD Athlon II X2 245e (Dual-Core, 2.9 GHz)|
|Video||Intel GMA X4500HD||AMD Radeon HD 4270|
|Memory||3 GB DDR-1333||4 GB DDR3-1333|
|Hard Drive||500 GB, 7200 RPM||750 GB, 7200 RPM|
|Video ports||VGA, HDMI||-|
|Flash Card Reader||Y||Y|
|Optical Drive||8x SuperMulti (HL-DT-ST GT31N)||8x SuperMulti (LG GT30L)|
|LAN||Gigabit Ethernet||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Webcam||2.0 MP||1.3 MP|
|Power Supply||220 W||120 W|