All-in-one (AIO) PCs have been around since the 1980s, and have proven popular with folks looking for an elegant solution that minimises the space required for their PC.
Removing the need for a large box tucked away under the desk, AIOs have benefitted from the miniaturisation of technology used in mobile computing, allowing more powerful components to be tucked away into the rear of their displays.
While the AIOs of the ‘90s and early 2000s suffered from lowly performance and loud fan noise, today’s models can almost equal the performance of a standard desktop.
However, this performance definitely comes at a price. When compared to a standard desktop PC with similar components, expect to pay a significant amount more.
Having said that, it’s possible to now pick up a basic AIO for around the $700 mark, though high-end models smash through the $4,000 price barrier, as you’ll see in the following reviews.
Another issue that AIOs have in common with laptops is their inability to be upgraded. It’s the price to be paid when squeezing the usual goodies that fill up a PC case into a space just a few centimetres thick, with many components glued into place or inconveniently tucked away behind others.
Memory and storage upgrades are sometimes possible, but even this shouldn’t be assumed.
We’ve taken a look at eight of the biggest brands of AIO on the market in Australia, across a huge variety of price points. Read on to see which one fills your needs.
What to look for
Despite improvements in cooling, some AIO PCs still have issues with thermal regulation, and require annoying fans to keep them cool.
Try to get an in-store demo to see if your chosen AIO is a noisy critter. Thankfully, all of the units we reviewed remained whisper-quiet.
Windows 10’s touch-screen functionality works wonderfully with the touch-screens found on many AIOs, but you’ll have to pay a slight price premium for this feature.
Many AIOs have extremely basic stands, so they can’t be placed in the ideal ergonomic position. Check to see just how adjustable each stand is.
With the exception of the Apple AIOs we reviewed, we found the included mice and keyboards packed in with AIOs to be extremely low quality.
Expect to spend another $100 or so on quality versions once you get your AIO home.
Some AIOs double as TVs, complete with built-in TV tuner and remote control, making them very versatile indeed. Again, though, extra functionality equals a higher price tag.
Cheaper AIOs tend to use old-school mechanical hard drives, and the drop in day-to-day performance is significant, even if our benchmarks might not show it. If possible, upgrade to an SSD, stat!
Most new AIOs include Intel’s RealSense 3D camera, which operates similarly to the Xbox Kinect camera, allowing for gesture control and 3D capturing. However, in reality, the range of applications that use this camera is extremely limited.
Some AIOs have surprisingly large external power bricks — factor this into its installation before setting it up, especially if you’re looking to wall-mount your AIO.
How we tested
We used the excellent PCMark Home 8 Accelerated benchmark, which runs a variety of applications to generate one overall performance score, including Web Browsing, Video Chatting, Casual Gaming, Photo Editing and Word Processing.
To check basic game performance, we used 3DMark’s Cloud Gate test, which is a DirectX 11 feature level 10 test for typical home PC and notebooks.
We also spent a few hours using each machine, looking at display quality, touch-screen accuracy, build quality and general features.
Acer Aspire U5-710
Closer examination of the screen reveals a slightly grainy look, though we’re not sure if that’s caused by the native resolution of 1920 x 1080, or the fact that it’s touch-enabled.
Thankfully, it seems Acer has used a quality IPS panel, as the 178 degree viewing angle makes it easy to see from off-centre, and the colours are rich and accurate.
We were especially pleased with the accuracy of the touch controls, making it a breeze to use without the mouse or keyboard.
Performance was surprisingly brisk given the lack of an SSD; it seems that Intel’s i7-6700T CPU in combination with a hefty 16GB of DDR4 is enough to overcome the user of a rather slow mechanical hard drive.
The machine came second in our productivity benchmark PCMark 8 Home, while the inclusion of a dedicated graphics GPU in the form of the GeForce 940M helped it take out the second spot in the gaming test.
A built-in dual-digital TV tuner allows it to double as a TV, and there’s even a slimline DVD drive.
Given the excellent specs and healthy range of features, the price tag feels just right — now if only it had an SSD as standard, it’d be pretty much perfect.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Apple iMac 21.5-inch
This is the smaller of the two Apple AIOs we had in to review and, like it’s big brother, it’s an absolute stunner. It’s all thanks to Apple’s use of the aluminium body, which appears to be machined from a single block.
However, these good looks don’t come for free; when compared to similar Windows-based AIOs at this price point, the iMac comes off looking much worse for wear.
For starters, the i5 CPU used within isn’t even the latest 6th Gen Core, as evidenced by its reliance upon older DDR3 memory. Speaking of which, just 8GB of memory is included, half that of other similarly priced competitors.
There’s no SSD either, with a single 1TB mechanical drive included at this price. Thankfully, this can be upgraded come purchase time to a hybrid SSD/HDD to give a performance boost.
Being OS X based, we were unable to benchmark the iMac, but playing around with it at the desktop revealed a slightly sluggish response to our requests, taking a second or two to open Internet and file browser windows.
And yet, these flaws will mean nothing to those who value aesthetics over all else.
There’s also that darn sexy display; it might only be 21.5 inches across, but it packs in a ridiculously high number of pixels, at 4096 x 2304, making it one of the most visually appealing AIOs on the market.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Apple iMac 27-inch
If anything, its desirable good looks are even more impressive with such a large screen, as the incredibly thin edges seem almost impossibly small to carry the weight of such an imposing display. And what a display it is.
It’s not just the fact that it’s packing a slightly insane 5120 x 2880 pixels that makes it the best AIO display on the market. It’s also got some of the best colour clarity around thanks to the premium IPS panel used within, making it a desirable creature for image professionals.
But like the smaller iMac, this stunning exterior and awe-inducing display hides some rather average internal specs.
Once again, Intel’s last-gen Core i5 is dusted off for processing duties, this time topping out at 3.9GHz. Just 8GB of memory is standard at this price — add another few hundred to double this.
The 2TB Fusion drive uses a 128GB SSD to boost performance, while AMD’s Radeon R9 M395 isn’t exactly cutting edge.
However, we do love the included mouse and keyboard, in particular the Magic Mouse 2. This single-buttoned unit regains extra functionality by turning the entire surface into a touch-panel, making it easy to zoom and scroll.
While that screen is incredible, you don’t get much else if you buy the base $3,599 model. To make this thing really zing requires a few pricey upgrades, putting it into direct competition with the likes of the HP Envy.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
First impressions of the external build quality place it very close to the Acer reviewed here, with a very similar design based around the 23-inch IPS panel.
Like the Acer, it’s fully touch-capacitive, which could explain the slightly grainy look. Or it might just be because it uses a standard HD panel with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080-pixel; either way, it’s a long way off the quality of the Apple iMac displays.
Thankfully, it has a range of features that help offset this relatively average display. The base in particular is very clever, able to charge certain phones and tablets just by resting them on the base. It’s also got an NFC receiver in the base, making synching with smartphones a breeze.
The 10-point touch panel is extremely accurate, and ASUS claims the included webcam can also handle gesture controls. Sadly, our time testing this feature found it to be laggy and inaccurate, especially compared to the newer RealSense equipped AIOs.
The Intel Core I7 CPU maxes out at 3GHz under load, but it’s propped up by a discrete GeForce 840M GPU.
Unfortunately, performance at the desktop was a little sluggish, likely a result of its reliance upon a hybrid SSD/HDD drive. On the other hand, the inclusion of a dedicated subwoofer helped this AIO deliver some of the best sound in the roundup.
For this price, there’s nothing else that comes close to the overall build quality and feature set of this AIO.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Dell Inspiron 20 3000
Actions such as opening a PDF file or browsing through a USB flash disk took around four or five seconds to complete, a stark contrast to the near instantaneous performance we’ve grown accustomed to elsewhere, including budget-priced laptops.
It’s obvious why, as the Intel Pentium N3700 just doesn’t have the grunt to compensate for a severe lack of memory, with just 4GB included.
A sluggish 5,400RPM hard drive only makes matters worse. Perhaps swapping out this HDD for a cheap SSD would go a long way to resolving the issue, but we’ll never know.
The compromises continue to the display, which uses an extremely low resolution of just 1600 x 900. That might be fine on a 10-inch tablet, but when stretched across the 19.5-inch touch display here, just doesn’t cut the mustard.
Even the Wi-Fi is rather archaic, with no support for 802.11ac.
We’re all for Dell aiming at a much more affordable price point, but the compromises here simply seem too great.
It might cost half that of competing AIOs such as the ASUS, but when the user experience is so disappointing, even half the price doesn’t seem affordable enough.
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
HP Envy 34 AIO
It’s a real desk-devourer, but the beautiful curve makes it easy to keep track of everything happening on the margins of the screen.
The 3440 x 1440 resolution makes it crisp and clear, though we did notice some rather average colour performance. It’s also sadly not touch-enabled, which would have been great fun on such a huge panel.
With the most impressive hardware specs in the roundup, it’s no surprise that the Envy 34 swept the benchmark pool.
Gaming performance in particular was worthy of mention, with NVIDIA’s GTX 960A GPU delivering over twice the performance of its nearest competitor.
Don’t expect this machine to be up to the task of running the latest and greatest games, but it should handle casual and older titles without too much of an issue.
Matching the beautiful big-screen are some top-quality Bang & Olufsen speakers, which pumped out surprisingly clear audio considering they’re built into the screen.
HP has been one of the most vocal promoters of Intel’s RealSense camera, which made the limited functionality of it in this AIO rather disappointing. Fingers crossed more usable software is released for this camera in the near future, lest it die a Kinect-like death.
If you’ve got the money to spare and want the biggest AIO out there, look no further — just make sure you’ve got the desk space to spare.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Thankfully, buyers of this AIO are able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free of charge, but we didn’t have time to do so before benchmarking.
Our sample came with a very basic fold-out stand, but Lenovo also offers an adaptable version that allows for much better positioning, hinting at the possibility of using this in an office environment, where Lenovo is well positioned.
The inclusion of the Lenovo Business Suite will likely prove desirable to office IT admins, but for the rest of us, there are free apps that offer similar functionality.
There’s no sign of a touch-screen, which is a surprising omission at this price point, but at least the 23-inch 1080p screen is relatively high quality, despite appearing to be based on older TN panel technology.
Considering the very affordable price, we were more than happy with the benchmark results, which shows the hybrid SSD/HDD pairs well with the Intel CPU to deliver brisk performance.
Despite this, we’re still a little concerned that the S500z doesn’t offer quite the value of the ASUS AIO, lacking the touch screen and discrete graphics GPU, as well as the newer IPS panel.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Opening the box revealed a lack of hard drive or memory included with the PC, so you’ll need to add those into the cost of ownership.
Just be aware that it only has a single 2.5-inch hard drive port, along with a single SO-DIMM memory port. We used 4GB of DDR3 1,666MHz memory along with a Samsung 850 EVO for our testing.
Intel’s ultra-low power Celeron 2957U does the heavy lifting, and its cool operating temperature means it’s cooled with a passive heatsink, making this machine totally silent.
Don’t expect it to break any speed records, though; as our benchmarks show, it helped this machine reach the last place in both of our benchmarks.
We should point out that the 3DMark score appears to be an issue with the drivers that we used with the Intel integrated GPU.
At this price, it’s nice to see Shuttle including a touch-screen; if only it wasn’t such a low resolution, though. It might only be 15.6 inches across, but the 1366 x 768-pixel count simply isn’t up to snuff.
And yet it’s hard to complain too much when this AIO is so darn affordable — if you’re looking for a very basic model to go in the kitchen or kids’ room, it’ll do the job without breaking the bank.