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Hot All-in-One Desktops. - 9/10/2009 11:31:01 AM   


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All-in-one desktop PCs used to be considered the middle children of the PC industry. They have larger screens and more powerful components than most notebooks (a plus), but don't have the expandability and ultimate upgradability of a mid-tower desktop (a minus). All-in-one PCs can range from the sub-$600 all-in-one nettops to the multi-thousand dollar 24-inch or larger screen systems with moderately high-end graphics and multimedia creation prowess. Today's all-in-one desktop PCs have the power that the Web-based user needs, along with the minimal design that makes you think "this is what I thought a computer would look like in the 21st century."

It's Got a Huge ... Screen
The main differentiator of the all-in-one PC is the screen: it's usually larger than the same sized screen of a similarly priced laptop, and will be brighter than a laptop screen, since you don't have to worry about battery life in a desktop PC. And of course, the run of the mill tower desktop doesn't have any screens built in at all. Thanks to the pioneering Apple iMac , screens around the 20-inch mark are common in this space, but screens as small as the 15.6-inch widescreen on the ASUS Eee Top 1602 can be found in compact all-in-ones. Large 24-inch screens appear on systems like the Apple iMac (Nvidia GeForce GT 130) , which give you more screen real estate than HDTVs (1,920 by 1,080 resolution). Contrast this with the "huge" 17-inch screens on laptops: even a 20-inch mid priced all-in-one desktop. And remember, LCD screens are getting bigger and sleeker and wider and brighter.

In terms of HDTV, you'll find Blu-ray drives on systems like the Dell Studio One 19 and Lenovo IdeaCentre (Blu-ray). Both have large-ish, bright widescreen displays, though only the Lenovo has the screen resolution to support the "true 1080p" that Blu-ray touts: 1,920 by 1,080 screen resolution. The Dell Studio One 19's 19-inch screen is a little smaller, but Blu-ray movies still look good on it. Windows Vista Home Premium (and presumably the Windows 7 analogue) has Media Center built-in, which interfaces with TV tuners and some online TV and movie services. Between these pay services like Amazon Video on Demand and ad-supported streaming services like Hulu and YouTube, you could almost replace the TV in your den, bedroom, kitchen, or home office.

The difference between all-in-one "desktops" and all-in-one "nettops" are similar to the divide between laptops and netbooks: usually in price and in the processor. The processor in nettops and netbooks are usually Intel Atom processors, though Via Nano processors also show up in netbooks. Atom and similar processors are certainly enough for most web pages, including web videos, though lower powered Atom processors and their associated integrated graphics will be overtaxed by 1080p HD Web video. If you need to do multimedia tasks like editing photos or transcoding videos, look for a more powerful desktop with an Athlon X2, Athlon X4, Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad processor. Nvidia GeForce 9400 graphics are usually enough to run 3D games, but for a fuller gaming experience, look for higher powered GPUs like the Nvidia GT 130 or ATI Radeon HD 3650. Intel integrated graphics like GMA 3100 or GMA 950 is usually only good for Web use and light video playback.
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