All-in-one computers (AIOs) are becoming increasingly popular because they offer all you need in a single, ready-to-start package.
At first glance, they offer the best of both worlds.
They need less space than regular PCs and have a bigger screen than a 17-inch laptop.
Are they suitable substitutes for standard desktop PCs and laptops?
Are All-In-One Computers Good?
Whether an all-in-one computer is good for you depends on what you expect.
If you want a slim PC for everyday use, such as browsing the web, AIOs are an excellent option.
As all-in-ones are easy to set up, you can put a sleek device on your desk, plug it in, and start working.
However, if you need a high-end PC for demanding applications or you want the option of upgrading your computer, an all-in-one might not be a good choice.
Let’s unpack what that means.
All-in-one computers have the entire computer system built into one main component, typically on a base that mounts the monitor or behind the screen.
They have their monitor and all other components and ports packed into a single unit, so they take up less space than desktop computers.
Some all-in-one PCs come with a wireless keyboard and mouse, so there won’t be a mass of cables on your desk.
Some have touch screens that minimize the need for a mouse and keyboard and are convenient for artists.
They come in different styles with impressive features, ranging from full HD displays and 1080p touchscreen to high-end Intel Core i7 and i9 processors.
Although their compact design is very convenient, you won’t have a case you can open to swap the components out.
Therefore, you don’t get many opportunities to customize your setup.
Moreover, AIOs have laptop-grade components, meaning they compromise on power and heat efficiency to save space.
Still, they’re not as portable as laptops.
They’re also more expensive than traditional desktop PCs and are harder to repair.
With that brief explanation, let’s discuss the pros and cons of all-in-one computers.
All-in-one computers are somewhere between a standard desktop PC and a laptop, and they’re becoming increasingly popular both in home areas and work offices.
Some of the reasons for choosing an AIO include:
1. They Take Up Less Space
People mostly choose all-in-ones with size in mind.
These computers have become so slim that you could mistake one for a standard monitor.
All the hardware it needs to run is enclosed inside it.
Traditional desktop PCs are larger, partly because their cases have empty space.
This space helps you access parts and upgrade components, but it goes to waste when you don’t want to add extras.
An all-in-one makes the most use of its space to create a more compact design, so it doesn’t have this wasted space.
The sleek design means you won’t have a tower and some peripherals taking up half your desk space.
In addition, many AIOs have a wireless keyboard and mouse.
There’s only one power cable on your desk instead of a clutter of wires connecting peripherals.
This feature is especially important in offices where you must impress customers with a nice, tidy space.
2. They’re Easier To Transport
People don’t usually move traditional desktop PCs a lot because transporting a tower, monitor, cables, and peripherals is a bit of a hassle.
Also, standard desktop PCs aren’t easy to set up, so you might need professional help.
All-in-one specifications are a combination of what you can find in a desktop PC and a laptop.
They weigh as little as 12 lbs, so you won’t need help moving them.
Plus, they consist of a single unit, a keyboard, and a mouse.
If you have an AIO with a touchscreen, you can choose not to move the peripherals.
Therefore, if you have to redecorate or move to another location, the convenience of an AIO is unbeatable.
Although all-in-one PCs are easier to transport than standard desktop PCs, you should go for a laptop if you’re more on the move than in one place.
3. They Look Great
AIOs come with more aesthetically pleasing designs than most traditional desktop computers.
They have a minimalistic look that gives your workspace a sleek modern look.
Also, the lack of cables means you’ll have a clutter-free space that’s easier to work in and improves productivity.
4. They’re Easier To Set Up
If you’re unfamiliar with how PCs work or want to get your first PC, getting an all-in-one might be the best option.
All-in-ones mostly have three pieces: a monitor with all the required hardware, a keyboard, and a mouse.
All the necessary hardware is enclosed in one central unit.
Therefore, going from unpacking to using takes only a few minutes, even with limited computer knowledge.
All you need to do is to plug the device into an outlet and hit the power button.
Setting up a pre-built desktop PC isn’t that hard either, but you still have to plug in a few cables and peripherals.
Unfortunately, this convenience comes at a cost as your device isn’t upgradable and is harder to repair.
5. They Don’t Need A Monitor Or Other Peripherals
All-in-one computers have all the hardware packed into one main unit, typically behind the screen or on a base that holds the monitor.
Therefore, you won’t need to buy a separate monitor or peripherals.
When you buy an AIO, it generally comes with a keyboard and a mouse inside the box.
You can just unpack it, plug it in and start to use it.
6. They Have A Touchscreen
You won’t need a laptop or tablet to get the touchscreen experience.
Some all-in-one computers come with features you won’t normally see on PCs, including touch screens.
Some even have multi-touch screens allowing you to manipulate the screen with rotate, pinch, and scroll two-finger commands like tablets.
The touch screen feature lets you put your wireless keyboard and mouse aside and get hands-on with your project.
This feature is especially desirable for digital artists, especially if you get an all-in-one with pen support like the Microsoft Surface Studio.
If you’ve been using a tablet for a long time and want to switch to a more robust PC, an AIO will give you a familiar but more functional experience.
7. They Save On Energy And Maintenance
Switching to an all-in-one computer eliminates the common problems with loud, dusty, power-hungry desktops, especially if you work in a small space.
AIOs often have laptop components, so they tend to be more power-efficient.
They produce less heat than standard desktop PCs, helping you keep your workspace cool.
They’re also easier to clean and maintain because they have fewer ports and openings.
As they draw less power and are easier to clean, it’s easier for AIOs to keep things quiet.
However, as everything is inside a small unit, AIOs are harder to clean if dust gets inside them.
Although AIOs have some appealing benefits and simplify computing into a single, sleek design that gives you a clutter-free space, there are a few downsides to them, including:
1. They’re Not Powerful
Many all-in-one PCs have low-powered drives, processors, memory, and GPUs.
These smaller components generate less heat, making them suitable for the thin design of AIOs with less room for airflow.
Such a design makes AiOs compact but sacrifices the device’s overall performance.
The slim design doesn’t leave much room for the most powerful components.
You can’t get high-performance GPUs from AMD or NVIDIA that’ll give you the best possible gaming experience.
Some all-in-ones are oversized laptops that aren’t as portable and often not as powerful as laptops.
The low-powered chips inside AIOs make them relatively slower than their standard desktop counterparts, even though they’re more expensive.
All-in-ones are usually fast enough for average users, but you might face some speed problems if you’re a PC gamer.
2. They Become Obsolete
Today’s computers last about a few years before they start getting slow.
This period is even shorter with all-in-ones that aren’t mostly cutting-edge at the beginning.
You can upgrade the outdated components in a standard desktop, but most all-in-ones don’t have this option.
Almost every AIO has a ball grid array (BGA) processor.
These chips are permanently attached to the motherboard without the possibility of being removed or replaced.
Although displays and speakers are less affected by advances in technology, they eventually become obsolete.
Technology is advancing fast, and today’s 1080p and 4K displays will soon give way to 8K devices and who knows what else.
Good speakers last longer, but most all-in-ones have mediocre sound from the beginning.
As they’re packed into one unit with other components, they’re also not upgradable.
Therefore, to get a good experience working with a PC or enjoying the latest technologies, you’ll need to change your AiO more regularly than a standard desktop PC or a laptop.
3. They’re Harder To Upgrade
Computer hardware is constantly improving, so even those devices that come with cutting-edge components will soon be outdated.
As computers are mostly expensive, you expect them to be upgradable.
In standard desktop PCs, you can easily open up the tower, remove the outdated hardware and insert a new one.
However, all-in-ones have all their components packed in one piece and aren’t generally upgradable.
Most all-in-ones have upgradable RAM and hard drives, but even here, the options are limited.
You can usually insert two RAM modules and one hard drive in these devices, but the slots are already filled.
To upgrade, you’ll have to replace these components entirely with special pieces that fit exactly, which is harder and more expensive than adding extra components to a tower setup.
Also, as the case is within the monitor, you won’t be able to do it without professional help.
Even the most talented computer repair experts can’t override the space problems inherent to all-in-ones.
However, high-speed external peripheral connectors, such as Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 make internal upgrades less critical.
The problem remains with components like the graphic processor.
4. They Aren’t Customizable
All-in-one computers ship as a whole, and you can’t customize them according to your requirements.
With standard desktop computers, you can take each component from a different manufacturer and put them together to build your ideal computer.
However, with all-in-ones, you can’t even take a monitor from another manufacturer as the case is inside the monitor, along with all the other hardware your PC needs to run.
You can still pair keyboards and mice from other brands with your all-in-one.
5. They Have Fewer Cutting-Edge Features
All-in-ones have limited upgrade capabilities.
You’re often stuck with what they come with and won’t have the cutting-edge, high-tech features that regularly come to the market.
Standard desktop PCs have a case that you can open up as regularly as you want and replace components or add extras.
In contrast, AIOs come with everything packed in one unit, with little room for replacement and almost no room for additionals.
Therefore, to enjoy the most up-to-date features in your all-in-one, you’ll have to upgrade to a brand-new device.
Also, limitations in space mean most AiOs can’t have the high-end components used in powerful desktop PCs as they tend to generate heat, and AiOs have little space for airflow.
6. They’re More Expensive
All-in-ones are put together and branded by a specific company.
Therefore, they’re usually more expensive than a standard desktop PC with the same performance and quality.
With tower desktops, you can buy separate pieces, assemble them to have a customized PC, and save money.
Assembling a PC requires professional knowledge and might not be a good idea for the average user.
Also, with traditional desktop PCs, you won’t get the sleek, futuristic look of an AiO.
If the form factor isn’t your priority, a tower desktop with a monitor is a better-value approach.
7. They’re Harder And More Expensive To Repair
The initial price isn’t the only expensive aspect of an all-in-one computer.
They’re also costly to repair.
All-in-ones come with all the hardware packed in one small unit, and a lot of the hardware inside is soldered down or unreachable.
Opening that unit and replacing the malfunctioning parts requires professional help, resulting in expensive repair bills.
With some computer knowledge, you can open up your tower desktop and replace the failing component within minutes.
Opening an all-in-one might go against the warranty, and you might still be unable to reach the faulty piece.
Even the most competent repair professionals find it hard to deal with the small space of an all-in-one.
All-in-one components are designed to work together in a limited footprint, so everything will go down when a major component dies.
For example, you can easily replace a non-functioning monitor of a tower PC.
If you break the display of an AIO, you’ll probably have to buy a new AIO and sell the other one for parts.
You might be able to have it replaced, but it’ll take some time, and the cost will be much higher than buying a new monitor.
Wireless adapters, speakers, and ports are other easily replaceable components in tower desktops but not in AIOs.
However, if your all-in-one is of really good quality and you maintain it in good shape, repairs won’t be a problem.
8. They Only Have One Display
Many all-in-ones won’t support a second monitor, so you’ll be stuck with the only screen they’re shipped with.
Also, if that one display doesn’t work, you won’t be able to use your PC until it’s fixed or replaced.
Some AIOs do support additional monitors.
You can hook them up with an external monitor using HDMI, DisplayPort, or VGA ports.
If none are available or the port is intended for input only, you can use a USB Display Adapter to connect multiple additional monitors.
Alternatives To All-In-One Computers
1. Tower Desktop With Internal Bluetooth
If you want to get an all-in-one just to have a tidier space and go cord-free, there’s another option.
You can buy a wireless keyboard and mouse.
These peripherals can connect via Bluetooth if your motherboard supports the technology.
Many of them also come with a 2.4 GHz USB dongle that provides better responsiveness and less interference.
This way, you’ll only have two cords: the power cord and the display cable.
A desktop gives you better performance, is more upgradable, and is less costly to repair than an all-in-one.
2. Laptop Plus A Monitor
Sometimes you prefer a smaller computer than a tower desktop but want a large display.
If you find yourself in this situation, you can use a laptop and connect it to a larger monitor.
A good laptop will give you your required computing power and is more portable than even the lightest all-in-ones.
AIOs sacrifice performance but don’t compensate the owner with maximal portability.
3. Next Unit Of Computing (NUC)
Intel has created a popular computer that fits in your hand but has the power of a full-sized computer.
The NUC was originally designed as a processing package for digital signage but is now in the market for average users.
This palm-sized computer is fully functional and easily fits under your monitor.
Also, repairing and upgrading its parts is less costly than any all-in-one computer.