Tech Tips

Contact Brian Gongol with questions
Return to the main menu of tech tips
Go to Brian Gongol's homepage

Should you get an all-in-one computer?

Answered September 2, 2012

Today's tip is from a listener e-mail. Brett asks, "I'm in the market to replace our old desktop PC. Would you recommend an all-in-one versus a standard tower and monitor?"

I've seen these "all-in-one" computers in stores lately -- they build the computing processor and all of the electronics into the frame surrounding the monitor, much like the iMac once did, but more like a flat-panel monitor. I suppose their main advantage is that they don't take up much real estate on your desk, but beyond that, I'm pretty hard-pressed to see their advantage.

I view an "all-in-one" a lot like the old combination TV/VCRs -- in trying to be a couple of things at once, they're likely to end up not really satisfying any of them very well. If you're in the market for a new computer, I'd ask two basic questions: 1. Are you looking for something to run high-powered graphics, like a lot of online role-playing games? 2. Are you looking for something that you can hot-rod and modify on your own? If you answered "No" to both questions, then I'm hard-pressed to find a reason you shouldn't just buy a laptop.

Competition among the laptop makers is so fierce that there are aisles full of decent new notebooks in many stores available for $500 or less. They're energy-efficient, space-saving, and portable. So unless there's a reason you want a really huge screen or a computer that's going to occupy a ton of real estate on a desk, it probably makes sense for most people to just get a laptop. I'd generally advise tacking on the manufacturer's extended warranty for a couple of years, and then expecting to replace it altogether in three to five years as today's technology slips out of date and is replaced by newer and better things at the same price.