All-in-one PCs are the domain of the novice, the hotel business nook, or the interior decorator who can’t stomach seeing a “real” PC in a pristine living room. With the exception of the iMac, they were seen as boring, underpowered boxes with laptop components stuffed behind a cheap screen. But that’s changing.
It’s true that all-in-one machines are mostly cheap and simple, but the form factor has been undergoing a quiet revolution for the last couple of years. While Apple has been comfortable to trim dimensions and call it a day, manufacturers like Microsoft, Lenovo, HP, and others are filling the space with new and exciting designs. You should really check some of these models out before making your next desktop purchase.
Microsoft Surface Studio
The first desktop machine from Microsoft’s self-branded hardware initiative, the Surface Studio is surely the poster child for this new generation of all-in-one machines. Combining a 28-inch touch screen, a fold-down artist’s easel hinge, and the much-praised Surface Pen from the tablet line, the Studio makes a compelling argument for Windows as an artist’s platform. Prices start high and go higher, but with a GTX 965 graphics card and an optional 980 upgrade, the all-in-one can also double as a competent gaming machine (albeit a not-very-upgradeable one).
The $3000 starting price (with a rather paltry 8GB of RAM, no less) and slightly older Intel processors are two bummers in an otherwise amazing hardware package. Ditto for the unique Surface Dial: this rotating wireless tool can be placed directly on the screen for digital manipulation, but it’s a separate $100 purchase and currently limited to only a few applications. Even so, for those who want the absolute cutting edge in desktop design, the Surface Studio might be worth its steep asking price.
The Envy series has long been HP’s showcase for its more bombastic designs, and the latest all-in-one machines to wear the badge are no exception. These desktops combine huge, small-bezel displays with a horizontal component body that integrates a quad-speaker Bang & Olufsen soundbar. At a glance, the design looks like a high-end home theater setup that’s been shrunk down to desktop size, and that’s basically what it is, with a mid-range Windows machine crammed into the package.
The latest Envy designs are also surprisingly affordable, considering their displays. The base configuration for the massive 34-inch model starts at around $1800, though those who want more RAM, a bigger SSD+HDD combo, and a more capable graphics card can spend a bit more. The Envy design also comes in 24-inch and 27-inch versions, some of which offer touch screens, which isn’t an option on the largest version.
Digital Storm Aura, CyberPower PC Arcus, and Origin Omni
Even among these next-gen designs, gamers looking for truly high-end graphics can find their options a bit limited, thanks to the tight packages and non-upgradable components. Boutique PC makers are getting around that by cramming a full desktop into a 34-inch ultrawide monitor, in three separate products that seem to come from the same OEM supplier: the Digital Storm Aura, the CyberPower PC Arcus, and the Origin Omni. Slip off the back cover and you’ll be able to swap out every component, including a massive full-size PCIe desktop graphics card, RAM DIMM slots, SSD and HDD storage bays, and yes, even the desktop-class Intel processor and Mini-ITX motherboard.
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