All-in-One (AIO) PCs

All-in-one PCs, also known as all-in-one desktops, integrate the computer case and system components into the monitor so that the entire PC is contained all in one unit. All-in-one (AIO) desktop PCs offer the advantage of a smaller form factor than desktop PCs, but they often come with several drawbacks as well, including higher cost, weaker performance and limited upgrade options.[1]

The Origins of All-in-One (AIO) PCs[2]
An all-in-one computer integrates the system's internal components into the same case as the display, thus occupying a smaller footprint (with fewer cables) than desktops that incorporate a tower. The all-in-one form factor was popular during the early 1980s for computers intended for professional use such as the Kaypro II, Osborne 1, TRS-80 Model II and Compaq Portable. Many manufacturers of home computers like Commodore and Atari included the computer's motherboard into the same enclosure as the keyboard; these systems were most often connected to a television set for display. Apple has manufactured several popular examples of all-in-one computers, such as the original Macintosh of the mid-1980s and the iMac of the late 1990s and 2000s. Some all-in-one desktops, such as the iMac G4, have used laptop components in order to reduce the size of the system case. By the mid 2000s, many all-in-one designs have used flat panel displays, and later models have incorporated touchscreen displays, allowing them to be used similarly to a mobile tablet. Like laptops, some all-in-one desktop computers are characterized by an inability to customize or upgrade internal components, as the systems' cases do not provide convenient access to upgradable components, and faults in certain aspects of the hardware may require the entire computer to be replaced, regardless of the health of its remaining components. There have been exceptions to this; the monitor portion of HP's Z1 workstation can be angled flat, and opened like a vehicle hood for access to internal hardware.

Advantages and Disadvantages of All in One PCs[3]

  • Advantages of All in One PCs
    • The main advantage of an all in one computer is that it occupies a lot lesser space than a desktop computer.
    • Most of the all in one PCs of today are elegant units and there is a style factor and pride attached to the ownership of the same.
    • Also, since the number of cables are lot lesser, the electric wiring and plug point need is less too. Needless to add, fewer wires mean less mess.
    • Modern all-in-one PCs also boast multi touch display taking cues from the tablets thereby making their user experience much more enjoyable. Check out this HP TouchSmart All-in-One, for example.
    • Yet another advantage of all-in-ones is that they are easy to relocate as they usually have a handle to carry them around.
  • Disadvantages of All in One PCs
    • All-in-One desktops though look cool, have a few disadvantages attached to them too. The main disadvantage is the pricing itself. Most all in one PCs are costlier than their regular desktop counterparts where as they are less powerful than desktop PCs in terms of processing speed, graphics capabilities etc.
    • Upgrading and customizing options for all-in-one PCs are usually limited and mainly restricted to RAM upgrade etc. Also, it is not easy to tweak such computers and hence they are not a good choice for those who like to tweak and overclock their computers. Recent all in one PCs, though, have started focusing on the upgradability aspects.
    • Self-repairing an all-in-one PC is close to impossible where as a regular desktop is a lot more modularized and with some experience you can replace the damaged parts yourself. At this point, I should also mention that the spares and service cost may be on the higher side for all-in-one desktops.

All-In-One vs. Desktop PCs[4]
All-in-one computers are really just a style of desktop computer system. They still have the same requirements in terms of features and function. The only difference is the number of components. All-in-ones have a single box that is the display and computer versus the desktop that is comprised of the computer case plus a separate monitor. This gives the all-in-one computer system a smaller overall profile than a desktop computer system. One might counter by bringing up whether it's worth getting the latest small form factor computers such as the Apple Mac Mini. These new class of extremely small computers that can easily sit beneath or behind a standard desktop display. The all-in-one PC still has an advantage over these systems in the number of required cables. Since the monitor is integrated into the system, there is not a need for a monitor cable or separate display power cord. This reduces the clutter on, underneath or behind a desk. Buying a desktop does have some distinct advantages over an all-in-one PC though. Due to their small sizes and need for lower power and less heat generating components, many all-in-one PCs feature mobile designed components including processors, memory and drives. All of these help make the all-in-one small but they also hinder the overall performance of the system. Typically these laptop components will not perform as well as a traditional desktop. Of course for the average user, many of these low powered mobile components will often prove to be fast enough. Another issue that all-in-one computers have is their upgradability. While most desktop computer cases can be easily opened by the consumer to install replacements or upgrades, all-in-one systems tend to restrict access to the components due to their small nature. This typically only limits the systems to having their memory upgraded. With the rise of high speed external peripheral connectors such as USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, internal upgrade options are not as critical as they once were but still still make a huge difference when it comes to some components such as the graphics processor although external graphics units could change this.

All-In-Ones vs. Laptops[5]
One of the primary reasons for the all-in-one PC is to conserve space over a desktop computer, but laptops have advanced tremendously over the past couple of years. They have advanced so much that comparing them to an all-in-one is almost one sided. Because many all-in-one PCs use all the same components as a laptops, the performance levels are pretty much identical between the two types of computers. The only really compelling advantage that a all-in-one PC might hold is the size of the screen. While all-in-one PCs generally come with screen sizes between 20 and 27 inches, laptops are still generally restricted to 17-inch and smaller displays.The all-in-one is smaller than a traditional desktop, but it still is tethered to a desktop space. Laptops have the ability to be moved between locations and even used away from any power on their battery packs. This makes them much more flexible than the all-in-one. There are a few new tablet style all-in-one systems that feature built-in touch screens and batteries so that they can be used away from power cords but their running times are generally less than that of a laptop. The one area that all-in-one systems used to have a huge advantage over laptops was in price. Thanks to technologic advancements, the tables are pretty much almost turned. There are a number of laptop computers that can be found for under $500.. The typical all-in-one system now costs roughly $750 or more.


  1. What are All-in-One (AIO) PCs? Webopedia
  2. The Origins of All-in-One (AIO) PCs Wikipedia
  3. Advantages and Disadvantages of All in One PCs Justin Weiger
  4. All-In-One vs. Desktop PCs Mark Kyrnin
  5. All-In-Ones vs. Laptops LifeWire

Further Reading