All-In-One Review Roundup

Michael Brown

Five all-in-one PCs go head-to-head

We know what you’re thinking. Why is Maximum PC dedicating precious time doing another roundup of all-in-one PCs? You’d never buy one of these machines as your primary computer, right? Right. We’d never be satisfied with just an all-in-one, either. But we can’t think of a better second computer.

Sure, you could retire an older PC to the kitchen or family room. Or you could carry a notebook or tablet from room to room. But it’s hard to overstate the convenience of an all-in-one: There’s only one device taking up space on your desk; it has the same footprint as a monitor; you need just a single power outlet; it’s always there when you need it; and unlike a notebook or tablet, you’ll never need to hunt it down only to discover that it has a dead battery.

We’re not ignoring the drawbacks of nearly all consumer all-in-ones. They’re difficult, if not impossible to upgrade; and they generally suck for hardcore gaming, because most depend on mobile GPUs at best, and integrated graphics at worst. But this class of machine is definitely on an upswing. In fact, the market research firm IHS recently forecast that AiO sales will grow by a blistering 20 percent this year, while sales of conventional desktops will post an anemic gain of just .2 percent.

With that kind of growth, we weren’t surprised that Asus , Dell , Gateway , HP , and Sony all sent us machines for this story. We reviewed each one with three criteria in mind: First, is it sufficiently powerful and feature-rich to tempt us into trading in a conventional desktop PC? If it didn’t rise to that level, would it a make a good second PC for a Maximum PC reader? And finally, did it exhibit a price/performance ratio that renders it worthy of a recommendation to friends and relatives looking for an all-around family PC?

Asus ET2701INKI-B046C

Just the right balance

Asus takes the price/performance crown in this roundup. The company’s ET2701 all-in-one can’t match the audacious display built into Dell’s XPS One 27 , and it doesn’t have a fast SSD to supplement its 2TB hard drive, like the Dell; but many of the other components inside the ET2701 are exactly the same as what you’ll get with the XPS One. And the ET2701 costs $500 less.

The IPS display inside the Asus ET2701 is so beautiful you’ll quickly forget that its maximum resolution is just 1920x1080 pixels.

Both machines have the same CPU and GPU—Intel’s Core i7-3770S and Nvidia’s GeForce GT 640M , respectively—but Asus outfits its machine with a 27-inch display that’s limited to 1920x1080 resolution, while Dell goes the extra mile with a 27-inch display that’s capable of 2560x1440 resolution.

The ET2701 scored first place in our ProShow Producer and Adobe Premiere tests, although the Dell was faster in the three others. But if you think you’ll be watching movies on its tray-mount Blu-ray player/DVD burner and surfing the web more than performing precision edits on digital photos, the ET2701 will make you very happy. The LED-backlit IPS display isn’t a touchscreen (none of the large all-in-ones we tested are), but it is absolutely gorgeous, with bright, vibrant colors and generous off-axis viewing angles.

A door on the left side of the machine flips open to reveal a memory card reader, two USB 3.0 ports, one combo USB 2.0/eSATA port (a unique feature in this roundup), a mic input, a headphone out, and a subwoofer out. We appreciate doors that hide ugly elements like I/O ports, but Asus didn’t think to include a cable cutout so you could close the door while a cable is plugged in—the door just hangs open and the cables spill out like spaghetti.

Asus provides a miniature, powered subwoofer with the PC. It’s the only one that will work with the system, because it draws power over the same cable that carries the audio signal from the PC. The speakers built into the ET2701 are good, but not great, so the sub is a welcome addition. But the combo doesn’t put out enough sound to fill even a small room—especially one with a lot of background noise, such as a kitchen.

We were surprised to find a VGA input on the Asus ET2701’s back panel.

Each of the all-in-ones in this roundup is equipped with an HDMI input, which is great when you want to connect a cable or satellite set-top box or a videogame console to the display. You can set up the ET2701 so that its display and HDMI input remain active even when the PC is shut down. Asus doesn’t offer a TV tuner with the ET2701 in the North American market, which isn’t a big loss, and it doesn’t provide a remote control, either.

Bottom line: The Asus ET2701 is a great all-in-one computer that offers exceptional value.

Specifications
CPU 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-3770S
GPU Nvidia GeForce GT 640M
RAM
8GB DDR3/1600
HDD
2TB (7,200rpm)
Optical Blu-ray player/DVD burner
Display 27-inch LED‑backlit IPS LCD 1920x1080 (non-touch)
Asus ET2701INKI-B046C
Inky

Gorgeous display, fast components, and an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port.

Hinky

Cheap, sloppy keyboard; no TV tuner option; no remote.

$1,500, www.asus.com

Dell XPS One 27

My God! It’s full of stars!

OK, our first look at the Dell XPS One ’s stunning display didn’t leave us quite as flabbergasted as astronaut David Bowman staring into the monolith at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey . But the absolutely gorgeous Samsung PLS panel—with its 2560x1440 native resolution—did leave us a bit slack-jawed. The XPS One’s $2,000 price tag might have contributed to that reaction, too; then again, a 27-inch Samsung Series 9 display built using the same panel costs $1,200 all by itself.

Dell’s XPS One 27 is a gorgeous computer. You’ll have to decide if it’s $2,000 worth of gorgeous.

The display and a host of other features account for the $500 price difference between the XPS One and the Asus ET2701, but the CPU, GPU, and memory aren’t among them. Both machines ship with a Core i7-3770S, an Nvidia GeForce GT 640M, and 8GB of DDR3/1600. Dell and Asus split the benchmark wins, with the Asus taking first place in two of the five benchmarks and the Dell winning in the three others.

The XPS One’s other features include an integrated TV tuner, a remote control, and a vastly superior wireless keyboard. Dell also bundles facial-recognition software from Sensible Vision that you can use in place of typed passwords to log on to the computer and into websites. Once you’ve established your credentials—and your face—with the software, the computer will automatically log you out when you move away from the PC, and automatically log you back in when you return. We’ve seen facial-recognition technology like this before, but it’s never worked this fast. The system routinely logged us in within five seconds of sitting in front of the camera—and it took even less time to log us out when we moved out of the camera’s field of view.

The XPS One is the only machine in our roundup to provide USB 3.0 ports, exclusively: two on the left side and four in the back. The rear I/O panel also features both an HDMI input and an HDMI output, so you can run a second monitor. The speakers get plenty loud to compete with environmental background noise, but there’s a S/PDIF digital audio output if you want to connect powered speakers that have a DAC.

A media card reader, mic input, and headphone output are also on the left-hand side. There’s a slot-feed Blu-ray player/DVD burner on the right-hand side, but it lacks an eject button. That’s aesthetically pleasing, but it’s silly to make the user rely on software to eject a disc. The power button is also on the right side, which is the next best place to put it. Asus was the only manufacturer that put the power button in front, where you can see it easily and not accidentally press it while you’re repositioning the computer.

Dell hits all the right notes with this design: In our book, the XPS One 27 fully justifies its lofty price tag.

Specifications
CPU 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-3770S
GPU Nvidia GeForce GT 640M
RAM
8GB DDR3/1600
HDD
2TB (7,200rpm); 32GB SSD
Optical Blu-ray player/DVD burner
Display 27-inch LED‑backlit PLS LCD 2560x1440 (non-touch)
Dell XPS One 27
Trains

Super high-resolution display;HDMI and S/PDIF out; 32GB SSD.

Buses

PC must be powered on to use its HDMI input and to charge connected USB devices.

$2,000, www.dell.com

Gateway ZX6971- UR10P

A modest PC with a modest price tag

Gateway lists no fewer than 13 all-in-one models on its website, and this model with a dual-core CPU, integrated graphics, and twisted nematic LCD is its top offering. If the PCs in this roundup were playing football, the Gateway would be the water boy. But if all you need in a family PC is a machine for web browsing, email, productivity, and watching DVDs, this might be all you need.

The ZX6971-UR10P is outfitted with a Core i3-2120, a dual-coreSandy Bridge chip that runs at a respectable clip of 3.3GHz. This is the only contender in the roundup to rely on integrated graphics, but Gateway does provide abundant memory: 6GB of DDR3/1333. As you’ve probably guessed, the Gateway trailed the field by a wide margin in benchmark results, while 3DMark 11 and Metro 2033 wouldn’t run at all.

Gateway’s ZX6971-UR10P is a very basic touchscreen PC with a price tag that won’t induce sticker shock.

The Gateway and the Sony have the smallest screens in this roundup(23- and 24 inches, respectively),but they’re also the only touchscreen models. The Gateway is an easel-style form factor, with a broad rear foot that slides backwards to adjust the angle of the display as you push down on the top of its bezel. There’s a media card reader, a mic input, a headphone output, and two USB 3.0 ports on the left side of the machine. One of these ports can charge a USB device, such as a phone or music player, even when the computer is powered off.

There’s a tray-mount DVD player/burner (no Blu-ray) on the right side, and there’s a good ol’ fashioned eject button right next to it. You’ll find the switch for toggling between PC and HDMI display modes right below this, and a second button that toggles an LED that illuminates the Gateway “cow box” logo.

What you won’t find anywhere on the chassis is a freakin’ volume control!You can use the keyboard or the mouse to adjust the volume in PC mode, but you get a fixed level when you’re using the HDMI input and the display alone.

Compounding the problem is an onboard amplifier that’s so anemic we had to connect a pair of self-powered speakers to the computer when we plugged our satellite TV set-top box into its rear-panel HDMI input. On the bright side, you don’t need to fire up the entire PC just to use the monitor.

You can use Gateway as an HDMI display even while the PC remains powered off.

Gateway’s Touch Portal is a suite of of apps optimized for a touchscreen, including a web browser, a music player, a video player, a slideshow program, a web camera utility, and a copy of Cooliris. Gateway also provides a very cool remote control. There’s a basic Media Center remote on one side; flip it over, and you get a miniature QWERTY keyboard very much like the one that D-Link ships with its Boxee Box. Unfortunately, the remote has no control over the volume when you’re using only the HDMI input.

The Gateway ZX6971-UR10P isn’t the most exciting all-in-one we’ve laid hands on, but it’s priced right.

Specifications
CPU 3.3GHz Intel Core i3-2120
GPU Integrated
RAM
6GB DDR/1333
HDD
1TB (7,200rpm)
Optical DVD player/burner
Display 23-inch LED backlit TN LCD 1920x1080 (touchscreen)
Dell XPS One 27
Boating

Affordable; cool remote control.

Boat maintenance

No volume control in HDMI mode; 5,400rpm hard drive.

$800, www.gateway.com

HP Omni 27-1015t

Has HP lost its touch?

We used to get excited when HP would send us its latest all-in-one. Each new model seemed to add some cool innovation or new feature that no other manufacturer had. The Omni 27-1015t has us wondering if the all-in-one pioneer has tired of pushing the envelope.

HP needs to move the power button off the top of its all-in-one PCs; it’s too easy to accidently turn the machine off while adjusting the angle of the display.

Sure, this new model has a slightly faster CPU, a better GPU, a bigger hard drive, and faster memory than the last HP all-in-one we tested (you can read our review of HP’s Omni 27 Quad here ), but simply reaching into a new parts bin isn’t innovating. Visit HP’s website, and you’ll see the Omni 27-1015t selling for $1,250. You can customize the machine you buy, however, and the computer that HP sent for review was pumped up with a faster CPU (an Intel Core i5-3550S), more memory (8GB of DDR3/1600), a faster videocard (an AMD Radeon HD 7650A), and a higher-capacity hard drive.

This bumped the price tag to $1,470, which puts it just $30 below the price tag of the Core i7-3770S-poweredAsus ET2701. In addition to a superiorCPU, Asus puts a Blu-ray drive in its machine, where HP cheaps out with a simple DVD burner. Both machines include an LED-backlit IPS LCD panel (neither are touchscreens).

In terms of benchmark performance, the Omni 27-1015t proved to be considerably faster than the relatively weak Gateway and roughly on par with the Sony L series, but it trailed the Asus and Dell machines by considerable margins.

In most other respects, the Omni 27-1015t is a carbon copy of the Omni 27 Quad. On the machine’s left-hand side, you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports, a mic input, a headphone output, and a media card reader. There’s a slot-feed DVD player/burner on the right-hand side (with an eject button), along with buttons for volume control and for switching between PC and HDMI modes.

The HDMI input is also located on the right-hand side, but HP would be wise to follow the rest of the industry in moving this port to the back of the machine so the cable can be hidden. And for the love of Pete, when your engineers design the next model, force them to provide an easier means of controlling the volume when the machine is in HDMI mode. As we noted in our review of the Omni Quad, it takes 14 button presses to bring the volume from 100 percent to zero.

We dig HDMI inputs on all-in-one computers, but the port should be back here with the rest of the I/O ports.

The Omni 27-1015t’s back panel hosts four USB 2.0 ports, line-level RCA outputs for powered speakers, and a subwoofer output. HP sells a pretty good powered subwoofer—the $130 HP Pulse—but you can plug any powered sub into this jack.

If you don’t need an all-in-one as powerful as what Asus is offering, we’d recommend stepping down to the Gateway. The price/performance ratio of HP’s Omni 27-1015t is just too out of whack for us to recommend as an in-between compromise.

Specifications
CPU 3.0GHz Intel Core i5-3550S
GPU AMD Radeon HD 6550A
RAM
8GB DDR3/1600
HDD
2TB (7,200rpm)
Optical DVD player/burner
Display 27-inch LED‑backlit IPS LCD 1920x1080 (non-touch)
Dell XPS One 27
Pioneer

IPS panel; HP’s Magic Canvas.

Pillager

Expensive; gimpy volume control in HDMI mode; no Blu-ray drive.

$1,470, www.hp.com

Sony VAIO L-Series (Model SVL24116FXB)

Sony introduces a number of cool innovations with its latest generation of VAIO L-Series all-in-ones, but the company exacts a hefty premium from those who want the best the company has to offer. This model SVL24116FXB costs $200 more than the Asus, but is outfitted with a slower CPU, a smaller display, a lesser videocard, and a smaller hard drive.

Sony declined to say if its 24-inch touchscreen panel is based on TN or IPS technology, but we can tell you it isn’t nearly as bright and vibrant as either the Asus or the Dell.

Sony’s most important innovation is its capacitive touchscreen that recognizes not just two, but 10 touch points. As such, this will be one of the few current-generation computers that will meet the Windows 8 requirement for touchscreens to recognize a minimum of five touch points. What’s more, the computer can use its built-in webcam to respond to physical gestures even without the touchscreen.

While listening to music, for instance, you can adjust the volume by pointing your index finger at the computer’s camera and drawing a circle in the air: A clockwise spin turns the volume up, and a counterclockwise movement turns it down. If you’re watching a slideshow, waving your hand from left to right advances to the next photo, while moving it from right to left moves back to the previous slide. It’s a bit of a gimmick now, but we predict it’s a feature we’ll come to expect over time.

Other unique features we’d like to see every all-in-one manufacturercopy include a picture-in-picture mode that lets you use the full Windows 7 desktop while video from the HDMI input streams to a small window in a corner. This allows you to watch TV and use the web at the same time. There’s also a picture-and-picture mode that splits the screen vertically and places a window for the HDMI input alongside a Windows 7 window. These features would be even better if you swap either to full-screen mode without losing sound from the HDMI input (so you could focus on the web during commercial breaks and switch back to the windowed view when they’re finished).

Sony is one of the few all-in-one manufacturers still providing a TV tuner by default. The Vaio L Series also provides both an HDMI input and an output.

Unlike the Asus, the Sony has an integrated TV tuner, and you don’t need to fire up the PC to use it, to use the display with an HDMI source, or even to use a web browser. There’s a Core i7 CPU under the hood, but it’s a Core i7-3610QM that doesn’t include Intel’s more advanced virtualization technologies (vPro and VT-d) or Intel’s demand-based switching technology. The Vaio’s Nvidia GeForce GT 620M videocard is also a step behind what Asus, Dell, and HP have to offer.

Sony’s Vaio L-Series model SVL24116FXB brings some impressive innovations to the all-in-one market, but we don’t think they’re worth a $200 premium over the much more powerful Asus ET2701 with its larger, better-looking display.

Specifications
CPU 2.3GHz Core i7-3610QM
GPU Nvidia GeForce GT 620M
RAM
8GB DDR3/1600
HDD
1TB (5,400rpm)
Optical Blu-ray player/DVD burner
Display 24-inch LED backlit LCD 1920x1080 touchscreen
Sony Vaio L-Series (Model SVL24116FXB)
Viable

10-point touchscreen; gesture recognition; PiP and P&P modes.

Impossible

Expensive; lesser CPU, GPU, and hard drive than the cheaper Asus.

$1,700, www.sony.com

Click the next page for the conclusion and benchmarks

Who’s the Fairest of them All?

Can any of the latest all-in-one machines lure us away from a conventional desktop?

The all-in-one market has grown and changed for the better this year, thanks in large measure to efforts by Asus and Dell to push the envelope. Sony also deserves a measure of credit for introducing picture-in-picture, picture-and-picture, and gesture‑recognition innovations (even if its Vaio L Series trails the pack in terms of price/performance ratio). But can any of these contestants tempt a hard-bitten PC enthusiast into giving up separate boxes?

Dell comes close with its new XPS One, especially the configuration reviewed here. We can’t overstate the beauty of that gorgeous Samsung PLS panel. The display might not satisfy a professional photographer or illustrator, but games, movies, and websites look fantastic, and it delivers higher resolution than most of us are using today (this review was written using a Dell U2410, with native resolution of 1920x1200). Plus, it’s the only machine in the roundup to include an SSD, albeit a small one.

The Asus ET2701, on the other hand, delivers the best bang for the buck. Yes, its IPS panel has native resolution of only 1920x1080, but it costs a full $500 less than the Dell, and the rest of its most critical infrastructure—CPU, GPU, memory, and mechanical hard drive—is exactly the same. (But if you decide to buy one, don’t bother unpacking the keyboard—it well and truly sucks.) If you—or your friends and family, if they’re looking for your recommendation—have the budget, this is the machine to buy.

But not everyone has that much cash to throw down for a new PC, so what do we recommend for smaller budgets? Certainly not the HP Omni 27—it’s nearly as expensive as the Asus, but it’s not nearly as good a value. The same goes for the Sony Vaio L Series, although we applaud the company for introducing new features into the market. That leaves Gateway’s little engine that could. The ZX6971-UR10P is nothing to brag about, but for those who need a simple productivity machine that can double as a display for a set-top box or a gaming console, it’s the machine we’d recommend.

Benchmarks Compared

HP Omni 27 Quad (Zero‑Point) Asus ET2701INKI- B046C
Dell XPS One 27 Gateway ZX6971-UR10P HP Omni 27-1015t Sony Vaio L Series Model SVL24116FXB
3DMark 11
DNT P1,937 P1,967 WNR P,1145 P,1103
Metro 2033 (fps)
9.3 29 34 WNR 17.3 19.0
Adobe Premiere (sec)
574 404 413 740 428 451
MainConcept (sec)
1,341
919 906 1,602 1,011 1,026
ProShow Producer (sec) 652 486 487 920 534 531

Best scores are bolded. DNT = Did not test; WNR = Would not run.

Specifications Compared

HP Omni 27 Quad (Zero‑Point)
Asus ET2701INKI- B046C
Dell XPS One 27
Gateway ZX6971- UR10P HP Omni 27-1015t Sony VAIO L Series Model SVL24116FXB
Price
$1,250 $1,500 $2,000 $800 $1,470 $1,700
CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2400S 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-3770S 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-3770S 3.3GHz Intel Core i3-2120 3.0GHz Intel Core i5-3550S 2.3GHz Core i7-3610QM
GPU Integrated Nvidia GeForce GT 640M Nvidia GeForce GT 640M Integrated AMD Radeon HD 6550A Nvidia GeForce GT 620M
RAM
8GB DDR3/1333 8GB DDR3/1600 8GB DDR3/1600 6GB DDR/1333 8GB DDR3/1600 8GB DDR3/1600
HDD 1TB (7,200rpm) 2TB (7,200rpm) 2TB (7,200rpm) 1TB (7,200rpm) 2TB (7,200rpm) 1TB (5,400rpm)
Optical Blu-ray player/DVD burner Blu-ray player/DVD burner Blu-ray player/DVD burner DVD player/burner DVD player/burner Blu-ray player/DVD burner
Display 27-inch LED‑backlit IPS LCD 1920x1080 (non touch) 27-inch LED‑backlit IPS LCD 1920x1080 (non-touch) 27-inch LED‑backlit PLS LCD 2560x1440 (non-touch) 23-inch LED‑backlit TN LCD 1920x1080 (touchscreen) 27-inch LED‑backlit IPS LCD 1920x1080 (non-touch) 24-inch LED‑backlit LCD 1920x1080 touchscreen

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