The All-in-One: A Perfect Family Computer
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An all-in-one computer solves a number of problems in my house. First, it's easy to make sure it stays in the family room, so I can monitor the sites the kids are visiting; laptops have a way of disappearing into the kids' rooms. Second, they serve as a second information and entertainment center for everything from homework to games to movies.
With Microsoft's launch of its touch-friendly Windows 8 operating system last week, the all-in-one has become even more attractive as a family PC option. The home screen is now filled with live tiles that show information that's updated in real time, so anyone can see things like weather, calendar appointments and recent photos at a glance without needing to open the application — a huge time-saver in the morning.
The touch interface is also easy for young kids to use, especially those like my four-year old son who has grown up on touchscreen devices. When I unboxed the HP Envy 20-d010t TouchSmart all-in-one I received for testing, he took to it immediately, spending hours playing Agent P Strikes Back, a Perry the Platypus game.
So if you're in the market for a new family computer, check out the recent crop of Windows 8 touchscreen all-in-ones. There are plenty of great all-in-one options to choose from. These are my picks.
Dell Inspiron One 23-inch Touch
It may be a bit bare bones when it comes to style, but the Dell Inspiron One 23-inch represents the best value for an all-in-one touchscreen model ($779.99 on dell.com). It comes with a 23-inch, Full HD, LED-backed touchscreen (1920 x 1080), an entry-level Intel Pentium G645 processor, Intel integrated graphics, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. That's more than enough for word processing, watching videos, editing photos or any other everyday computing task. And if you need more power, the Inspiron One 23-inch is configurable up to a Intel Core i7-3770s, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive ($1,399.99). You can't configure it with a discreet graphics card, something that makes a difference when gaming or editing video.
HP Envy 20-d010t TouchSmart
A step up from the Inspiron One 23" Touch, the HP Envy 20-d010t TouchSmart ($799.99 on hp.com) offers a more attractive design and a few higher-end options. The base model comes with a 20-inch, Full HD, LED-backed touchscreen (1920 x 1080), an Intel Pentium G40 processor, Intel integrated graphics, 2GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. For those looking to play games or edit video, you can opt into a Intel Core i3-3220 processor, 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M discreet graphics card, 8GB RAM, 16MB of SSD cache and a 2TB hard drive ($1,609.99).
Acer Aspire 5600U
Representing a good mid-range value is Acer's 23-inch Aspire 5600U ($999.99 on us.acer.com). It comes loaded with an Intel Core i5-3210m processor, 6GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and Intel integrated graphics. The 23-inch Full HD LED-backed touchscreen (1920 x 1080) reclines up to 80 degrees for easy touchscreen control. Extras include NFC (near field communication) and Bluetooth 4 for easy connectivity to wireless speakers and smartphones.
Sony Vaio Tap 20
The Sony Vaio Tap 20 may be on the pricey side at $999.99 (on sony.com), but it's unique in that it has a built-in battery so you can use it for almost three hours without plugging it in. And its 20-inch touchscreen (1600 x 900) IPS LCD can fold flat for playing board games or watching videos on your lap. The base model comes with an Intel Core i5-3317u processor, Intel integrated graphics, 4GB of RAM and a 750GB hard drive.
Of course, Windows 8 isn't for everyone. Those looking for a computer running Apple's Mac OS X operating system are bound to be happy with the new line of iMac all-in-one computers. Apple has taken an already attractive design and made it exceptionally thin; it's now just 5mm deep at the edges. You can choose from a 21.5-inch Full HD LED-backed LCD (1920 x 1080) or 27-inch (2560 x 1440) IPS LCD display, though no touchscreen option. The base model ($1,299 on apple.com later this month) comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and 512MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 640m graphics card, making it more expensive than similarly configured Windows 8 models.