All-in-One vs. Desktop Computer: Which One is Right for You?

edited August 2023 in PC Tech

Consumer demands for smaller, leaner, and more portable solutions have driven innovation in many industries. Laptops and smartphones today have the capabilities that only the biggest, most powerful computers had decades ago. There are, however, trade-offs to portability and smaller size.

Laptops have mostly replaced traditional desktops for many consumers but they come up short in terms of performance. All-in-one computers have bridged the gap between the portability and ease synonymous with laptops and the power and performance of traditional desktop computers.

It’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both all-in-one computers and traditional desktop computers so you can get the right device for your needs.

What’s an all-in-one computer?

All-in-one computers are similar to traditional desktops but there are a few key differences. Instead of having a tower that connects to a monitor, the all-in-one holds all of its components in one place. Compared to a modern desktop monitor, the all-in-one computer is thicker. It holds everything (motherboard, hard disk, speakers, and other hardware) that you’d find in a desktop tower in a combined monitor and tower.

Apple pioneered the first all-in-one computers in the 1980s with the revolutionary Macintosh. To this day, one of Apple’s most popular items remains the sleek all-in-one computer, the iMac. Today, you’ll find many all-in-one options available as the demand for stylish, easy-to-use, and more compact personal computers has skyrocketed.

Most desktops consist of a separate monitor, the case in which the hardware is stored (the tower), and all the various input and output options you might want like a set of speakers, a keyboard, a mouse, or a joystick. Because of this, a traditional desktop takes up a lot more space and weight. This is the fundamental “surface level” difference between all-in-one computers and traditional desktop computers but there are significant distinctions under the surface.

What’s the difference between a traditional desktop and an all-in-one computer?

When considering between the two, it’s better to compare what you would like to accomplish instead of comparing the pros and cons. All-in-one computers and traditional desktops are simply two different machines. That way, you can find the best tool for whatever job you’re tackling.

Upgradability: All-in-one computers are harder to upgrade than traditional desktop computers. For tech enthusiasts, one of the biggest selling points of a traditional desktop is how customizable they are. Nearly all of the hardware inside the desktop tower is upgradeable.

Performance: Because the all-in-one computer’s hardware is designed to fit snugly inside a small space, this leads to a reduction in performance. Smaller hardware often means decreased performance. Even using the same hardware, the all-in-one will lag behind a traditional desktop computer because the desktop’s tower allows for better heat management, an important measure of how fast a computer can operate.

Mobility: While not necessarily designed to be taken to work in a cafe like a laptop, for example, all-in-one computers are much more portable than traditional desktop computers. Typically, everything is packaged within the all-in-one’s unit compared to the various pieces of a desktop. Fewer components and lightweight materials make the all-in-one much more mobile.

Price: Lightweight mobility and sleek design come at a higher price tag. A traditional desktop computer is a more affordable option. With a traditional desktop computer, you can maximize the hardware specifications and still spend less money than you would on an all-in-one computer with the same benchmarks.

Space: All-in-one computers take up less space. Because everything is integrated, your all-in-one will typically be a single piece. Because these machines utilize the newest technology (Bluetooth, for example), you’ll find all-in-one computers require fewer cables.

Maintenance: Because everything is accessible within the tower of a traditional desktop computer, replacing broken or lagging parts can be a simple process. The same can’t be said for all-in-one computers. If something in your all-in-one needs replacing or upgrading, you may need to replace or upgrade multiple components that are inseparable from one another.

Simplicity: Having fewer separate components with the added ease of use they’re known for, all-in-one computers offer a lot more simplicity than traditional desktop computers. This is an important consideration for many consumers who are trying to simplify their increasingly complicated technological lives.

What are the best all-in-one and traditional desktop computer options from Acer? 

The Nitro 50 Gaming PC is a great traditional desktop option for high frame, lag-free gaming. The Nitro 50’s AMD Ryzen™ 5000 Series desktop processors set a high bar for gamers and artists alike.

The Aspire TC, another traditional desktop computer, features the latest 12th Gen Intel® Core™ processors and NVIDIA® graphics. It’s a powerful work tool for those who need a high-performance solution for powerful multitasking and entertainment.

The Aspire C22 all-in-one computer delivers exceptional, space-saving design. Housed inside an ultra-slim and stylish frame, the latest Intel® Pentium™ Silver Processors inject power that’s optimized for everyday work and play.

Looking for uncompromising performance from an all-in-one computer? Choose the exceptional Aspire C27 for the latest Intel® processors, graphics, and a host of super-fast connectivity options. The exquisitely crafted, slim all-in-one delivers compact space-saving, and serious horsepower for your home workstation.

The all-in-one Veriton Z Series delivers powerful, commercial-grade performance at lightning-fast speeds in a space-saving design. This all-in-one PC option also provides the utmost versatility and business-level security and data protection.

All-in-one vs. desktop computer: which one is right for me?

To determine which option is best for you, it’s important to understand what exactly you need. To figure that out, here are some questions to think about. 

  • Are you looking for the simplicity of an all-in-one computer? 
  • Will you want to customize and upgrade your computer in the future like so many traditional desktop users do? 
  • Do you need the highest level of performance and speed from a traditional desktop computer or does an all-in-one deliver sufficient performance for what you need? 
  • Are you looking for the mobility of an all-in-one or will you keep your computer in one location like most traditional desktop users do? 
  • Are you looking for a lightweight option with fewer cables and accessories? 
  • Is the aesthetic look of your computer and workspace important factors for you? 
  • Are you looking for the best-performing machine money can buy? 
  • Do you need the extra space an all-in-one can free up in your office or home? 
  • Do you want to be able to upgrade or replace hardware in the future like you would be able to do with a traditional desktop computer?

Put simply, if you’re looking for sheer performance and upgradability, a desktop is going to offer you everything you need. If you’re less concerned about performance and prefer a more stylish computer that takes up less space while being much simpler to operate, an all-in-one computer is the right choice.

For now, traditional desktop computers occupy an important and enduring space in the market. With rapidly evolving technology though, we may soon see all-in-one computers rival the power and functionality of their predecessor.

Patrick Yu is a Senior Project Manager at Level Interactive and has 8 years of experience writing business, legal, lifestyle, gaming, and technology articles. He is a significant contributor to Acer Corner and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.


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