An all-in-one computer is a compact desktop PC that's ready to use straight out of the box. No wires, no cables, no tower – it's an easy to use work station that's great for offices, but tidy enough to share with the whole family in the living room.
This guide will take you through all the specs and jargon to help you choose the best all-in-one desktop computer for you.
What kind of all-in-one computer do you need?
The best way to choose amongst the large number of all-in-one computers available is to decide whether you're a low, medium or high demand user.
All-in-one computers vary in price from around £250 to over £1000. Because of their compact design, which can only fit-in so many parts, all-in-ones tend to be better at tasks that are less demanding. You can perform high demand tasks on some premium models, but a full desktop computer may be more suitable.
Low demand – Word processing, web browsing, Excel, social media, watching videos online.
Medium demand – Low-res video editing, basic design, gaming, complex spreadsheets, music recording.
High demand – HD video editing, animation, professional design, advanced gaming.
Weighing up the specs
To help simplify the all-in-one computer specifications, we've used our low/medium/high demand categories to help you decide what to look for in all the essential spec categories.
The processor is a computer's brain. Its performance power is measured in gigahertz (GHz). A more powerful brain allows you to do more complex work faster.
There are many processors available. The most common are:
Intel Core i3 and i5
AMD A4 through to A8
Intel Core i7
The benefit of a faster processor
A faster processor basically means fewer frustrating performance issues. You might spend a lot of time doing low demand jobs, but if you needed to do something more demanding, like design a flyer or edit a home movie, your computer could get a lot slower.
Instead of one brain, what if your computer had two, or four? Having more cores won't make your computer faster, but it will allow you to do more things at once without it slowing down.
The benefit of more cores
More cores means fewer performance issues. If you had a quad core computer and you were listening to Spotify, checking emails, and typing on Word, each of those tasks would have its own resource to draw on. But if you had just two cores, they'd have to share, and things could start slowing down.
Your computer's storage capacity. It's measured in gigabytes (GB). A 1000 gigabytes is called a terabyte (TB).
Memory is usually contained on a hard drive, which has moving parts. Solid state drives are now available, which don't have moving parts. They're quicker, quieter and more efficient, but hold less memory.
The benefit of more memory
A terabyte is probably more memory than most people need. You may need more if you use lots of large files like video, but extra memory is one of the easiest things to add later.
Solid state drives have huge benefits, because of their speed. You can load files much quicker, which is a big plus if you're gamer and hate load times.
RAM is a different type of memory, also measured in gigabytes. It's short-term memory, the space your computer uses to work on all the jobs its doing at any given time. Without enough working space, if doesn't matter how powerful your computer is, it will slow down.
The benefit of more RAM
Extra RAM allows you to work on more complicated tasks. As with processing power, you might not need it all the time, but having more means that if a complicated task does come along, you won't be faced with limitations.
The graphics card processes and creates the images you see on screen. Computers either come with a shared card (low power) or a separate dedicated graphics card (medium – high power).
With a shared card, your computer is sharing resources by using its RAM to create images. A separate card has its own resources, and can create complex images without slowing other tasks down.
There are many cards available, but AMD and nVidea are the most popular brands:
- For AMD, 260 and upward will provide great visuals.
All-in-one desktop PC or Mac?
Whether PC or Mac is better is a much debated issue and will largely come down to personal preference.
Macs are the preferred choice of many in creative industries because a number of industry-leading programs were developed for the Apple Mac operating system. PC versions are available, but because they weren't initially developed for Windows, debatably they don't perform as well.
All-in-one PCs have more customisable software, although the hardware can't be as easily upgraded as a standard desktop PC. They're also available at a variety of price points, whereas Macs are typically priced at a premium.
Other things to consider...
A 'flash drive' is no longer included on all computers. If you're a user of physical media, double check, or consider purchasing a plug-in USB drive.
Delivery & payment
If you've settled on which type of all-in-one computer to buy, then you're ready to shop. Still not quite sure? Our Customer Services team will be happy to give you more information and advice. Alternatively, why not visit out Desktop PC, Laptop, 2-in-1 Laptop or tablet buying guides.
We'll deliver your all-in-one desktop computer for as little as £3.95.
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