This is a question many tech people would ask of each other. The obvious answer is they’re clean and often sleek in appearance and there’s no real desk space required. Apple has set a great example with their iMac which is pretty gorgeous. We’re also seeing some very attractive All-In-One (AIO) desktop’s coming from major Windows PC manufacturers like Dell, HP, Lenovo and so on.
So why are technical people puzzled by the demand, well, of course, most technical people go for performance over style but what is it that they realise that most other people do not? The main reason that most experts and technical people dislike AIO desktops is common across the board, it’s that they’re basically a laptop with a screen in front of it. Now, why is that a problem you might ask? Well, laptops are designed with both battery life and heating in mind, for that reason their components cannot be as powerful as their desktop counterparts. Simply put the more powerful a computer the more heat it will generate. What is more, many of the major manufacturers use less expensive components including their own downgraded Intel processors, if you pay close attention their processors usually have an S,HQ,U, T and so on at the end, this distinguishes this from mainstream models and they’re typically much slower and cheaper to produce. (See the graphic below, Green is your desktop CPU, Blue bars are mobile counterparts). Basically, they’re telling you you’re getting a Ferrari but in fact, it has a Prius engine! To add to this an AIO desktop is not separated from the display, so what? Well, displays generate a lot of heat and unlike in a laptop which has the display and components completely separated an AIO has everything back to back. So here we have this mix of components that are low powered desiring to be kept cool with a nice big radiator to keep them warm.
Now that’s doesn’t cause any immediate instant failures, if it did then all AIO would fail very quickly and they wouldn’t be popular at all. However, heat is the main cause of all hardware and component failures and as such long-term exposure to this heat will shorten the lifespan of this machine. The other major gripe that experts have with these machines is that when failure does occur there’s in most cases very little you can do. Most of the components are custom made to suit that particular model and style of AIO desktop so you’ll have an extremely hard time sourcing spare parts, most manufacturers stop making spares after a short time as they’re more inclined to sell you a new machine. There are some components which can be replaced but for the most part, if it breaks your option is a complete replacement. If you want a larger screen, new computer.
I’ve wanted to share my thoughts on AIO desktops with you for a while now but the main thing that prompted me was recently my mother gave me a Dell AIO desktop which was about 5 years old and said she’d tried to turn it on and nothing. I stripped the machine to look for faults and to my absolute shock this computer had barely been used there wasn’t a speck of dust on anything, it looked like it hadn’t even been turned on. She had the computer in storage and said she’d barely used it. The sad thing is that this machine from Dell would have at the time cost around $2500-3000 given its specification and now it’s basically garbage. The motherboard is faulty and there’s nothing we can do. That means we have to throw away an entire computer which is in perfect condition and a screen to boot. It feels pretty pathetic if you ask me. And unfortunately, I’ve seen plenty of cases like this over the years and many machines being built with extremely cheap components and failing straight after warranty or being shipped with faulty hard drives and my customers having no idea why their computer was so slow. Below is a picture of the inside of said Dell machine it's hard to see but trust me it was absolutely pristine. This also gives you an idea as to how little computer you're actually getting, see that green board on the right? That's basically it.
If you want reliable, performance that you can upgrade, repair and enjoy then don’t have the wool pulled over your eyes. There’s plenty of attractive mini computers now on the market which offer superior performance with high quality, reliable components and they still look fantastic on your desk.