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How to Choose an All-In-One Computer

Are you thinking about purchasing a new space-saving computer? Learn more about all-in-one computer features and find out what options are available.

In this Article:

What is an All-In-One PC?

Learn more about all-in-one personal computers, which combine the display, processor, motherboard and other computer parts into the same compact housing. 

Key Hardware Features to Consider

Learn more about the key hardware features that go into an all-in-one PC.

Display Resolution and Size

Read more about how display resolution and size should factor into your
all-in-one PC purchasing decision.

Other Considerations

Read about other factors that go into selecting a new all-in-one, such as touch screens, ergonomic designs and ports.

On August 15, 1998, the iMac hit sales floors and became a huge success. A new generation of computers was born.

Current advances in technology make a space-saving desktop an increasingly more attractive option. Learn more about the most important features of all-in-one computers and how to choose the PC that can best meet your needs.

What is an All-In-One PC?

When people think of a computer, the image of a traditional desktop with a separate monitor usually comes to mind. 

An all-in-one personal computer (PC) combines the display, processor, motherboard and other computer parts into the same compact housing. The keyboard and mouse remain independent pieces.

This makes them different from laptops, which integrate the mouse, keyboard and display into a single unit. Laptops are portable, whereas all-in-one space-saving computers require a permanent desk location.

Key Hardware Features to Consider

Some parts produced for desktops can hit higher benchmarks than those made for laptops. That said, the difference is negligible to most users.

High-end users are typically better off with hardware made for desktops. Laptop hardware will suffice for most users.


Because Intel® is one of the most influential computer processor manufacturers, and for the sake of simplicity, let’s look at Intel processors specifically.

For Intel, you can expect higher numbers to equate to more recent, and often more powerful, technology. Let’s use the Intel Core™ i7-9700HQ as an example: Intel Core [Brand] i7 [Product Line] 9 [Model Number] HQ [Suffix].  The i7 product line is more recent technology than the i5 and older than the i8. 

The trade-off is that older product lines are often less expensivethan newer ones. If you use programs like Adobe Creative Suite, you will want to look at an i7, 8 or 9 Core. Someone who uses Quickbooks could save a bit of money by purchasing a computer with an Intel Core i5.

The model number is an easy way to tell how well a processor stacks up to other processors in that same product line. 

The most important part of this sequence is the suffix. Every Intel processor has a letter code that classifies its purpose. In the example, the H stands for high-performance graphics. The Q is for Quad-core. Intel uses these two suffixes to describe both desktops and laptops. 

The designations C, K, S, R and T are suffixes associated with desktops. Less powerful devices designed for mobile use receive M, U and Y suffixes. An Intel Core i7-9700U would provide a less robust experience than the one referenced above even though they have almost identical names.

Graphics Cards

If a laptop has a graphics card, it is often combined with the motherboard and does not act on its own. These cards have more power than integrated options.  Unlike desktops, however, all-in-one PCs are not easy to crack open and upgrade their parts. Sometimes, you cannot upgrade all-in-ones at all.

For tasks like data entry, and checking email, an integrated graphics card will do the job. You might not even need a graphics card. If you use streaming services or video-conference with clients, consider a PC with an independent card.

Hard Drives

It is common for laptops to have disk speeds of 5,200 RPM, while most desktops have at least 7,200 RPM. Even more significant is the amount of power the drives use. Individuals who primarily use their computers for document setting may do well with a laptop-style hard drive that saves energy. Gamers may prefer a hard drive built for desktops, as they perform better when running complex programs.

Solid State Drives (SSDs) are a newer type of hard drive available for both laptops and desktops. These drives are quieter and more durable than other hard drives because they have fewer moving parts.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

Computers use Synchronous Dynamic RAM, so named because the RAM synchronizes with the CPU. The RAM is dynamic because it refreshes at regular intervals. Desktops connect RAM to the CPU using pins on a dual in-line memory module (DIMMS). Laptops use small outline DIMMS (SODIMMS). The only real difference between the two are their physical sizes. 

When looking at RAM, you may also see a reference to DDR, DDR2, DDR3 or DDR4. DDR stands for Dual Data Rate. DDR DIMMS improves performance by using both parts of a computer’s clock cycle. DDR4 rated RAM sets are the most efficient and use the least amount of power. 

8 GB of RAM is enough for most people. High-end users may opt for a computer with 16 GB of RAM. The good news is that RAM is one of the few internal components you can readily change in most all-in-one computers. If you are uncertain, start with 8 GB and upgrade from there as needed.

What to Look For:  High-End Users Typical Users
Processor Intel Core i7, i8 or i9 with
suffixes C, H, K, Q, S, R, or T 
Intel Core i5 or i7 with
suffixes H, M, Q, U and Y 
Graphics Card Independent graphics card Integrated graphics card
or no graphics card
Hard Drive 5,200 or 7,200 RPM drive or an SSD Drive 5,200 RPM drive or an SSD Drive

Display Resolution and Size

The most common resolution options for all-in-one PCs are 1080p Full HD (1920 x 1080) and 2130p 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160). You can play a 4K video on a Full HD screen, but the computer will render it as a 1080p video. 1080p provides beautiful full-color images but is not as crisp as 2160p. 

As technology progresses, more and more services and software use 4K resolution. If you use any of the below, you may enjoy an Ultra HD display: 

  • Streaming services like Hulu and Netflix
  • Video games
  • Digital video and picture editing software
  • Video conferencing
  • Design software

Screen size is a matter of preference more than anything else. All-in-one display sizes commonly range from 20 to 32 inches. 20 to 23-inch monitors are great for fitting into tight cubicle spaces. 24 to 28-inch displays are large enough to satisfy most needs. 30 to 32-inch screens are also available if you have the money and space to spare.

Other Considerations

Other considerations when selecting a new all-in-one are touch screens, ergonomic designs and ports.


People who use their computers for art and those accustomed to using their touchscreen-enabled phones displays may enjoyall-in-one PCs with touchscreens. Resistive Touch, Surface Capacitive and Projected Capacitive are the three most common types of touch screen technology. You can activate resistive displays with almost anything. Surface Capacitive monitors activate with fingers only and only detect single-finger motions. 

Ergonomic Design

You cannot adjust the height of most all-in-one computer displays. Make sure you are comfortable with the design before making your purchase, especially if you plan to spend a significant amount of time in front of the screen.

Number of Ports and Port Locations

You only need enough ports to accommodate the number of devices you plan to use at once. Most people only need three. One for the mouse, one for the keyboard and one more for external devices like a headset or printer. It is also important to consider the location of the ports. 

Sizing It All Up: Choose the All-in-One PC That’s Right For You

The best all-in-one computer features are the ones that best meet your needs and budget. Focus on getting the right amount of computer for you.

Explore Top-Selling All-in-One Computers from CDW

HP SB EliteOne 800 G5 23.8"

The HP EliteOne 800 G5 All-in-One PC delivers serious performance, and multi-faceted security.

Dell OptiPlex 3070

The Dell OptiPlex 7470 All-in-One Desktop integrates seamlessly into any workplace.

HP SB ProOne 600 G5 AiO 21.5"

The HP ProOne 600 AiO is a sound investment that can be quickly deployed into demanding environments.

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