Nobody buzzes about the PC anymore. Innovation is dead. Sales are down, right? Actually, there's one pocket of surging sales and innovation in PC land: the luxury all-in-one computer, of the type made famous by the iMac. • I took a look at Apple's new iMac, Hewlett-Packard's SpectreOne and the Vizio All-in-One Touch PC. • All three are shiny, sleek, futuristic and cordless (they come with Bluetooth wireless keyboard and trackpad or mouse). All offer vivid, high-definition screens. • None come with a DVD drive. Apple, HP and Vizio seem to believe that everything is online now. Well, it's not.
It's still clad in its traditional aluminum and the stand is still a thin, curved L. But now, the screen appears to be just as thin (0. 2 inches). Apple has eliminated much of the glare that has long dogged today's glossy screens.
There are two iMac sizes: 21.5 and 27 inches. The $1,300 and $1,800 base models come with a 1-terabyte hard drive, 8 gigabytes of memory and an i5 Intel processor. Each has four USB 3.0 jacks, two Thunderbolt jacks (for video input or output or external hard drives), and camera memory-card slot, awkwardly positioned on the back.
Apple has ditched the FireWire jack it spent so many years promoting.
On the 21.5-incher, you can't upgrade the memory yourself. On the 27-inch model, you can install as much as 32 gigabytes yourself.
Online, you can order your iMac with a 3-terabyte hard drive, 32 gigabytes of memory, a 768-gigabyte flash-memory drive and a $3,700 invoice.
By far the best part of the All-in-One Touch PC is its lovely touch screen, available in 24- and 27-inch versions.
The body, the keyboard and the large trackpad feel plasticky. You're supposed to plug the PC into the subwoofer, and then the subwoofer plugs into a power outlet; oddly, though, the sound isn't half as crisp or rich as the iMac's subwooferless speakers.
Otherwise, this Vizio makes a fine home-entertainment PC. In addition to its four USB 3.0 jacks, it has a remote control and two HDMI inputs for Blu-ray players, game consoles or cable boxes. It can display their output even when the PC is turned off.
The 27-inch Vizio starts at $1,300 — $500 less than the iMac — but you get less memory, a slower processor, an audible fan and a lower-resolution screen.
The $1,300 SpectreOne is costly for a 23.6-inch PC without a touch screen, only two USB jacks (plus an HDMI input) and only 6 gigabytes of memory. This machine looks terrific. It, too, feels like silver-painted plastic, but it's the most compact PC among these three.
It comes with the full versions of Photoshop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements 10, which saves you about $150.
You also get both a cordless mouse and a trackpad, as well as NFC — near-field communications. This feature lets you exchange information (a map, a photo, an address) from an NFC-equipped Android phone with your PC. Or, after some programming setup, you can log onto your SpectreOne just by tapping your phone to it — an ordinary phone to which you've attached one of the two included NFC stickers.
The iMac has the best screen you've ever seen on a computer, the finest craftsmanship and ridiculously fast response.
The Vizio's touch screen and low price give it a charm all its own.
And the HP is competent, tidy and unimposing.