All-in-one PCs look good and cost plenty

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.

iMac

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.

Vizio

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.

HP

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.

Conclusions

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.

All-in-one PCs look good and cost plenty 12/16/12 [Last modified: Sunday, December 16, 2012 8:25pm]

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