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All-in-one (AIO) computers that integrate the internal components into the same chassis as the display have a long history, stretching back to 1980s devices such as the Osborne 1 and Kaypro II. However, most people now associate the AIO category with a computer that looks very much like an LCD monitor, particularly with Apple's range of LCD-based iMacs, which debuted with the iMac G4 back in 2002.
AIOs have their pros and cons. On the plus side are economy of space, fewer cables, transportability, and an often stylish element to the design. The drawbacks, however, include less power, upgradability, and repairability than a traditional PC at the same price point.
An AIO is likely a great fit for many remote workers who require a space-efficient computer with a decent-sized screen and no longer need to transport a laptop between the office and home.
Here's a selection of the best AIO computers in various categories, covering different price points, use cases, and operating systems.
Apple iMac 24-inch (M1, 2021) specs: OS: MacOS Monterey (MacOS 12) | CPU: Apple M1 (8-core) | GPU: Apple M1 (7-core or 8-core) | RAM: 8GB, 16GB (unified memory) | Storage 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB (8-core GPU models)| Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD | Audio: 3 mics, 6 speakers (2x woofers, 4x tweeters) | Dimensions: 21.5 x 18.1 x 5.8 inches | Weight: 9.83/9.88 lbs
Apple's M1-based 24-inch iMac, released in May 2021, is the company's first AIO to run on Apple Silicon. It's also the only current iMac, as Apple discontinued its Intel-based iMac Pro in March 2021 and the 27-inch iMac in March 2022.
Built around a 24-inch 4.5K Retina display, the current iMac is impressively slim thanks to the highly integrated design of the M1 SoC (system-on-chip), with the screen panel measuring just 11.5mm thick. The entry-level configuration comes in four colors (blue, green, pink, and silver), while the more expensive models (with an 8-core GPU) add yellow, orange, and purple to the palette.
There are three off-the-page configurations, starting at $1,299 for a model with an 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports, and a Magic Keyboard. Stepping up to $1,499 buys you an 8-core GPU, two more on-board (USB-C) ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet port built into the power supply, plus Touch ID on the Magic Keyboard. The $1,699 model has 512GB of storage. A fully maxed-out configuration (16GB RAM, 2TB storage, Magic Mouse+Magic Trackpad, Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, and numeric keypad) costs $2,658.
The striking design of the 24-inch M1 iMac makes it suitable for both homes and offices, and the performance and power efficiency of the M1 SoC is impressive. However, it carries a premium price tag, and you'll need to ensure that the specification you order will cover the system's expected lifetime because user upgrades are not an option.
HP All-in-One 22 specs:OS: Windows 11 | CPU: AMD Athlon 3150U, 12th-gen Intel Core i3-1215U | GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics, Intel UDHD Graphics (integrated) | RAM: 8GB, 16GB | Storage 128GB SSD, 1TB HDD | Camera: HP Truevision HD privacy camera | Audio: Dual array mics, dual speakers, 3.5mm audio in/out | Dimensions: 19.30 x 14.99 x 8.05 inches | Weight: 12.56 lbs
AIO computers can be pricey, but that's not the case with HP's All-in-One 22, which starts as low as $507 with an AMD Athlon 3150U processor, but gets a bit pricier when equipped with a 12th-generation Intel Core i3-1215U. The Athlon model is unusual in sporting a DVD writer, which is a rare sight on any computer these days; this legacy component is not available on the Core i3 version.
For a budget computer, the All-in-One 22 has a sleek look, with its 21.5-inch FHD IPS screen sitting above a speaker grille and resting on a stand fashioned from tubular metal. As a neat privacy measure, the webcam (HD only) pops up from the top of the screen only when it's in use.
You can't expect the ultimate powerhouse performance from a computer based on the Athlon 3150U or Core i3-1215U, even with the maximum 16GB of RAM on board. But if you adjust your use case expectations, the HP All-in-One 22 is an excellent budget choice.
Microsoft Surface Studio 2+ specs: OS: Windows 11 Pro | CPU: Intel Core i7-11370H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU (6GB) | RAM: 32GB (DDR4) | Storage: 1TB SSD | Camera: 1080p + IR for Windows Hello face authentication | Audio: stereo 2.1 speakers with Dolby Atmos, dual far field studio mics, 3.5mm headphone jack | Dimensions: Base: 9.8 x 8.7 x 1.2 inches • Display: 25.1 x 17.3 x 0.5 inches | Weight: 21 lbs
Launched back in October 2018, Microsoft's Surface Studio 2, a 28-inch AIO computer, was well-received. However, by 2022 it had become distinctly long in the tooth, being based on 7th-generation Intel Core processors -- well behind today's 13th-generation silicon. That said, the Surface Studio's innovative and versatile design with its clever 'zero gravity' screen hinge is holding up well and clearly influenced the 2021 Surface Laptop Studio.
Needless to say, the Surface Studio 2 was in need of an update, which arrived in October 2022 via the Surface Studio 2+. The new model retains the same industrial design as its predecessor, but now runs on an 11th-generation Core i7 processor for "up to 50 percent faster CPU performance", adding a 30-series Nvidia GeForce RTX GPU for "double the graphics performance", according to Microsoft.
However, that '2+' naming drops a heavy hint that nothing revolutionary has occurred here, although the $1,000 price hike from $3,500 (Studio 2) to $4,500 (Studio 2+) for the entry-level configuration does suggest some significant evolutionary upgrades -- notably Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU with 6GB of dedicated video memory, a mid-range GPU capable of handling fairly demanding graphical applications. Wireless connections also get an upgrade, from 2018-era Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 4.1 to Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.
Creators and power users often need the largest screen possible, and that's what HP has delivered in the shape of the Envy 34 All-in-One, which was announced in September 2021.
The display is a 34-inch IPS panel with 5K (WUHD) resolution, 500 nits brightness, an anti-reflection coating, a low blue light mode, and a claimed screen-to-body ratio of 98.6%. It supports 98% of the DCI-P3 color gamut and is color-calibrated out of the box. The screen is height and tilt-adjustable, but there's no swivel support.
Nice touches include the detachable magnetic 16MP webcam that can be placed anywhere on the top, bottom, or sides of the display and Qi wireless charging built into the stand base. Even more welcome is access to the RAM and SSD slots via a panel at the rear – an unusual feature on an AIO. There's also a good array of connections, including two 40Gbps Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 ports.
Envy 34 All-in One configurations start at $1,999 with a Core i5-11400 CPU, 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, 16GB of DDR4-2666 RAM, and a 512GB PICe NVMe TLC SSD. A fully maxed-out model with a Core i9-11900, 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, 128GB of RAM, 2TB of primary storage, and 2TB of secondary storage, however, may cost you.
The Apple iMac 24-inch (M1, 2021) is ZDNET's top choice. But one size doesn't fit all. See our comparison chart below to quickly see how the iMac differs from all the other top AIO PCs on our list.
Price (starting at)
Apple iMac 24-inch (M1, 2021)
HP All-in-One 22
Microsoft Surface Studio 2+
HP Envy 34 All-in-One (2022)
Which all-in-one computer is right for you?
Ultimately, you need to choose the AIO that can really be your all-in-one. After all, one size doesn't fit all.
Overall, we think Apple's 24-inch M1-based iMac is premium due to its combination of design and all-around performance, although some potential buyers will be put off by MacOS, and others by the premium price. Windows fans also have lots to choose from. See the comparison chart below to quickly see how the iMac differs from other AIO market leaders.
Apple iMac 24-inch (M1, 2021)
The best all-in-one computer overall, equipped with a 4.5K Retina display and plenty of storage. With a striking design of the 24-inch M1 iMac, it's unobtrusive and sleek for homes and offices alike.
HP All-in-One 22
The best budget all-in-one computer. It still offers a DVD writer, a sleek look, and an HD webcam that only pops open when in use.
Microsoft Surface Studio 2+
The best all-in-one computer for creative purposes. Running on an 11th-generation Corei7 processor and 30-series Nvidia GeForce, it offers beautiful (and fast) graphics.
HP Envy 34 All-in-One (2022)
The best large-screen all-in-one computer. With a 34-inch IPS panel and 5K resolution, this anti-reflection, low blue light coated screen accounts for both beauty and practicality.
How did we choose these all-in-one computers?
ZDNET selected the list based on a combination of personal usage, experience, and background expertise along with ZDNET hands-on reviews testing, and an analysis of other team round-ups.
What is a disadvantage of an all-in-one computer?
According to ZDNET's computer expert, June Wan, repairability is the biggest drawback to all-in-one computers.
"With space-saving in mind, the internal parts are typically weaved into the chassis so that there's little room for modification," he says. This also means that after the 4-8 "sweet spot" period, you'd have to bring the entire system to a professional technician for a refresh.
Of course, there's also the price point to consider. AIO computers are typically more expensive than dedicated desktop computers.
What is the cheapest all-in-one computer?
In this roundup of the best all-in-one computers, the HP All-in-One 22 is the cheapest AIO unit in the U.S. market.
Which is better: An all-in-one computer or a traditional desktop PC?
It all depends on your priorities. If you value economy of space, as few cables as possible, a degree of transportability, and stylish design, you'll usually be better served by an AIO. On the other hand, if it's computer power, upgradability, and repairability you're after, then a traditional desktop PC will generally offer more for your money at the same price point.
Who would need an all-in-one computer?
According to ZDNET's computer expert, June Wan, All-in-one (AIO) computers are most ideal for users in confined spaces. The compact nature of the machines makes them fit for receptionist desks, dorms, medical centers, and other settings that need the desk space for other things.
Are there alternative computers to consider?
Check out some of our other guides on the best laptops and desktops available right now: