We tested nine 21-inch all-in-one desktops in the CHOICE labs.
- All-in-ones offer a compact alternative to traditional tower-case PCs.
- Configure carefully before buying as there are few, if any, options for upgrading after purchase.
Why buy a smaller all-in-one desktop?
All-in-one desktop computers have a slimline profile that only takes up about the same amount of room as a monitor, but not everybody needs, wants or has space for a 27-inch mega-screen model. A far more compact 21-to-24-inch all-in-one might be all the PC you need, while saving you a bundle.
Configuration and cost
The all-in-one models in this test can easily serve as a jack-of-all-trades family PC, easily capable of everything the average user would want to do including web browsing and apps, image editing, games and multimedia. They range from $1349 to $1699 for a medium-range configuration which includes an Intel Core i5 processor, with up to 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. A similarly configured 27-inch model could cost up to a $1000 more.
We bought and tested nine models to see how they compare for performance, ease of use and features.
How we test
Our testing of each PC includes an assessment of performance, ease of use and energy use.
Performance We compare each computer’s performance using a combination of tests that reflect everyday usage. The tests cover processor and graphics performance, memory and storage. Included in the testing are comparisons using cross-platform benchmarking software that allows us to compare desktops with different operating systems, in this case Windows 7, Windows 8 and Mac OS X.
Ease of use We assess supplied security hardware and software, if any, along with the format and comprehensiveness of any manuals. We also assess the monitor for brightness/contrast, glare/surface reflections, angles of view and video playback; and assess keyboard and mouse, general design features and the desktop’s overall style.
We measure each desktop’s power consumption in active use and on standby, calculating an annual cost based on an average use scenario of six hours per day in use, plus 18 hours per day on standby, costed at 26c per kilowatt hour.