Best budget all-in-one PCs (20 inches or smaller)

If you’re willing to accept a display of 20 inches or smaller, you can pick up a good all-in-one for a little over $500

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ViewSonic VPC100 All-in-One PC
VPC100 All-in-One PC Review, by David Murphy, PC World November 25, 2009

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Rating:

CPU: Intel Atom N270; CPU speed: 1.6GHz; Graphics adapter: Integrated Intel GMA 950; Hard drive size: 160GB

Pros:
Good quality display
Comparable performance to rival budget all-in-ones

Cons:
No touchscreen
No Wireless-N connectivity (only B/G)

Bottom Line: ViewSonic's VPC100 misses the mark. It's not a great performer and lacks the touchscreen, DVD drive, or 802.11n Wi-Fi to make up for it.

REVIEW:
Everyone loves a big screen, and that's exactly what ViewSonic's VPC100 all-in-one desktop PC delivers (the screen is 18.5 inches). Unfortunately, to get to that point and hold the price down ($550 as of 11/16/09), ViewSonic has taken a few shortcuts with the system's core functionality. It's a tough market for inexpensive all-in-one desktops. Limitations on applicable system components tend to average out these systems' general performance. That's what makes even the smallest of features critical to a system's success--or in the VPC100's case, its mediocrity.

The specs of most all-in-ones with screens of 19 inches or less tend to start with a variant of Intel's Atom processor. The specific CPU model can vary--the VPC100 uses Intel's single-core Atom N270, whereas others opt for the single-core N230 or the dual-core N330. The performance of these 1.6GHz chips is almost identical in our benchmarks, but the similarities don't stop there. The VPC100, like most of these all-in-one "nettops," also comes with a single gigabyte of DDR2-533 RAM and 160GB of total storage space.

As implied above, the VPC100 has performance similar to its recently-reviewed all-in-one peers in hovering at a score of 41 on our WorldBench 6 suite of tests. Competitors like MSI's Wind Top AE1900 and Averatec's D1100-series vary only ever so slightly. It goes without saying that none of these machines are gaming systems.

The VPC100's matte screen runs at a native resolution of 1366-by-768 pixels, and delivers a good-looking picture. But unlike several systems on our top value all-in-one PCs chart, this ViewSonic's display is but a simple panel, not a touchscreen.

It's common for all-in-ones at this model's low price not to allow for any real upgrades, and ViewSonic's VPC100 is no exception. That said, competing desktops at least offer the barest of instructions for memory or hard-drive replacements.

The VPC100 has a good mix of networking options: gigabit ethernet through a single port on the back, as well as integrated 802.11b/g wireless connectivity. However, cheaper all-in-ones, like Asus' Eee Top ET1602 and MSI's AE1900, also tackle 802.11n.

The VPC100's other connection options are similarly limited--mainly in their variety. Two USB ports on the system's side match two USB ports on the rear. A single multicard reader, also located on the side of the machine, is as fancy as this AIO's connections get. It's rare to see all-in-one desktops at this price point offer more than just USB connectivity. At the very least, however, ViewSonic could have stocked even more ports on its machine to match the six found on that Asus I mentioned.

The keyboard included with our test machine has a number of additional function buttons for launching applications, switching playing media, and adjusting the system's overall volume. It's a shame that the keyboard itself is tethered to the AIO with a cord, just like the system's generic, two-button mouse. Wireless input devices would have worked to great effect.

This helps illustrate a key point of the VPC100--namely, its lack of any special functionality that would prompt the purchase of an all-in-one system over a traditional (and more powerful) desktop value PC. The system lacks a touchscreen, wireless-N, a wider range or number of connection options, wireless input devices...it just doesn't feel like a complete AIO desktop. You'll have to turn elsewhere for these features. Luckily, you can pick up similarly sized systems for a lesser price than this all-in-nothing.

This story, "Best budget all-in-one PCs (20 inches or smaller)" was originally published by PCWorld.

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