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
ASUS Eee Top ET2002 All-in-One PC
Eee Top ET2002 All-in-One PC Review, by David Murphy, PC World December 11, 2009
CPU: Intel Atom 330; CPU speed: 1.6GHz; Hard drive size: 320GB
Good level of storage
Wireless-N and gigabit networking
Bottom Line: This 20-inch system's performance and display quality just isn't at the level it needs to be for a quality experience.
Asus helped kick off the whole all-in-one PC resurgence with its 15.6-inch Eee Top ET1602; now it has come back with a $600 (as of December 8, 2009) 20-inch version that's the first all-in-one we've seen with nVidia Ion graphics. But here's the problem: the ET2002's dual-core Atom N330 processor, 2GB of RAM, and Windows 7 Home Premium operating system scored only 37 in WorldBench 6--less than the original ET1602 (41), and certainly slower than HP's Pavilion MS214, an identically priced, 18.5-inch Windows 7 all-in-one with a 37 percent higher score (59).
Both systems turned in equally unplayable results for gaming, with the ET2002 delivering a paltry 10 frames per second on a scaled-down version of our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark (1024-by-768 resolution, high quality). Ion graphics don't help much with gaming, but will help with smooth HD flash video playback.
For the most part, the ET2002's feature list matches the smaller HP MS214. Both systems come with 2GB of RAM, and the Asus squeaks in a little extra storage capacity: 320GB versus 300GB. Both use Windows 7 Home Premium, though HP does up the ante with a 64-bit version. Both systems feature an awesome collection of networking options, including support for 802.11n Wi-Fi and gigabit networking. And, to even out the playing field, each has a DVD writer.
But one big difference is display quality. Neither display is a touchscreen, and Asus's is slightly larger, but the HP provides a stronger picture. Color saturation on the ET2002 was lacking, leaving otherwise vibrant scenes looking duller and more muted than I've seen on competing all-in-one desktops. Similarly, the dark-heavy contrasts gave scenes a faded look, leading to a slight loss of detail in the picture due to the lack of grayscale output at the white end of the spectrum.
Though the ET2002's traditional setup of six USB ports and a multiformat card reader is a bit of a yawn, Asus offers a little surprise by including an HDMI input on the back of the system. It's an excellent choice for those looking to stash this all-in-one desktop in a living room, as it gives you the option to integrate this system with your general entertainment setup (provided the relatively small screen size isn't a bother). In addition, the wireless mouse and keyboard--generic in their overall operation--does allow for up to five USB ports to be used instead of the usual drop to four as a result of wired input devices.
Another significant difference between the ET2002 and the MS214 is upgradability. If you actually can alter any parts of the ET2002, you'll need to figure it out yourself--Asus provides no instructions for modifying or replacing parts. By contrast, HP walks users through a fairly detailed procedure for replacing the RAM and the hard drive. It's a rare thing to see in the AIO category, but one that should be rewarded.
While it might seem a little strange to directly compare Eee Top ET2002 to HP's Pavilion MS214 throughout the course of this review, it's an unavoidable match-up given the raw similarities between the two systems in both features and price. HP wins out in the end with its stronger picture quality and general performance, provided you don't mind losing an inch and a half of screen real estate for the extra gains. Among its budget all-in-one PC peers, the ET2002 holds its own strictly through its expanded portfolio of network connections and included HDMI connectivity. But these, by themselves, aren't enough to make it a number-one AIO choice.