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Would you buy an all-in-one desktop computer?


Would you buy an all-in-one desktop computer?

I hope your members can help me out. I'm currently shopping for a desktop computer for my kids ages 8 and 10. I've always been a traditional desktop person mostly buying tower desktop computers. However, when I went shopping for a computer, I saw a bunch of all-in-one desktop computers, some with touchscreens and some without. I like the fact that the all-in-one computers are simple and all the components are housed into the monitor taking up very little space, portable with only one wire to worry about, and the prices are reasonable. I thought this type of computer would be perfect for my two kids. The only problem is I have no experience with these types of computers. What if one of the components in the PC was to go bad? Can I easily open the computer and swap it out? How reliable are these type of all-in-one computers vs. full-size ones? If you own one of these types of computers, how have they worked out for you? Would you recommend it? Any advice you can provide me as to the pros and cons of all-in-one PCs would be helpful to my buying decision. Thank you.

--Submitted by Roland D.

Post was last edited on June 26, 2015 2:57 PM PDT

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maybe yes maybe no

Well, I'll weigh in as follows. Years ago, I would always build my own computer. Then, I would keep an old PC alive with upgrades. More recently I've found that you can often buy a decent refurb for less than the cost of a few upgrade components. Also, even the cheapest PCs today often have enough ram, a powerful enough processor, and enough storage to make upgrading in the near future unnecessary. Yes, I've popped a few extra ram sticks in a 7 year old PC to give it some extra life, but I've also bought a cheap refurb for a few hundred dollars that already had 8 gig of ram in it. So, chances are, if you buy an all-in-one (at a good price) you'll probably never even crack open the case before you just junk it and buy another one.

That being said, you should ask yourself the following. Why would you want an all-in-one in the first place? I've purchased a very small SFF for my kitchen, where countertop space is at a premium. I wish I had an all-in-one there, so I could have a TV and a PC with wireless keyboard and mouse in as unobtrusive a package as possible. But anywhere else, why? Unless you have a specific need or aesthetic desire for a very small footprint, why burden yourself with any possible limitations? Just get a desktop.

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at one time it would have been no

at one time, I would advise against AIO's. I remember the days of TRS80's and the issues they had. I remember when aio printers first came out and the problems they had. I was remember how if one part went bad the whole thing was useless.

some of the cons of aio's - they are a pain to upgrade - if you can. And you could have the same issues as laptops. In all the computer help forums I would try to talk people out of them - up until winter 2013. I was helping someone in yahoo group and was advising against it. While I was serving up source links, a few doubts started cropping up about what I was seeing. I realized that aio's have gotten better than what they were when they were first released and that there were some actual benefits of having one.

In June 2014, I was wanting a new computer. I am not into upgrading anymore (other than ram or harddrive), I am not into gaming, or other heavy resource using activities, I wanted dual monitors again and I needed more space in my computer area. I started looking at AIO and found they were exactly what I needed - So I got one. after a year of using it - no regrets. It fit my needs perfectly. I still will purchased desktops since I use them on my tv's but for normal daily activity, I will use the AIO. It has a touch screen - I never use it. I usually forget I have it.

to answer some of the questions.

repair-ability - like a laptop. Not as easy as a desktop. it would be something to check out when shopping for one. some are easier than others.

for kids - don't get touchscreen - they could knock over the aio - they could knock over a monitor too but at least you would not have a harddrive to be concern about.

reliable - the one I have is very. but since it runs like a laptop, there could be heat issues because they do not have the fans desktops have. I am pretty sure that in general, they will not last as long as towers but for most general users, it will be long enough.

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All-in-one just got better!

I have had a HP 23 inch AIO for 6 yrs now and the only trouble i had was slight overheating fom the cpu it was maxing out a few months back around 90c and for AIO this was serious as should be around 75c tops on full load.
What happens with AIO is the cpu fan is housed so close to the casing the vents are small too so its not taking the hot air away fast enough. Also dust in the air will fly into the vents and gather on the fans and i ended up having to get some canned air and spray in the vent it worked but next year i will take the casing off and dismantle the heat sink from the fan and do a thorough service its easy for the diy'er just take your time and make sure you earth yourself as you will short the components just tap the nearest radiator on the wall Wink ,
I'm more than pleased with my AIO and HP do some cracking one's
p.s dont forget your thermal paste Grin

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A Vote in Favor of All-In-One Computers

Any all-in-one device - computer, printer, audio-visual, etc. - can potentially have the issue you're talking about with "one component going bad", however AIO computers should in theory be no less reliable than any other type of computer.

I've owned several, and have spec'd many AIO computers for family, friends and colleagues and, for the most part, they've been very happy with them.

I particularly like HP's Envy Recline series, which have weighted bases that allow you to angle the screen to a more horizontal position, which is really handy when using it in touch-screen mode (swiping isn't very comfortable on a vertical screen when you're sitting a foot or so away)

The one thing I wish all AIO computers would feature is a port for a 2nd monitor. I've been using multiple monitors for years, and it's really tough to go back to just one when using a laptop or AIO. A 2nd monitor port on an all-in-one would give you the benefits of both multi-monitor computing, as well as the simplicity and reduced cable clutter of the all-in-one.

If your needs are pretty general...regular internet use and things like Microsoft all-in-one should suit you just fine. If you or anybody in your household is a hardcore gamer, who wants to play advanced 3D games, you'll likely be disappointed by most AIO computers' less-powerful graphics hardware.

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It's really a laptop

All in one is essentially a laptop without a cover. Or keyboard. And not as portable. So, no. For many reasons I don't recommend them. I'd either go desktop for serious stuff and laptop for not so serious stuff. Happy

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Go for it

I bought my wife her second iMac, an all-in-one desktop computer. The original was old and long in the tooth, though it still worked; it's now in use by our adult daughter. These are well made, good looking and reliable. Think of them as a laptop with a large screen and no built-in keyboard... that's really what they are. As such you get good processing power, reasonable internal storage, in our case a 27-inch gorgeous display, and an uncluttered desk. They are NOT portable, though. If you don't want to take up desk or floor space with a separate box, this is the way to go. If you want to be able to take it with you, buy a laptop and a separate monitor... you'll pay more overall and also have more utility.

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Definitely -- but only if it's a Mac

I mostly use a laptop, but for protracted work sessions, or for short ones when my laptop is still in my bag, my desktop unit is a godsend. For at least 15 years I've had an all-in-one Mac desktop computer, two different units, and I'm about to retire the second and buy a third unit sometime in the next year.

Several reasons for my choice:
1) iMacs are well designed, take up little desktop space, work well, and are easy to pick up and move if needed (see #3 below).
2) By definition all components work together, so updating system software is never a problem -- the new software always works with all the integrated old components.
3) Apple is great about repairs (free during the first 3 years if you have the protection plan, and at reasonable cost thereafter). I did have a hard disk failure early in the first year on my second computer -- a surprise -- but the Apple store took it back immediately, replaced it quickly with no fuss, and even shipped it back to me free so that I didn't have to return to the Apple store a second time. And it was easy to schlep the whole unit back to the store in a large tote bag -- barely harder than if I'd been taking just a standalone disk drive!

Wishing you as much delight with these wonderful Mac all-in-ones as I've enjoyed!

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Size good, flexibility not so much

I would not buy one. The space savings feature is good but they lack flexibility.

My current desktop is eight years old. I've kept the mother board, replaced the cabinet, added multiple fans, added a manual fan controller, added a USB 3 card, added a swap-able C drive feature, added a second drive, and a multi card reader. That flexibility is missing from the compact design of an all in one.

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Think it through - pros and cons

There are a lot of advantages to an all-in-one, simplicity and space saving being the two major ones. With kids, the fact that the PC is elevated and won't be subject to spills, etc. is a benefit as well. The disadvantages include the issue that they are very difficult, if not impossible, for the most part, to upgrade as there is little open space inside the "box" and with rare exception, none are built for easy (end-user) physical maintenance. For the most part, you cannot expand the computer's capabilities with additional RAM or a larger HDD or additional graphics or audio cards because space is so limited. Should a component fail, the entire system has to be brought in for repairs (usually more expensive than normal desktop mini or tower systems). The exceptions to these issues are very expensive "workstation" type all-in-one systems like HP's high end offering, which are designed to be maintained or upgraded at the desktop.

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Good System to go for as a home PC..

Below are some pros of cons for ur knowledge if you're planning to go for sn AIO Desktop Computer...
All-In-One Pros

1. Occupies less desk space
The desk space and under desk space that an All-in-One computer setup requires is much less than a Tower/Monitor setup would require.

2. Less Cords
An All-in-One computer has a lot less cords running around the place. You have 1 power cord for the computer and that’s it. If you want wired internet, or a wired mouse/keyboard you can add them but still much less cords.

3. Less Total Weight
An All-in-One has less total weight than a tower and a monitor would.

4. Mobility
As stated in #3 because you have less total weight in your system, it makes it more likely that you could move it from room to room like a small television. This means that you don’t have to drag lots of accessories, cords, and two heavy objects around (a monitor and a tower) instead you must just move your All-in-One.

5. Roughly the same cost
The costs of these systems is generally the same as a tower/monitor combo however sometimes you can get some deals on AMD A4-A6’s, or Intel I3’s being the same cost as a tower would be alone. This is usually the $200-350 range.

6. Built in wireless card
Always a plus. This can save an individual $20-60 on a USB Wireless Network Adapter.

All-In-One Cons

1. Limited or no upgradability
Although a laptop is very different from an All-in-One, the basic principles of computing still apply. An All-in-One is seldomly upgradable because of its design – this is very similar to most laptops.

2. No dual monitor support
There would be no HDMI port on most All-in-One’s. Most are HDMI inputs so that they can replicate the image from another screen but not output an image to utilize a second monitor.

3. Accidental Damage is most catastrophic
If you knock your system off your desk you could accidently break your monitor/system all in one shot. If it were a Tower/Monitor combination it could have just been a monitor that would break and not everything. If u are planning to purchase an AIO from dell opt for accidental damage as well.

4. Future-proofing is limited
As stated in point 1 of the cons, you’re limited in what you can do to an All-in-One. This is especially a pain if you want a larger screen, an additional screen, or want to upgrade to newer visual technologies such as Touchscreen or 1440p/4K monitors. What you buy on day 1 is what you get forever, or until you buy a completely new system.

Thanks. Happy

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Good post!

I'd say you condensed the pros and cons down very well compared to others here so far. Thanks for participating in the discussion!

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my iMac is still working

My iMac was purchased new in October of 2008, I upgraded the OS to Snow Leopard (OS 10.6) in 2009. It is now at OS 10.6.8. It still serves me well for internet, email, photo editing, word processing, etc. At some point, it will probably need replacing and I will replace it with another iMac.

Just make sure that if you ever want to add more ram, don't get the bottom level iMac. The ram is fixed and can't be changed out. The 27 inch iMac is more expensive; but does have a door on the back that makes accessing ram a lot easier.

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I think that has changed. Although it is expensive to add more RAM it can be done in the newer models. But why start out behind. Add more at the factory and stay on top of things. I learned that the hard way. Research before you buy. There are many places that give you pros and cons on lots of computers (I would stick with a Mac if I were you. Love all three of mine.)

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Not for me

I'm a multi-computer person, so my primary computer gets replaced or upgraded quite often. The lesser computers trickle down to other uses, eventually falling off the edge and getting retired after ten years or so.

In my scenario, buying an all-in-one would be a terrible idea. The trickle-down uses don't require as high quality a display, or might be a server application where no display is needed at all. But if I were to buy an all-in-one I would be forced to move its high quality display down the food chain, rather than keeping it on the top-end system where it belongs.

Another other downside of an all-in-one is that your ability to upgrade and repair it range from limited to nonexistent. You probably can't add an additional hard drive. If there are any memory slots at all, they take laptop memory which has traditionally been more expensive. There are no card slots for expansion cards. If your optical drive breaks, it's either a slow and expensive laptop drive or you can't replace it at all. And heaven help you if the motherboard or power supply fails; you're probably looking at replacing the whole system rather than popping down to Fry's or Micro Center for a replacement part.

All-in-ones are usually a total fail for gamers. Either they don't have a separate GPU at all, or the one that is included is hopelessly underpowered for gaming. They are usually balanced for general purpose computing, not for gaming; at any given price point a gaming system will put more money into the GPU and less into the CPU.

All-in-ones really don't fit into a server scenario. Typically you will have more than one system but just one display and keyboard that switches among the computers with a KVM. A computer with a built-in display makes no sense at all.

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Get a laptop

An all in one is basically a laptop that doesn't have a battery. The components behind the screen are just like a laptop. There will still be wire clutter for any external speakers, the power cord, USB to the printer and such unless you Bluetooth as much stuff as you can. You will get a nice sized screen.

I'd rather just get a laptop. If you need a large screen, there are some great desktop replacements out there that you could still lug around if needed. But you'll find some great deals on 15" machines.

I think the kids would be better served with a laptop myself.

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I can tell you have never had an AIO. Once you have it you will talk a different story.
There is no wire clutter, yes even the peripherals are bluetooth. I do have speaker wires bit there is just so much you can eliminate.
It is neat and moveable without having to replace a battery ($200) or worry about it being delicate as a laptop if you are involving kids.
And you can also use HDMI for a larger screen.
On the other hand upgrading is limited but I think I will leave that to the non Apple people. You replace Macs less often than PC's.

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Would you buy an all-in-one desktop computer?

Yes. I purchased one over a year ago. I love it. There is only one negative thing about it and that is Windows 8. Otherwise it is perfect. HP Pavilion 23

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An AIO worked great for us.

I just bought a Dell AIO Inspiron 20 (Model 304Cool direct from Dell to be our main household PC. I tried an HP 23" AIO from Sam's first and took it back after 1 day, but I am very pleased with this this Dell. It is extremely fast and quiet, and I have connected 2 external drives, a combo printer, etc. without any problems. I needed a good PC to fit in a small space, but wanted something bigger with more connections, etc. than a laptop. This AIO was the best solution for us.

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Not buy All in One, except for tablet applications

Its just a big tablet.
My desktop is my primary computer, and it has to be modular.
WHen the display quits, which will happen long before the rest of the parts, it has to be easily swappable out.
When the HDD quits, which will happen in 4 years, same deal.
If ALL of its parts are not replaceable and upgradeable, it is not a good primary computer.
Also, the all-in-one has no room for anything to be added No extra graphics cards, no data acq cards. It is a girls or kids computer, basically.

So these all in ones are as useful to me as tablets, no more or less.

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Not for me

All in ones have a space advantage and they can be nice looking. But they lack flexibility.

My 8 year old desktop has been upgraded time and time again. I've kept the motherboard, added RAM, added USB 3.0, a second hard drive, a swap-able C drive (swap between Windows 7 and Windows 10), changed the tower, added fans, added a multi-card reader, WiFi, twice upgraded the graphics card. It still serves me well and I do significant photo editing along with some video editing.

An AIO would not have allowed me to keep it alive with all of these options over the years. My 24" monitor, also 8 years old, has not failed me but had it I would have been able to replace it without replacing the whole computer.

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Ours has been just fine.

I urged my wife to get Dell's AIO about 3 years ago. She conducts her own consulting business, so would be running most MS Office applications and surfing the Net in general. It's proved just fine for her, and hasn't given us a single problem.

We opted for the touch-screen version, but now wish we hadn't. That feature cost a bit more and we have not used it once. In fact, the only time it's 'manifested itself' was when someone bumped the screen by mistake and closed a program prematurely.

Perhaps the touch screen would have come in handy for Win8, but this one runs Win7 (thank you very much), so it's not as touch-friendly as it might perhaps be.

For general office work and home applications, it's great. I have no idea whether a hardcore gamer could upgrade one of these to Pentagon-level performance, but it's fine for here.

Fortunately the sound utility has a mode for using the built-in speakers (just okay) and routing audio out the back as well. I fixed up an old Logitech subwoofer to cover frequencies below 300Hz or whatever the native speaker cutoff is, and it's not hard to listen to at all.

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All in one PC

I also build computers and go along with all comments made about replacing and upgrading etc. For me on a personal basis and for a fair number of my customers I install Linux which I find many get along with very well. If space is a problem I would suggest looking at a good laptop.

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Got space? BUY A DESKTOP.. Dont have space? BUY A DESKTOP!

If you don't want to be shackled to a dodgy screen, and pc that has seriously limited upgradability, and repair options get a desktop.

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all-in-One Computer

I bought a iMac a number of years ago and still love it. I would never buy a PC model of the same for the reasons I wouldn't buy any form factor of a PC. PCs are a great way to make money if you are a consultant, because there is always something to fix, but not so on Apple gear. I am glad that I switched.

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An All in One would make a great museum interactive terminal.
But, for normal desktop, a 28" monitor is required, and therefore you need a cheap Hanns-G or other cost-saving 28-incher.
Buying this size monitor on an AOI must be hugely expensive, and it is custom, so the motherboard can't be replaced without a Brinks truck full of 20's.

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Get a laptop, not an AIO

My general response is "No", same advice I give to my clients. AIOs are low-volume production, compared to the millions of desktop and laptops that get cranked out by factories. Spare parts are hard to come by, should an AIO fail. Ease of repair/upgrade depends on the exact model. A memory upgrade can be pretty easy. Forget upgrades of CPUs usually soldered to motherboards. If one can clone the hard drive inside onto a larger capacity drive, a hard drive upgrade/replacement is do-able, though not a cinch. AIOs are often underpowered, as someone else noted, so forget video games. .

Roland D is better off getting a laptop, new or refurb, for the kids to use, laying down very specific rules about computer use. Like no drinks or food by the computer. Do not put the LAPtop in your lap, else it may suffocate. A laptop takes up less space than an AIO, too.

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Would seriously buy!

Hi Roland - bought an HP Pavilion 23 two years ago - all in one but without touchscreen - no problems at all - my worry with the touchscreen is it would mark-up/fade fast - 1 TB of storage and 10 GB of memory - cruising along the way - also got the extended warranty for another $80 for two years - phone support 24x7 and onsite for two more years - cannot beat that! (Which I have used and they are great even at late nights)

Again I would personally shy away from touchscreen with kids - but all in in one is the way to go.



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Would not recommend

If you are serious about intending to do your own repairs or swap-outs, better at the very least have a strong back and lots of patience. the 'pro' of having everything housed on the back of a monitor quickly becomes a 'con' when you have to open it up for any reason. You have to manhandle the thing - safely - into a screen-down position to open it up, and then haul it up again when you're done.
But to begin with, you need to realize that companies that offer on-site warranty repair, and may have some sort of return/exchange policy for laptops (wherein if the system cannot reasonably repaired at your home or office they offer to pull it in to their repair depot) do not offer such an option for All-in-Ones (or Desktops) and you will pretty much need to keep making yourself available for either over-the-phone troubleshooting or for subsequent on-site repairs until the problem is resolved. Not a whole lot of customers actually like the repair depot option, but for nebulous, unidentifiable problems that cannot be narrowed down by troubleshooting, it does save a lot of headaches in the long run. But that's not usually an option unless the system in question is a laptop.
Every All-in-One is designed internally very differently - and many of the designs are far from easy to figure out just by popping off the back cover. In fact there are some models where perhaps the toughest thing to figure out is HOW to get the back off to begin with. Seriously - if you can't find an online manual or youtube video clearly showing you how (and there are some models where that info isn't either available or understandable) you run the risk of damaging the back cover and possibly even one or two internal components.
I've been doing on-site warranty repairs for 6 years now and I cringe whenever I see a work order come through for an AiO. Some are very simple and some are tougher to deal with than anything else I can think of. And what I said earlier about having a strong back - they're heavy and very awkward to maneuver, so I meant that from personal experience. You don't want to move it around if you can avoid it, and you should definitely make sure you have sufficient room for it wherever you intend to use it.
As far as doing your own swap-outs are concerned, simple components such as the hard drive and memory are one thing, and usually are pretty simple to handle. But worst-case scenario, if the screen goes on you, in most cases you're in for a whole lot of fun, and would be much better off paying someone else with (hopefully) experience to deal with it.
I'm not trying to tell you they're all negatives with no benefits - but I want you to be aware of the downside in addition to the positives, which you've already pointed out (the simplicity of design, from the user's perspective). When you asked about how easy it might be to replace a component if it went bad, I figured you should know that it really all depends on the model you settle on; most are easy to open up, and the main CRUs (customer replaceable units) are usually relatively easy to access. But I would definitely recommend getting an extended warranty if you do buy one, just so you don't have to wrestle with it yourself if something goes wrong down the road.

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All Depends on Usage

It's no secret that people are slowly making the switch from a traditional desktop to "new" options. Whether that be smart phones, tablets, laptops, or in this case All-in-One computers. It's obvious the reasons why. Portability, space requirements, base price, performance. Ten years ago, a laptop struggled to keep up with daily tasks, now a $200 laptop will basically do what any desktop can do for the average person. I personally tend to steer clear of anything "all-in-one" as I need the ability to customize and continue to upgrade. Also, it depends what you are looking for. My friends parents went from a full-size desktop to an All-in-one desktop, but it only has an Intel Atom processor, same as those found in very cheap and slow netbooks. You can get AIO computers with near the same hardware specs as your average desktop, but as others have pointed out they will be limited on their available upgrades, if any. Your kids are definitely at the age where they are going to want to use the computer for far more than just browse the internet and homework. PC gaming is starting to make a huge comeback with new titles and renewed old titles that consoles simply don't have. Computers are also capable of rendering (if you have the right GPU, CPU and enough RAM) much higher resolutions and frame rates than any console on the market. Most AIO computers are not built to game, just as most laptops aren't either (unless you spend thousands of dollars on a "gaming" laptop, but then what are you gaining unless you need it to be portable). My biggest thing that keeps me on the desktop front (I have 13 working desktops running as we speak) is the ability to keep old machines running like new, and the ability to upgrade for longer periods of time without replacement just because the hardware is too far outdated. Just my two cents, good luck on your search!

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I have one and like it.

I have had an AIO desktop computer since Dec., 2013. I wanted it for its large screen, 23", and because it took less space. It does not have all the functionality of a desktop- a limited number of USB ports. My main problem has been with the Windows 8.0. A traditional desktop would be more appropriate unless you have limited space otherwise get a laptop. It is ideal if you need a large screen.

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