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Averatec's new, self-describing All-in-One offers yet another Windows-based take on the iMac. Compared with similar systems from Dell and Gateway, the $1,300 All-in-One actually has the most aggressive price, as well as the largest screen. In general, and as with those others, Averatec's new PC is less compelling than the iMac. As is typical of Windows-based all-in-ones, the Averatec offers the capability to upgrade that the iMac cannot. And either the larger screen or Windows Vista may be selling points or necessities for some of you, as well. Otherwise, there's very little this Averatec can do that the iMac doesn't do better.
If it can't overcome Apple's iMac juggernaut, the Averatec All-in-One does at least stake a claim as the best designed of the Windows all-in-ones. The glossy black frame features clean lines with no severe angles, protruding speakers, or wasted space. In addition to familiar design elements like a side-mounted slot-loading optical drive and a row of ports on the back, the Averatec also features hard buttons on the right edge that offer basic display controls, for brightness, display power (separate from system power, a nice touch), as well as volume and mute buttons. We admit we find those peripheral buttons useful, and the iMac doesn't have them, but they're probably not enough of a benefit to make up for the All-in-One's less-than-compelling performance.
|Averatec All-in-One||Apple iMac|
|CPU||2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4600||2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo|
|Memory||2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM||2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS||128MB ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT|
|Hard drives||320GB, 7,200rpm||250GB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g wireless||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g wireless; Bluetooth|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1||Apple Mac OS X|
We've only tested the pricier, 24-inch iMac since Apple updated the lineup a few months ago. It would hardly be fair to compare that model with the Averatec, so instead we looked back in our testing database and found the results for the 20-inch iMac from the previous generation. That old iMac that we reviewed cost $1,650 last September, counting the upgrade to 2GB of RAM. The newer 20-inch iMac, on sale now with a faster CPU and faster RAM, starts at $1,200, and would cost $1,300 for 2GB of RAM (as configured in the chart above). If we assume that a new $1,300 iMac would outperform the old $1,650 iMac, as seems reasonable, and since the old iMac is faster than the Averatec's performance today, it's a safe bet that the newer, less expensive iMac would expand the performance gap even further.
And unfortunately for Averatec, that is indeed the case.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
On every single test, the old 20-inch iMac is faster than the Averatec. On some tests, for example dual-core video processing on Cinebench, the two are close. However, on others, such as Photoshop, the iMac outpaces the Averatec system, as well as the other Windows-based PCs, by a large margin.
What's perhaps worse, the $650 Gateway GT5674 is also faster than the $1,300 Averatec on all but our iTunes MP3 encoding test. In other words, you could buy that Gateway and an exceptional 24-inch LCD for the same price as the Averatec. That illustrates the biggest shortcoming of Windows-based all-in-ones, and it's not exclusive to this Averatec model. The performance gap between an Apple iMac and a standard desktop is much smaller than it is between a standard PC and a Windows-based all-in-one. Likely, this has to do with Vista and its more demanding performance overhead compared with Apple's OS X. However, for accomplishing actual computing tasks, the iMac is a far better deal.
From a features standpoint, the Averatec All-in-One fares a bit better, although it depends on what you need or want. The 22-inch display is probably its biggest selling point, although Hewlett-Packard will give it a run for its money with its forthcoming TouchSmart all-in-one, due out next week. For what's available right now, only Sony offers a 22-inch all-in-one, but its Vaio LT3 series starts at $2,000, pushing it into another price bracket. Avertec gets the nod then, at least for now, for the most affordable all-in-one with the largest LCD. We found the display bright and crisp, and it would be fine for watching movies.
Unlike the Sony and Dell all-in-ones, Averatec's has no Blu-ray drive. You do get a standard definition, dual-layer DVD burner, and the starting price for Blu-ray seems to be about $2,000 with the Sony model. We'd certainly like to see Blu-ray everywhere, but it's still a bit early. We have a hunch this time next year it will be ubiquitous, so if you looking for an all-in-one to use this system as an entertainment device for a smaller room, and you want Blu-ray, perhaps consider giving it more time.
The networking options on the Averatec are probably fine for most people. You get standard Gigabit Ethernet and typical 802.11 a/b/g wireless. Apple and Dell both offer faster, wider-bandwidth 802.11n wireless in their all-in-ones for the same price. You can most likely get by with the older wireless formats, but if you have a lot of network traffic in your house, or if you intend to put the system far away from your router, you might miss the fatter, faster 802.11n pipeline.
Otherwise, the Averatec's hardware features are very similar compared with other systems of this type, right down to the Webcam on the upper front edge. Averatec follows its Windows-based counterparts by offering a built-in TV tuner and a media card reader, both of which Apple's iMac lacks. You also get a spare, if functional, wireless mouse and keyboard set included for the default price. Apple charges more for wireless input.
The Averatec also has the capability to upgrade in common with the Sony and Gateway all-in-ones. Getting inside involves loosening about 10 screws, all of which are easy to find and easy to put back in. From there you simply lift off the sturdy rear panel and you get direct access to the system's circuitry. Averatec actually exposes more of the inner workings than either Sony or Gateway. If you're handy with a soldering iron, you might actually be able to upgrade more than simply the memory, which is all Averatec recommends. The hard drive in particular looks easy to swap out, although more adventurous upgrades would surely void the warranty.
Assuming you're still coverage worthy, Averatec will protect your All-In-One with parts-and-labor warranty coverage. You can obtain service either online, or by dialing the toll-free support line, which is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., PT, Monday through Friday. That's a little skimpy, with the lack of weekend or late night hours especially hurting those who work at similar times. You can find a FAQ and driver downloads on Averatec's Web site, but as of this writing, they only offer information for Averatec's laptops. Hopefully the All-In-One will show up soon.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Apple iMac (20-inch)
Apple OS X; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E4600; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS graphics chip; 320GB, 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.
Windows Home Premium SP1; 2.2GHz AMD Phenom 9500; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.
Gateway One GZ7220
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7250; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive.