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Four recommendable Windows 8 all-in-ones under $1,300

Have Windows all-in-ones finally broken out of their commodity death spiral? Not entirely, but these four PCs at least put in some effort.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you are considering an all-in-one desktop purchase, you may have noticed higher prices for Windows 8 PCs than Windows 7 systems with comparable hardware from a year ago. Where a reasonably fast 23-inch all-in-one used to cost about $1,000, you can expect to pay $100 to $200 more for the Windows 8 equivalent today

The good news is that PC vendors seem to have finally internalized the calls for better-looking Windows PCs and more-innovative features. Those things alone don't account for the higher prices we're seeing at retail, but they do help lessen the impact.

We know of two more interesting Windows 8 PCs on the horizon, one from Lenovo, another from Asus, both of which, like the Sony Vaio Tap 20 below, have inserted a battery and semi-portability into the desktop equation. I expect those aren't the last mobile-ish desktops we'll see this year, particularly after Intel's next-generation, supposedly more power-efficient Haswell CPUs launch in the coming months.

You might put off any new desktop purchase until we see the full breadth of PCs with Intel's latest CPUs. If you need a new Windows-based all-in-one today, here are four worth considering with a reasonable price tag.

Now playing: Watch this: Asus all-in-one gets Thunderbolt, WiDi support

Asus ET2300INTI
Asus took a page from Apple by making the ET2300INTI one of the first Windows 8 all-in-ones with a Thunderbolt port. That fast data port, combined with its built-in (admittedly less exciting) Wireless Display feature make this the best Windows all-in-one for experimenting with new I/O tech. The big base unit gives the design some clunkiness, and at $1,299 it's also the most expensive unit in this list. It's also the fastest of these four PCs, thanks to its 3.0GHz Core i5 3330 chip. A discrete Nvidia GeForce GT630M graphics chip even makes it a basically capable gaming desktop.

Read the full review of the ET2300INTI.

Now playing: Watch this: 23-inch Dell all-in-one hits the right notes

Dell Inspiron One 2330
For $100 less than the Asus system, you can pick up the Dell Inspiron One 2330. The Asus system is generally a better value because of its performance and its more-exotic inputs, but the Dell has appeal in its design and a few unique ports of its own. Dell put most of its connectivity effort into audio/video inputs, and here you'll find HDMI input, both VGA in and out, as well as composite audio/video ports and two versions of digital audio output -- 3.5mm and optical S/PDIF. Looking for a PC to act as a versatile hardware hub? The Inspiron One 2330 is the best choice on this list.

Read the full review of the Inspiron One 2330.

Now playing: Watch this: Sleek Samsung all-in-one a solid Windows 8 entry point

Samsung Series 7
Samsung included gesture recognition capability with its new Series 7 all-in-one, but it doesn't work anywhere near as well as it should. Since this system only costs $1,099, though, the gesture tech doesn't add much to the price. Instead, the Series 7 is appealing mostly for its sleek design, and also for its impressively responsive touch screen. In most other ways it's humble, but it does the job as an attractive, no-frills, touch-screen Windows 8 desktop.

Read the full review of the Series 7.

Now playing: Watch this: The Vaio Tap 20, Sony's 20-inch touch-screen all-in-one

Sony Vaio Tap 20
Sony was the first vendor with a battery-powered Windows 8 all-in-one, and it showed the world that the concept was not as crazy as it sounds. When it's plugged in, the Tap 20 acts like a normal Windows 8 desktop, albeit a slower one given its power-conscious 1.7GHz Core i7 3317U processor (faster models available). Off the cord, the Tap 20 becomes either a giant 20-inch tablet, or a moderately portable home entertainment device. With battery life just under 4 hours, you won't take the Tap 20 far. But for $999, the Vaio Tap 20 is an exceedingly approachable experiment in next-generation desktop computing.

Read the full review of the Vaio Tap 20.