PC Desktops vs. All-in-Ones: Benefits and Suitability Compared

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PC Desktops vs. All-in-Ones: Benefits and Suitability Compared

For most people, the personal computer is a standard part of daily life. Having grown up with computers and the Internet, students are unable to fathom a world in which all this digital functionality and interconnectivity did not exist. Although early computers were expensive, bulky, and difficult to use, personal computers have become increasingly smaller, faster, and more convenient. They are often viewed as an integral part of modern life, and with good reason.

When looking to purchase a personal computer for individual use, buyers are faced with three main options: desktop, laptop, and tablet. While laptop and tablet models have convenience and portability on their sides, desktop computers provide the greatest benefits when it comes to processing speed, memory, reliability, and the ability to upgrade. Desktop PCs are available as separate processor and monitor components or as all-in-ones. After reviewing the characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks of each, buyers can turn to eBay to make an informed purchase.

A History of Personal Computers

The Electronic Numerical Integrator Analyzer (ENIAC) is usually regarded as the first electronic computer. Built in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania, the machine was used during World War II for ballistic calculations for the U.S. military. Weighing in at 30 tonnes, the EINAC occupied 186 square metres and cost US $500,000 to manufacture, which is well over US $6.5 million in 2013.

Although computers made their debut in the 1940s, it was not until the 1970s that the machines truly began to spread from the government to the public sector. That decade, technology enthusiasts could buy, assemble, and program the components of these microcomputers themselves. At the time, however, early PCs were sought more for their novelty than functionality, as common uses included only basic games and mathematical calculations.

In 1975, following the adaptation of BASIC programming language, Bill Gates and Paul G. Allen founded Microsoft. Two years later, Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak introduced the first Apple computer. By 1982, personal computers had become so indispensable that Time magazine named the PC its "Man of the Year."

Personal Computers Defined

By definition, a personal computer is one designed for individual use, whether in an office or workspace, or at home; the unit's affordability, convenient size, and multiple capacities allows for such a use. Innumerable software programs are available for the PC, each designed for specific tasks, operations, and entertainment. amongst the more popular types of software applications are databases, digital media playback, email clients, internet browsers, spreadsheets, and word processing programs. The four primary types of personal computers include the desktop, laptop, tablet, and handheld, with the latter category encompassing mobile phones and the former including all-in-one PCs.

Personal computers originated as microcomputers, or kit components that technicians and hobbyists had to put together. They included neither keyboard nor mouse; rather, the user gave instructions via toggle switches, and received results from front panel lamps.

From the Office into the Home

In the 1980s, personal office computers came into the home; with their introduction came a new field of personal-use software, including programs for games, personal productivity, and programming. In the beginning, home monitors were significantly inferior to those at work, with somewhat blocky graphics and a limited range of colours.

The workstation soon emerged, itself defined as having a graphic display and a high-performance processor. Further characteristics include extensive local disk storage, a multitasking operating system, and networking capability. Within a short time, the line between home and office computers was erased.

Operating Systems

A PC requires an operating system to boot and manage computer programs. By definition, an operating system is a collection of software responsible for overseeing, and serving as an intermediary between, the computer's hardware and software programs. Operating systems are not constrained to personal computers but are also behind the operation of video game consoles, mobile telephones, supercomputers, and web servers. On desktop computers, the three most popular operating systems are Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, and Linux.

Specialty Personal Computers

Personal computer users are not only those who surf the Web or type a resume. Rather, some users are video game enthusiasts, spending much, if not all, of their computer time engaged with their own software or online, interacting with other players. Another type of personal computer user is the one used in assembling a home theatre system. In both of these situations, users can look beyond a standard PC and find a machine that is geared precisely to meet their needs.

Gaming Computers

Those who use their personal computers primarily for video game use often opt for gaming-specific computers. These PCs are distinguished not only by amped-up video cards but also faster processors and increased memory. Beyond the computer itself, specially designed accessories are available for gamers, including headsets with both microphone and speaker.

Home Theatre Systems

Personal computers designed for home theatre use are essentially combination PCs and digital video recorders. In lieu of a desktop monitor, home theatre PCs connect directly to a television or video screen. Although theatre-specific computers are readily available, home theatre operation can be achieved by assembling individual components, as well.

Desktop Computers

Just as it sounds, a desktop computer is a personal computer designed to fit on a desk. These single-location units differ from their more mobile laptop and tablet counterparts in that they are tied to a single location. A desktop computer is generally comprised of four components: a central processing unit (CPU), monitor, keyboard, and mouse, although all-in-one models that combine the CPU and monitor are available, as well. Early desktop PCs featured CPUs that lay horizontally on the desk; the monitor was usually placed on top of this unit. Today, however, most CPUs are free-standing towers that have been moved to the floor, freeing more working desk space.

All-in-One Computers

A desktop in which the central processing unit is combined in the same case as the monitor is known as an all-in-one PC. An early example of such a unit is the classic Macintosh computer, which found its way into stores in the mid-1980s, or the popular iMac of a decade and a half later.

In recent years prior to 2013, all-in-one PCs have grown in popularity, with shipments increasing nearly 50 per cent in 2010 compared to 2009, and from 2008 to 2009. Although sales have slowed slightly, increases of 31 and 20 per cent were recorded or forecast in 2011 and 2012, respectively. In 2013, sales of all-in-one PCs represent 10.5 per cent of the desktop computer market.

Recent advancements in the computer field have led to a whole new era of all-in-one PCs. The units are outfitted with the latest Intel chips, which are more powerful, smaller, and more energy efficient. The new mini-ITX motherboard, an essential component in an all-in-one PC, is also half as tall, space savings that translates into smaller all-in-one cases.

PC Desktops vs. All-in-Ones: Benefits and Suitability Compared

Of course, anytime one is deciding between two products, there are pros and cons. As mentioned, the desktop PC market is nine times that of the all-in-one. This is not to say, however, that buyers should opt for a desktop without considering their options. A discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of each is in order.

Desktop Advantages

A review of the market reveals that there are many more desktop computers for sale than there are all-in-ones. Due to this proliferation, it follows logically that the unit's extensions and parts, including the motherboard form factor, expression slots, and conventional PCI/PCI express, are standardised, resulting in greater availability and lower prices.

Another positive side effect of this standardisation is the greater ability to upgrade and customise it affords desktop PCs. When needed or desired, it is easier to add or replace such hardware as memory cards, hard disks, and optical drives. Additionally, desktop PC owners save the cost of upgrading two components if just one needs replacing. Monitor technology does not change as fast as hardware and CPUs; as such, a separate monitor can last through one or two PC upgrades.

All-in-One Advantages

There is much to be said about the simplicity of all-in-one PCs. These multifunctional models are easier to operate and lighter weight to carry. Set-up is simpler, as users find more of a plug-and-play operation with fewer components to move from one place to another. Not only does this neaten a desk area, thanks to the consolidation of cables and the use of fewer power outlets, but it makes the units easier to relocate, as needed. An all-in-one PC also occupies less space than a multi-component desktop.

While a common concern with an all-in-one is the fact that it is difficult to upgrade, newer models often combine off-the-shelf components, making them easier to modify and upgrade. Touchscreen functionality has found its way to the all-in-one PC, as well, expanding its functionality and variety of operation. Other recent advancements include all-in-ones with television tuners and DVD burners.

All-in-One Disadvantages

Despite the all-in-one's strengths, especially with recent models, a discussion of its drawbacks bears mention. As stated, the capability to upgrade or customise an all-in-one may be limited, if not outright impossible. With internal hardware situated behind the screen, these components are frequently unable to be removed. Because the CPU has less space in which to reside, it—as well as other hardware units—may be attached permanently to the motherboard. Therefore, upgrades may be limited to memory and hard drive; the motherboard and processor cannot be changed.

When an all-in-one needs service, owners lose the use of the entire computer for the whole time it is in for repair. This is especially problematic when the issue concerns the monitor, as on a desktop computer, by comparison, the user could hook up an old or borrowed monitor until their current unit has been repaired.

Lastly, with an all-in-one, the amount of airspace in the case is less than with a desktop. As such, an all-in-one computer is not designed for high-powered tasks, such as playing video games or running massive server applications. Whereas newer models may facilitate these powerful programs, older ones cannot be upgraded to do so; they can only be replaced. The chart below details the differences between the desktop and all-in-one PC based on the aforementioned features.


Desktop PC

All-in-One PC








Occupies space on desk and floor

Occupies space on desk

Upgrade capacity



Processing speed/memory



The choice between desktop and all-in-one PCs comes down to a matter of preference. Buyers who anticipate relocating a machine on a regular basis may find themselves leaning towards an all-in-one. Alternately, those who enjoy staying abreast of advances in technology, including advances in computer components, should probably stick with a standard desktop.

Buying a PC Desktop or an All-in-One on eBay

For its wide inventory and money-saving pricing, eBay is a popular place to shop for personal computers. The site has vast numbers of PCs for sale, both desktop models and all-in-ones. By now, you have reviewed the capabilities and limitations of desktop and all-in-one PCs, and you have decided which one is right for your needs. You can now take your knowledge to eBay and initiate a search for your intended product. Just start with a general keyword search for a "pc desktop" or an "all-in-one".

eBay makes it easy to browse its computer section and obtain an overview of what it has to offer. For more specific searches, you can click through eBay's categories or use the search bar to find precisely what you are looking for with a specific keyword search, such as "Dell desktop pc". As you scroll down the page of results, take note of photographs and product titles; of course, price is always going to be a consideration. You can find additional information, including seller satisfaction rating, shipping cost and terms, and item specifics, upon clicking the individual item.


In the United Kingdom, citizens have accepted personal computers as a way of life. They use PCs at work, and then come home to log onto the internet, check their email, or shop online. They write novels and create art and retouch photographs, create balance sheets and surf the Web and work from home. While the choice of personal computers largely comes down to three options: desktop, laptop, and tablet. Without a doubt, the desktop model offers the best price, the most memory, and the fastest speed.

Once a desktop PC has been decided upon; however, there is another decision to be made: standard desktop model, or an all-in-one. As each has its benefits and drawbacks, it pays to take inventory of one's current needs and near-future intentions before making a choice. When deciding between desktop and all-in-one PCs, buyers should be aware of the pros and cons of each. With a full understanding of each unit's benefits and drawbacks, buyers are ready to take their search to eBay and find the right product for their needs.

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