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Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

The New Face of Computers

Once Upon a Time…

There used to be two types of PCs: desktops and laptops.

Desktops consisted of a hefty case that housed the electronic brains of the machine. To that you added a monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, and possibly other things. This collection of hardware took up a major portion of your desk, and the thing wasn’t particularly stylish.

Laptops combined all the components into one clam shell-like package, in the name of portability. But even that was a pretty utilitarian and kind of clunky device.

Those were the good old days when computer buying decisions were relatively easy to make. You just decided on a desktop or laptop, picked your favorite components and brand, and pulled out your credit card.

That was Then … This is Now …

Now you have:

  1. Classical desktops
  2. All-in-one desktops
  3. All-in-one/tablet hybrids
  4. Laptops
  5. Ultrabooks
  6. Ultrabook/tablet hybrids that swivel, slide, fold, dock, whatever…

And I’m not sure I covered everything. The evaluation process has become far more complicated.

In this and a followup article, I’m going to try to clarify the increasingly confusing PC landscape. I’ll have more to say about the portable computing options later. Today, I’m concentrating on the latest desktop developments.

Old Desktop - RIP

The Old Desktop Design is Officially Dead

The traditional desktop computer is history. You won’t find anything like the desktop of a few years ago in any store anywhere.

Well, yes, by replacing the old tube type monitor shown here with a modern flat screen, you can still find the classical case/monitor/keyboard desktop if you look for it. But walk into a Best Buy or other electronics store, and what will be featured for desktop options is the “all-in-one.”

The New “All-in-One” Desktops

"All-In-One" Desktop Computer

As the name implies, the all-in-one (AIO) computer has wrapped up all the electronics traditionally found in the computer case and put them into a classy-looking monitor. The result is a clean, stylish package, where everything indeed fits on your desk. There’s nothing to hide underneath, and all the connecting cables are gone too.

The Downsides of AIO

With their stylish and clean design, AIOs deserve your consideration. But there are downsides to evaluate.

AIOs are not very flexible. If you are the type that likes to add special purpose cards or otherwise upgrade or expand your computer, an all-in-one is not for you. USB ports on AIO computers will let you add an external drive, printer or other USB device. But beyond that, upgrading is pretty much a no go.

I also worry about overheating. Heat is the enemy of computer components, and every component generates heat. So think about this: Take all the components that used to be in a separate case, a case with multiple fans to dissipate the generated heat. Then cram all that stuff onto one big motherboard and stick that into a small space behind the monitor. What happens to all the heat? I have talked with the owner of a computer repair company, and he tells me that a lot of his business comes from AIOs that have overheated.

The separate case with motherboard, CPU and accompanying components will live on for those of us who like to build or modify our own machines with custom graphic cards, special monitors, and so on. But for the majority of people who buy a computer and use it as it comes out of the box, the AIO is going to be hard to pass up. Just be sure to do a little research before you buy. In particular, find out what you can about the reliability of the machines.

AIO Tablet Hybrids

Even as the AIO is changing the face of desktop computers, a new variation is making itself known: the all-in-one desktop/tablet hybrid.

A tablet is a natural extension of a Windows 8 AIO. If everything except the keyboard and mouse resides in the monitor, then turn the monitor into a touch screen and you don’t need the keyboard and mouse. You now have a Windows 8 tablet … albeit a rather LARGE tablet.

I’ve seen these AIO/tablet hybrids with screen sizes from 18 to 27 inches. This is not something you’re going to carry on the plane with you to use as an e-reader. You’re not going to want this on your lap, period. But lay it flat on a table, and your AIO desktop becomes the centerpiece of your game room.

This form factor doesn’t lend itself very well to action gaming, but it’s an ideal modern day replacement for the multi-player board game. Remember Monopoly? Gather your friends or family around your electronic AIO slate and start building your real estate empire now.

Here are some sources for electronic versions of board games I found in a quick search:

And then there is always the standby Solitaire or other card games that may be more fun and realistic playing on your table top rather than in the traditional computer configuration.

Where can you find games?

I tried to find one my favorite old board games by googling the search phrase “Risk for Windows 8” …

All I found was a document entitled: “Microsoft is taking a huge risk with Windows 8.”  🙂 …a little Windows 8 humor there.

Today’s Desktop Summary

If you’re in the market for a new Windows 8 desktop computer, your choices are:

  1. traditional case with separate flat screen monitor, keyboard, mouse – Still the best choice for flexibility and expansion
  2. a new All-in-One – stylish and clean addition to your office; limited expansion opportunities; read reliability reviews
  3. a Hybrid All-in-One/tablet – a computer by day/game board by night


Category: Articles, Computers