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Digital Savant

Posted: 2:51 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013

Micro: what are all-in-one computers? 

Dell XPS 27" Touch
Dell Inc.
The Dell XPS 27" Touch is an example of an "All-in-one" desktop computer.

By Omar L. Gallaga

In the past there were two kinds of mainstream computers: boxy desktops and laptops. Things have gotten more interesting in recent years with tablets, tablet/laptop hybrids and, for desk dwellers, a category called “all-in-one desktops.”

Apple’s iMac and Dell’s XPS 27 are two examples of all-in-ones. They are typically desktop computers that eschew a box for a less cluttered design, incorporating the guts of the computer onto the monitor itself. With the proliferation of wireless keyboards, mice and Internet connectivity, you could have a whole system with only one wire; indeed, the iMac is bundled with only a power cable.

All-in-ones can save desk space and some newer models running Windows 8, like the XPS 27, are available with touch screens. The downside is that all-in-ones often can’t be significantly altered on the inside beyond a simple RAM upgrade the way many desktop can. But as processor speeds have plateaued and our needs for hard drive space have changed, that’s less of a worry than it used to be.

In this space every week, we’ll define a tech term, offer a timely tip or answer questions about technology from readers. Email

Omar L. Gallaga

About Omar L. Gallaga

Omar L. Gallaga writes about technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman. He was a technology correspondent for NPR's "All Things Considered," helping originate the All Tech Considered segment and blog.

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