The lowdown on all-in-one PCs

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Room for One?

What is it? An all-in-one PC contains in one unit a system board, hard drive, optical drive, RAM, ports, audio and video circuitry, and display'usually an LCD but sometimes a CRT. The keyboard and mouse can be attached via wire or connect wirelessly. Some, such as the Apple iMac, connect the display to the base unit via a swinging arm, while others integrate the display into the main unit. The Dell OptiPlex achieves the union of PC and display via a mounting bracket on the display base.

What's the best place to deploy one? Reception desks, executive offices and training rooms are typical areas. All-in-ones also are used in hospital nursing stations and, in at least one case, aircraft repair areas.

What's their chief advantage? They save desk space and have a more stylish appearance than traditional PC systems. Installation is often easier, since there are fewer cords to connect and channel.

How difficult are they to service? Some critics say the units create a single point of failure, while some manufacturers say their machines have easily replaced components. Service, they say, can be done either deskside or via overnight replacement.

Must-know info? Most units are somewhat limited in options; unlike a desktop PC, you can't easily replace a video or audio card with another of your choice. But many models include high-quality components and hard drives of up to 200 G, as well as optical drive options including DVD writers.

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