Driven mostly by Apple’s iMac, the all-in-one PC market has seen a boom lately. And why not? You can cram an entire computer behind a big, floating display and control it with a couple of wireless peripherals. The minimal, clutter-free design of an all-in-one PC works in every room of the house, and the big screen can comfortably double as an HDTV for watching videos. They tend to be more difficult to upgrade, but they’re very convenient.
This 27-inch all-in-one from Asus is no iMac, but it holds its ground as a great choice for a desktop workstation — it’s a powerful Windows 7 machine with a big, bright screen, an attractive design, and a wide array of features that give it a high level of versatility. The bundled keyboard and mouse are sub-standard, but there are enough positives here for me to recommend it.
The PC’s big, crisp display is one of its best features. The 16:9 widescreen HD panel sports a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. It has LED backlighting and a 178-degree wide viewing angle, and colors appear bright and vivid. With its edge-to-edge glass display, surrounding black bezel, silver front-facing speaker bar and silver metal stand, the entire hardware package is attractive. You won’t see any buttons cluttering the front display — the menu icons are visible on the bezel, but the buttons are hidden underneath the panel. An understated camera eye peers from the center-top.
It’s not all about looks. Inside is a quad-core Intel Core i7 2600S processor, an Nvidia GT 540M graphics processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. A read/write Blu-ray drive is standard on this model. You also get plenty of ports on the Asus, which is another strong point. Our loaner came with two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, VGA-out, HDMI-in, Ethernet, an SD card reader, and all the standard audio ports you’d expect.
If you’re cramped for space — like if you live in a San Francisco studio, for instance — then the Asus ET2700INKS could easily double as an HDTV. Using the HDMI-in port, you can connect the PC to a set-top box like the Roku or your DVR. You can even mount it on a wall, as the back of the computer has a VESA-compatible mounting bracket. This is a choice that more and more manufacturers are going with these days, and we like it — when the computer inside becomes obsolete in however many years, you can just repurpose the thing as an HDTV by mounting it on a wall or on a stand.
Asus is marketing the ET2700 as the “centerpiece of your family’s entertainment,” so I’d expected the computer’s internal speakers to produce some decent audio. With the help of an external subwoofer — a squat, black obelisk tethered to the back of the PC by a cord that’s about a foot too short — music came out sounding better than what most computer speakers produce. But the sound didn’t fill a large room. I turned the volume all the way up, and it still couldn’t compete with the droning traffic noise outside the get-gadget office.
Like almost every all-in-one PC, the ASUS comes with a keyboard and mouse. But in this case, the computer would have been better off without them. The keyboard, in particular, was an ergonomic nightmare — just imagine a Mac keyboard made out of super-cheap plastic and with a mushy, pillowed typing experience. The included wireless mouse was too small for comfort, even for my dainty lady hands. If you plan on using the ET2700 as your daily computer, expect to drop some extra cash on a keyboard and mouse that are actually usable.
That issue gives me some pause, because with a $1,500 price tag, the Asus sits in the high end of all-in-one PCs. Still, it’s cheaper than a similarly spec’d iMac, plenty powerful, and stuffed with nice-to-haves. And especially if you’re looking for a computer to double as a home entertainment display, the Asus will more than suffice.