All in One PC and Desktop: 9 Differences

By Dominic Chooper on August 31, 2020

Are you confused about whether to choose an All-in-One PC or a traditional desktop computer?

This article explains the key differences between All-in-One PCs and desktop computers, including design, overall performance, upgradability, form factor, heat issues, inbuilt storage, lifespan, setup, and cost.

It also discusses the factors that make All-in-One PCs and desktop computers better suited for different tasks. By the end of the article, you will have a clear idea of which option is better for your specific needs.


9 Differences Between All in One PC and Desktop

Differences Between All in One PC and Desktop

1. Design

The design of the AIOs are more compact since all the components are inside the case which acts as the monitor.

The ordinary desktop PCs need separate components such as mouse, keyboard and monitor, all connected through cables with the CPU case, which makes it look very cumbersome and cluttered.

2. Overall Performance

The processors, drives and memory, being inside the case, though makes it look aesthetically pleasing, but also hides the overall performance of the AIO computers.

The architecture of the ordinary desktop computer, on the other hand, will support its performance and raise the desktop benchmark.

Though the AIO will perform pretty fast, it will be a desktop PC that will provide that extra power needed for gaming.

3. Upgradability

The all-in-one computers are limited in internal upgrade options due to its closed and more compact design. You can only upgrade the memory.

The more liberal architecture of the desktop PCs will allow a multiple and even a complete upgrade of the system by opening the case and installing or replacing the desired components.

4. Form Factor

The form factor is the most noticeable difference between an AIO and a desktop PC. The AIOs are compact and look aesthetically pleasing due to its customized configuration.

Any traditional desktop will come in a typical ATX form factor. However, the different input devices connected to the desktop CPU with cables and wires make it look cluttered.

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As for the other features and power differences, it will depend on the particular model.

5. Heat Issues

There can be more frequent heat issues in the AIOs because it typically uses laptop hardware components and there is much less cubic volume in the case to dissipate the heat.

On the other hand, the desktop computers will have a much higher cooling coefficient than the AIOs and therefore will generate much less heat.

6. Inbuilt Storage

The greater capacity of inbuilt storage of the desktops computer systems will allow you to run high-end and more demanding software. It will hold considerably more data whether it is for movies or music as well.

All of these, of course, are not possible in an AIO and, therefore, will not be able to provide you with a higher value for money.

7. Lifespan

Just as there is a notable difference in performance of AIO and desktops, there will also be a difference in their lifespan.

The life of an AIO will be shorter because the heat seems to kill the internal components and the compact design does not allow easy replacements of the damaged components in it.

As for the desktop computers, the lifespan will be much longer because the design allows easy upgrades of one or more components, as and when required, apart from the memory.

8. Setup

It is easy to set up an AIO which involves only a case that acts as the monitor of the system. It is more like a plug and play system, provided the software is preinstalled in the system. You can set it up virtually anywhere as it needs less space.

In contrast, you will need to arrange for a specific and larger space to set up a desktop computer. You will also need to fix the right cables in the right sockets to make the entire system functional.

9. Cost

Finally, the cost of an AIO will be much more than a desktop computer. This is because of the advanced technology and features of the system.

The price tag of a desktop computer will be much lower, however, that does not make it lower in performance as compared to the AIO desktop computers.

Which is Better – All In One PC or Desktop?

It is ideally the trade-offs that will help you to determine which is better between an AIO computer and a desktop computer.

The larger size of the screen in the AIO PCs makes most of the users choose it, especially by those users who use their system for graphic design and video editing.

The screen size of most of the AIOs will typically range between 21 and 27 inches. It will have a Full HD display feature.

Coupled with the most designer-friendly software, these AIOs are the first choice for the graphic and video designers.

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It is also very popular among people for its ability to produce better content viewing. The better and powerful components, such as the in-built TV tuner, of the AIO also makes it great for:

The superior design will not make an AIO look like an ugly piece sitting in the corner of your room, making it a great addition to your home or office.

If space is your primary concern and you want to keep it uncluttered then the AIO is the best choice to replace your bulky and ugly tower PC.

It will come with greater inbuilt storage capacity in it and it will also allow you to run more demanding software. All these will provide higher value for money.

A standard tower-based desktop computer, on the other hand, is always the most practical option and recommendation if you want powerful internal components and relatively better levels of gaming superiority.

AIO can be a bit tricky for you if you are more than a casual gamer and have more interest in computer gaming. You will also not be able to simply open it up and swap in a few new parts in it.

If time sneaks into the AIO and its performance, more often than not, you will need to replace the entire unit.

With the advancements of computer components at a rapid pace, this situation is unavoidable.

To make the right choice, some additional information will be helpful.

The most significant advantage of the AIO PCs is the smaller form factor of it as compared to any other average desktop computers.

However, these systems are not free from any drawbacks. The most significant disadvantages of the AIO desktop computers are:

The first all-in-one computers were introduced in 1998 by Apple iMac.

It had large CRT or Cathode-Ray Tubes in the display. The components of the computer were installed below this tube.

This made the original Apple iMac AIOs larger in size. It was also bulkier at that time but over the years, the design has become lighter, slimmer, and cheaper as well.

This was possible due to the use of a smaller LCD monitor and less expensive components of a desktop system.

Now, the motherboard and other hardware components are not below but behind the LCD display panel.

A few AIOs also have them installed on the base of the display panel.

A desktop computer, on the other hand, is a personal computer that has separate components such as:

This means that an average desktop computer will consume a lot of space and you will need a lot of wires and cables to establish a connection between the different components of the computer system.

This actually makes the desktop computers immobile and cumbersome to use as well. You can use a desktop from only a single fixed location, either placed on a desk or a table, preferably close to an electrical socket on the wall.

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The term desktop computer is used to differentiate the personal computers from other larger computers such as the mainframe computer and supercomputers.

The case or cabinet of a desktop computer contains several components such as the power supply and the motherboard.

This motherboard or the PCB, a short for Printed Circuit Board, contains:

It also contains the disk storage that consists of:

In the earlier models there was a floppy disk drive as well.

The case of the desktop computer can be oriented either vertically or horizontally.

It can be placed under the desk, beside the system or on top of the desk, according to your convenience and availability of space.

The input devices used with a desktop computer are the keyboard and mouse while the output devices include:

A desktop computer can be used in several different ways depending on the context. These are:

A desktop PC can also be an all-in-one computer because it also stays on the desk.

These units cannot be powered by an internal battery as it is possible in laptop computers and other portable devices.

Therefore, without a wall outlet and an uninterrupted power supply, you will not be able to use a desktop computer, ordinary or an AIO.

Though most people are inclined to buy a laptop these days, the desktop computers still remain the most popular choice as a family computer and for business workstations.


The article highlights the differences between an all-in-one PC and a desktop computer.

The all-in-one PC has a more compact design and is limited in terms of internal upgrades, while a desktop computer has a larger form factor and better overall performance.

All-in-one PCs are ideal for those who prioritize space and design, while desktop computers are ideal for those who need more power and upgradability.

Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on individual needs and preferences.