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Question

I am specing out a new Design Technology building for an educational establishment, the current request is for PCs "without a base unit", not sure if these would be described as All-In-One PC's, Monitors integrated into base units, or PC integrated into monitor.

Has anyone had any experience of these PCs? and where can they be sourced?

Analysis

Some of the notes I have made in the course of my investigation.

Advantages

  • All-In-One PCs are more aesthetically pleasing.
  • The only parts of the computer readily visible are the screen, keyboard and mouse. This may reduce idle vandalism ("out of sight - out of mind" principal).

Disadvantages

  • Lack of modularization may lead to increased support and replacement cost:
    • Some components are non-standard and thus expensive to replace.
    • Limited space in Small Form Factor and All-In-One PCs reduce the ability to upgrade, thus reducing the life of the product.
  • Limited power of some models means they are unsuitable for CAD/CAM work.
  • Some models don't have external VGA connectors for connecting Interactive Whiteboards.

Products

Here are the products we have been looking at:

On balance we are looking at buying the Acer Veriton Z280G as for our price bracket it is the best value for money. Due to the lack of a extra VGA port we are going to be using HP DesktopPCs to connect to Interactive Whiteboards.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You might look at the following PCs:

Besides the aesthetics and space savings of these machines, they do not make much sense from a business standpoint because they are expensive and if they go bad you have to replace the whole thing. It also makes upgrading an expensive proposition.

There are some new Nettops which have VESA mounts so they can be attached to a monitor or TV screen, and they are only about $350. See the Acer Revo 3610 for example. If money is a concern I would highly recommend them (I own one and using it as an HTPC).

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You could also look at the all-in-one PC options from Cybernet (cybernetman.com/en/contact_us.cfm) I've seen the keyboard models at my credit union and small retail shops in New England. The link I provided has a UK contact... –  pbrooks100 Jan 21 '10 at 16:43
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Most of the major manufactures are making all-in-one PCs now. Here are a few examples:
Lenovo
HP
Dell

I have not had experience with these systems. But I would imagine they work great, dont take a lot of space, and are energy efficient.

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Viglen do a good range of educational-grade PCs, and offer good educational discounts (No, I don't work for them. I did see them at BETT last week though, and their new range looks pretty shiny.)

Omnio All-in-one PC

I'd totally forgotten about RM also. There's the RM One. Looks promising, probably can get a good educational discount.

Just stumbled on this one too. Acer eeeTop.. Probably cheaper and considerably less powerful though..

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Although I'm a huge fan of Apple's iMacs I'm not sure they're for everyone.

The other answerers have suggested some very good options but one I think you should consider is the use of 'thin client' PCs connected to centralised virtual desktops - what's called VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure).

Basically the users sit in front of a pretty dumb display, keyboard and mouse that has just enough horsepower to connect over the network to one or more much more powerful centralised machines that actually run their operating systems and applications.

This situation allows the use of cheap and very quickly replaced 'front of house' machines that offer the same advantages of iMac-like all-in-ones plus can fix some of the disadvantages (i.e. you can upgrade the central machines with faster processors, memory, adapters etc quickly and more cheaply than lots of PCs; they can offer excellent performance if that is a design goal, they can connect to larger displays etc as required) - in addition you only need to update software/patches/virus-definitons etc in a few places. It can really save a lot of money.

If you're interested in this option then please don't hesitate to come back with more questions, or you could look at the websites of both VMWare (their 'View' product) or Citrix - both are market leaders in the centralised piece and you could search google for 'thin client' to find a range of forms of these devices.

I hope this helps.

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Don't know if they are available in the UK, but I've had good luck with both CLI (Computer Labs Intl) and Bosanova's thin clients. They were a few hundred dollars, small (the size of a paperback book), had no moving parts( equals durable). We were using them in a manufacturing plant that had a history of wrecking PCs, we mounted the thin client under the work bench, plugged in a monitor,keyboard, and mouse; and forgot about them. Depending our your requirements, they can be RDP clients like Chopper3 suggests, or Telnet clients, or simple Browser only stations. –  BillN Jan 22 '10 at 16:56
    
I have looked at thin clients many times before, and in an ideal world I would jump at the chance. Unfortunately the quality of educational software in the UK is pretty poor; a sizeable chunk of the existing software doesn't work in a Citrix/RDP environment. Software is often purchased directly from ISVs without engaging help from local IT meaning we can't test software before it is purchased. –  Richard Slater Jan 22 '10 at 21:17
    
Perhaps look at VMWare's View, it's not like Cirix, it just runs a full VM environment and might be closer to what you're looking for. –  Chopper3 Jan 22 '10 at 21:34
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Also consider using KVM units and rack mounted PCs in the server room, or putting all the PCs in a cupboard with long keyboard and monitor cables.

I have also seen the base unit bolted to the underside of the table to keep it up of the way and stop it being stolen.

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I have considered this, unfortunately the distances involved and quantity of computers becomes prohibitive, we don't have any control over the architecture of the building. –  Richard Slater Jan 22 '10 at 21:20
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