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A large organization(1500+ users, with 5 locations) is planning to refresh desktop hardware.

Is there any benefits going with an all-in-one desktop where the screen, CPU, disk drive, CD/DVD are in one unit, with USB keyboard and Mouse?

If on-site support is available is it better or is a separate CPU preferable?

Here is the system that is being considered.

ThinkCentre A70z All-In-One 19" System

Link http://www.lenovo.com/partners/us/en/a70z.html

Our specs.

° A70z
° Intel Core 2 Duo E7500
° Intel G41 Chipset
° All-In-One PC Form Factor
° 19” WXGA+
° 2 DIMM Slots 4GB Ram
° DVD Burner
° Web Cam & Mic
° Gigabit Ethernet
° 11 b/g/n wireless LAN
° 6 USB 2.0 Ports
° VESA 100mm mount
° Energy Star 5.0 standard on all models
° 3 Year on-Site Warranty

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Depending on your users needs. Might be worth looking into virtualizing your desktops then deploying Thin-Clients to your users. An example solution might be to use VMware View and Wyse clients. –  xeon Jul 9 '10 at 22:44
    
VDI - Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. You should really look into it if you're doing 1500 computers all at once. It'll probably be cheaper, but definitely easier to manage once your admins are up on the tech. –  Chris S Jul 15 '10 at 19:49
    
VDI? Vmware product? –  ggonsalv Jul 16 '10 at 0:07
    
Isn't this VDI going back to thin dumb terminals with big box that runs everything aka the mainframe. Distributed computing does have it's benefits where the desktop PC is still important. Since a lot of apps are browser-based or skinny (smaller than thin) anyway, I see no benefit on licensing an additional virtual server to run some thing that could run on the desktop. –  ggonsalv Jul 16 '10 at 20:57

9 Answers 9

The only significant advantage of an all-in-one is the reduced space requirement. Balance that against the maintenance issues. In most cases you will no longer be able to use generic components as replacements, so you need to be sure that the manufacturer will guarantee supply of replacement parts for the expected life of the units. Good luck with that!

If there is any possibility that you may need to replace or upgrade things like video cards or need to add extra cards for additional functionality you need to restrict your choice to models that use conventional socketed cards and perhaps even have additional slots. Be warned: This is not the norm in the case of the units I've seen so far. A lot is sacrificed to get it all to fit into that nice compact case.

For all intents and purposes what you have there is a glorified laptop, with most of the same pros and cons, except it's not even portable.

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We use them (a college).

Pro - use less space, wiring, power.

Con - You can't throw away the computer after 4 years and keep the monitor (or vice versa).

As for access to the case, it depends on what model you pick - some are easier to get into than others. We currently use this, which is from a supplier that specialises in UK education, and while it comes with security screws because of the market it is being sold into, it is actually quite easy to get into and maintain besides that. An iMac or an iMac clone style machine will obviously be a lot more difficult.

If you're buying 1500 seats, it shouldn't be too hard to negotiate an on-site 3 year warranty as part of the deal or a very cheap extra? That's what we do.

The models we buy are based on a standard case with more or less standard (but sometimes half-height) expansion cards, motherboards, drives. I don't see those kind of AIOs as a problem in any environment, at the end of the day they're a standard computer and a standard monitor in a fancy case with the graphics and power wires for the monitor routed internally...

I've got one of these at home that's 6 years old - it did 4 years running XP, Office, etc in a college classroom with barely a problem and when we 'scrapped' it I took it home, cleaned out a LOT of dust and fluff, installed a bigger hard drive, the fastest model of pentium 4 that the motherboard would take (a place near me had a sale on these for pennies), and a Aero capable graphics card and put windows 7 on it. It runs like a champ, and is a decent media centre PC in one of my spare bedrooms. Got a second one for a friend's nephew and he loves it. These are pretty robust and reliable machines.

The other type are what I think of as the iMac clones - which are based on making the AIO as compact as possible, and are typically based on laptop components and construction techniques. These are much harder to maintain and may come at a cost premium over and above the other type of AIO (let alone conventional computer and monitor combos) but have advantages if desk space is at an extreme premium, or in areas where appearance might be as important as functionality and certainly more important than ease of maintenance (e.g. reception areas, CEO's desk, etc).

I wouldn't like to say that one or the other type are good or bad, just that they're aimed at slightly different needs and markets. If ease of maintenance is important to you, then the question is what category do the Lenovo machines you're looking at fall into. I think the processor and chipset it uses are desktop parts, which sounds good, and this review talks about being able to open it up to work on HDD and memory without too much trouble which is promising. It also has power supply inside the case instead of external which I always think is a good thing.

If it were my employer's money and I was buying that many desktops I'd ask for an eval unit, and I'd pop the case to see if we felt it was maintainable (in fact we always do this for each year's round of purchasing) but this looks like a reasonable start.

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How accessible are the cases or technician needed for everything? –  ggonsalv Jul 9 '10 at 21:13
    
I like the idea of getting a sample. So far you been most helpful, we content based on fact rather than urban legend. –  ggonsalv Jul 16 '10 at 0:06
    
Thank you. We have a similar number of computers to yours, and we replace 25% of them each year (4 year rolling replacement). When you're running that amount of seats then getting samples in and deciding for yourself is the only way to go, I think. –  RobM Jul 16 '10 at 5:42

If you don't want to run thin clients with LTSP/Citrix/VMWare, but want smaller footprint, I know Dell has very small machines that mount on the back of the monitor stand, so it takes up very little room. Not quite as 'stylish' as an all-in-one, but a bit more modular when it comes to parts.

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+1 In my area those units are used a lot in hospitals, where desk space is always in short supply. –  John Gardeniers Jul 13 '10 at 3:56
    
Licensing for Virtual desktop is out due to cost constraints! –  ggonsalv Jul 16 '10 at 0:03
    
We've tried this but found it took much longer to assemble and deploy desktops that used the 'piggyback' method. –  RobM Jul 16 '10 at 5:43

I would argue against going this route if you do anything other than sending your systems away to the manufacturer for maintenance. Replacing failed hardware in an all-in-one system can be a huge pain - the cases are generally not built to be easily opened or maintained.

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We expect on-site support where the tech comes with the part during business hours and resolves the issue on-site. –  ggonsalv Jul 16 '10 at 0:05

As was mentioned already, a All In One solution basically reduces the hardware footprint, cable management and overall neatness/appearance.

However, one solution if you are looking for the simplicity/neatness of the All in One Solution, but without the drawbacks of very customized equipment is a solution similar to Dells AIO solution.

More information as to what I am talking about, can be seen at:

http://www.dell.com/content/topics/topic.aspx/global/products/landing/en/optiplex-aio?c=us&l=en&cs=555

Without getting into a Dell vs. all argument, you get a small footprint, a stand alone decent monitor and a Small Form Factor or Ultra Small Form Factor PC that you can mix and match throughout your organization. Additionally, if you are looking at a 1500PC refresh, you can easily include/upgrade to 5 Year warranty for little extra.

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Unfortunately bulk purchase contract restriction limits the choice to Lenovo All-in-Ones or towers )or HP towers. Dell small factor PC's , that we have now,have alot power supply issues with burn-outs or overheating. –  ggonsalv Jul 12 '10 at 19:14

I don't see any benifit besides the hipster look of some models. Prices are higher and maintenance is not easy. If you did want to look into a mass purchase then you should be consulting with the manufacturer to receive reports on such things as mean time between failure, the ammount of proprietary components used and available service plans or additional training required by your support staff. If you wan't the image of being a sleek company that's fine but a company with a stringent bottom line should be considering the long term outcome.

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We have a lot of old Gateway Profile 4s and Profile 5s (which are all-in-one models). They have serious problems with the monitors and are extremely slow for supposedly being 3.4 Ghz. The backlights in the monitors often burn out and parts are hard to find. Personally, I would vote against all-in-ones.

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we've just started issuing all-in-one models (acer Z280G) and so far I've found them to be quite effective in a school environment. The amount of space saved is invaluable, and there's less for the kids to mess up!

The main problem we've experienced is with the DVD drives, they're a bit flimsy as they're just laptop drives. They can easily be broken off in fact..

apart from that, they've been no problem. We are soon to have a new building added to the site and I believe we're going to go with all-in-one PC's entirely.

Another bonus is that if they go wrong you wont break your back trying to lug them around to fix them.

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Pro

  • more free space in office
  • less cables
  • more trendy (!!!)

Con

  • higher costs
  • less range of available configurations
  • no upgrade is possible or is very difficult (monitor included)
  • if monitor faults...all pc in un-usable (you can't use external monitor)
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