January 23, 2013, 4:56 PM — PC gamers fear me. They scowl when they boot up Far Cry 3 only to see my stuttering frame rates, low resolution, and lack of antialiasing. Just name it--if it's a critical graphics setting, I've disabled it.
I may look pretty on the surface, and I may be practical, but my gaming performance is almost always disappointing. I am the all-in-one desktop PC.
Duc Dang, Toshiba's Senior Product Manager, says all-in-one PC sales have grown 32% in the last couple of years, making them a major focus in the evolving PC ecosystem. The success should come as no surprise, as all-in-ones can make ideal family machines. By integrating a display and PC in a single, slender chassis, they eliminate desk clutter and reach relatively low prices.
Unfortunately, however, most all-in-ones do so at the expense of gaming performance--which is not only back-burnered, but usually taken off the stove completely. Cheap, integrated graphics and low-performance CPUs may be perfect for super-thin all-in-ones (which, from an engineering standpoint, have more in common with laptops than desktops), but they don't foster great PC gaming.
Yet there is hope for all-in-ones thanks to one manufacturer serving a very vocal, niche market.
The first of its kind
Maingear's Alpha 24 doesn't look like your typical sleek and sexy all-in-one PC. It has much more, well, "desk presence" thanks to a bulkier chassis and multiple power adapters, which are necessary to fuel the insane graphics hardware locked within.
"As the popularity of all-in-ones has increased over the last few years, PC manufacturers started to create thinner and more stylish designs, but also used mobile parts," says Chris Morley, Maingear's Chief Technology Officer. "We saw an opportunity with the Alpha 24 to put together an all-in-one that offers high-performance desktop components, and the ability to upgrade for future-proofing, which appeals to PC gamers."
All that future-proofing starts with a discrete, high-end Nvidia graphics card that can be swapped out later on--just like you might do with a traditional desktop machine. Says Morley: "Form followed function. With that in mind, we started by building the Alpha 24 around the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 GPU."