All-in-One: Toshiba DX735

We haven't seen any of Gateway or Sony's systems in house yet, but between the three all-in-ones we've tested so far, Toshiba's DX735 has been my favorite. Toshiba's touchscreen experience may be about as rudimentary as it gets, but the DX735 isn't about frills and doesn't suffer from the kinds of schizophrenic configurations and design decisions that the competing all-in-one systems have. It's also the least expensive of the lot and the display isn't horrible (which is more than we can say for the Dell Inspiron One we looked at).

A lot of the problem with the other systems is that they're weird chimeras of desktop processors and mobile graphics, making the whole user experience feel a bit top heavy. You're paying more for a CPU that is likely going to be underused, and the graphics still feel like second-class citizens; I appreciated the DX735 for being a capable internet appliance and not having the kinds of perplexing configurations the competing all-in-ones had (not to mention the fact that it doesn't cook the hard drive the way the Dell Inspiron One does). You can certainly find cheaper All-in-One offerings, but only if you're willing to compromise on other elements (e.g. the display, performance, and/or build quality).

Recommended Configuration: DX735-D3201
Available in retail for $899


Budget Desktop: AVADirect Desktop PC Fusion FM1

This is the one category where I'm not able to make a recommendation based on personal experience with the hardware itself. While I feel like Llano's utility on the desktop is at least somewhat questionable, at the bottom end of the market it feels like the best deal. AMD's concept of a "balanced system" has some flaws, but at its core it's a fundamentally sensible one. I've seen too many people get hamstrung by a weak IGP in a low-end system; in the end you're going to wind up having to spend more money if you ever decide you want to game on a Sandy Bridge or AM3/AM3+ system, but if you absolutely must save money now and don't want to have to invest later, Llano is the way to go.

So why go with AVADirect in this instance? Of the boutiques I've worked with, they're among the best reviewed, and with their Llano-based desktop you get a $500 starting price for a decent system and a strong 3-year warranty along with better, more personalized customer service than you're apt to get going with a major vendor like HP or Dell. While I'm not a fan of the bottom rung HEC power supply, you're at least guaranteed three years of value and it should be enough to handle whatever minor upgrades you may want to pop into the system down the line. I'd just go with the baseline configuration and maybe make a minor tweak here or there; 4GB of DDR3 is cheap enough to upgrade to and you should be good to go.

Recommended Configuration: Baseline plus 4GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600
Available from AVADirect at ~$500

Introduction Midrange and High End Desktops
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  • just4U - Friday, December 2, 2011 - link

    While we all learn this lesson (earlier or later..) I still find it's better to build a system for family or friends. Most of mine last 5+ years and if they have a problem they send it to me. Why? Well, waiting waiting weeks to get it fixed for starters.. or having to take it into local shops where they will charge you 1-300+.placing you into the que.

    I put my foot down long ago and am firm with them. None ever blame me any more (even tho I know .. and likely some of you do as well..) that occasionally it's something we did or didn't do that caused the problem.

    I do however think we get the shaft on the OS. Microsoft should be offering better on OEM. We drive the industry as much as others do even if it's not on the same scale. Not that it matters though.. SInce we can't get into building little smart phones and are pretty much locked out of the lap top section we are a dieing breed.
  • Samoht - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    "even in their high end desktop machines, to say nothing of anything south of a large."
    Just out of curiosity, what does that mean? I have never heard that expression before, but then again I do not have english as a first language.
  • Draconian - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    South of a large = less than $1,000
  • Draconian - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    If you're going to go with a pre-built gaming desktop and you're on a budget, you gotta go with either Cyberpower or IBUYPOWER.

    Newegg was selling this PC for $459 this past weekend, even though the price jumped back up to $600.

    You can get a decent $700 gaming PC on Newegg, or get one pre-built from either company and get a 3 year warranty.
  • jigglywiggly - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    horrible list
    midrange 1200$?
    Are you guys out of your minds?

    I cud find a better prebuilt anywhere.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    yu cud also lern 2 spel
  • bruf - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    Great idea and I agree with previous posts, for friends & family it's definitely the way to go especially when you have dozen of "clients". ;)

    I'd like to see a similar guide (with different budget/profile) for notebooks, especially in the crowded 500$ market. Is it something you've started working on or that we could expect in the next few weeks/months?
  • Lunyone - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    Your ideas of Budget & Midrange systems seem a bit too high! I would opt for a budget system at or about the $300-500 range, depending on needs and budget of coarse. Midrange should be around the $600-800 price range, but that is just my opinion.

    When building for most people (friends/family) I can't beat Dell, HP, Gateway, Acer, etc for the budget low end. If I could get Windows for about $20-30 (without using a student discount) than I could be close to their prices (if I don't charge for any of my work/time). This would be nice, but it isn't the case. The OEM's get the best pricing, so I can't/won't ever get to the really low end of the market.
  • Grandpa - Thursday, December 1, 2011 - link

    If you're not building a gaming system, why not use linux and save all that money.
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - link

    Buy an ex-business SFF desktop like an Optiplex. mostly well built, quiet, small, cheap, and plentiful.

    I got a core 2 duo optiplex sff for about $100 delivered. threw in some spare ddr2 I had, and installed windows 7. it came with a radeon x1300 with dual display capability even.

    this is still more than enough than most people need unless they game or are a power user. unbeatable ..

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