Saturday, January 14, 2012

Favorite Product For Families at CES 2012: The All-In-One PC

With only two days at CES (Consumer Electronics Show), I was able to see a mere fraction of the new tech on display, but it was more than enough to make me wonder what rock I've been hiding under to miss the trends that were very much on display at the show. Perhaps it was more a "what rock I've been hiding ON" situation, as my life in England didn't include as much tech-obsession as it does here in the USA.

Even though ultrabooks (ultra light, ultra thin laptops) were the big trend that everyone was going on (and on) about— for me, the big new tech thing at the show that had me most excited for how it might change my life at home, was the advent of the all-in-one PC. I talked about the Vizio one in my last post, specifically about how gorgeous it is and how it will very easily fill the post of TV/computer in any room that you would normally just haul your laptop to. (You can see my first day interviews, including the Vizio line-up coming this Spring, in the Microsoft Windows Experience Blog video below.) But I quickly saw two other all-in-ones that I fell in love with, too, but for different reasons.

The first was a Toshiba DX730 all-in-one that, though not as pretty as the Vizio model, has a touch screen and an incredible price point of $799 or $999. What the ??? I had no idea that there were 23" touch screen monitors, much less entire computer set-ups, available at this price already. The Toshiba, with it's wireless keyboard and mouse, touch screen, built-in speakers and available TV tuner, would make the perfect kitchen PC/TV. The touchscreen is a huge selling point, not only for the convenience it brings in the kitchen (Hello, I can control everything with a knuckle when my fingers are covered in flour or other kitchen mess!), but because it makes the machine ready to take full advantage of the radical redesign of Windows that is coming in the Windows 8 later this year. (I'll talk more about Windows 8 in the next post, but imagine if you could translate your smartphone experience into a more beautiful and much larger scale PC experience. If you've seen the newest Windows Phone OS, then you are looking at Windows 8, for all intents and purposes.)

Personally, I watch almost all my TV while cooking dinner via Hulu+, catching up on all the shows that I miss at night. I refuse to pay for extra DVR boxes with our cable, so using Hulu or Netflix allows me to bring my shows to whatever room I'm in. Right now, my set-up includes my laptop, usually perched precariously near the splash zone of my sink, with an external speaker wired to it; all of which makes for a pretty unsightly set-up with the cables, the speaker, and their power cords—not to mention the huge amount of counter space that it takes up (Of course, it also means that I only had to buy one computer, so there's that!). The Toshiba would be a welcome, clean-cut and utilitarian solution to the problem of needing both a TV and a PC in the kitchen.

On my last day of interviews at CES, I made it over to the Lenovo booth, which was located, not at the conventional (read: boring, predictable) convention hall, but at a slick restaurant/club called Aquaknox, at The Venetian, that they had re-purposed with red lighting, for a week of no-holds-barred Lenovo sexiness. Seriously. I had walked by the "booth" every night in my travels with our Microsoft group and it was closed for a private party each time, music and people spilling out of the space. And their employees had a level of hot-ness that was, ummm,... unusual for the CES venue. Ahem, moving on....

Now, call me out of touch... but I thought that Lenovo, maker of the ThinkPad, was all about stodgy business PCs and laptops. I was like, "Well, okay, I can interview them, but why did you send the 'family reporter' for the job instead of Annie, the student reporter?" My Microsoft guide for CES, Moe, who was phenomenal, was like, "No, no, no, they're in the consumer market, too. You'll see!" And, sure enough, I did. The Lenovo lineup of consumer laptops and PCs were gorgeous, sharp, and trendy enough to turn the heads of all the mommies on the block. And their husbands', too. I'll tell you all about the laptops in another post, but *drool* the IdeaPad Yoga and U310!

I looked specifically at their IdeaCentre A720 (bonus points for the Euro-spelling!), an all-in-one PC with a huge 27" 10-point touch screen, which means that it responds to every finger on your hand, or multiple people touching the screen simultaneously. The machine is stunning—a perfect example of PC manufacturers designing a desktop to move from the office to any room in your home. It is the thinnest PC of it's kind at only 1" thick, which seems impossible, given the size of the screen and that it has to house PC bits, as well.

The A720 has the bonus feature of very niftily folding down onto itself, so it lies flat or at any angle in between. Perfect for board game-style games with the kids or to play a whole host of programs that cater to the tablet app market—I don't want to sound silly, but imagine how tired your arm would get if you had to play touch-screen Angry Birds on an upright screen! Watch this video to get an idea of what I'm talking about.

It really was amazing. And Windows 7 looks gorgeous on it, but, again, as with the Toshiba DX730, the touch screen on the Lenovo A720 leaves it poised to take full advantage of the forthcoming Windows 8 touch interface option.

So, now I am in love with three different all-in-ones, but each for a different reason. I'd take the Vizio, purely on design, the Toshiba for it's sturdy practicality and great price, and the Lenovo for it's cutting edge design and massive touch screen. Needless to say, I am very curious what the price point will be for the Vizio and Lenovo machines, and how quickly Vizio adds a touch screen to it's option list.

2012 promises to be an extremely interesting year as Windows 8 is surely going to transform the PC market upon its arrival.

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