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A Closer Look at Vizio’s All-in-Ones

As the TV manufacturer makes its first foray into the desktops space, its hardware doesn’t fail to impress.

I'll be honest: I wasn't expecting much out of Vizio here at CES. When I heard the news that the TV manufacturer was diving into the desktop and laptop space, my inner cynic was dismissive. Vizio likely had a few 27-inch screens lying about, and slapped some components into a plastic frame to sell them for a little over cost.

I come to you, reader, with hat in hand, having been genuinely surprised by Vizio's first foray into the PC space. I had a chance to take a look at the 24- and 27-inch All-in-One desktops the company is planning on launching this spring, and while there are quite a few questions left unanswered, this is poised to be an impressive first outing.

Details are scant. We've no word on price. We do know that there will be a discrete graphics card from Nvidia, but there’s no specific information there yet. And Vizio can’t tell us what processor will be housed inside its new All-in-One. But based on the spring launch timeframe and claims that the machines will boast the fastest processors available, it's safe to say that it'll be packing Intel's upcoming Ivy Bridge CPUs. The thermal and power savings are the second clue, which make that svelte chassis possible.

And what a chassis it is. We review a lot of All-in-Ones here at PCWorld, and I've seen quite a few takes on cramming a PC's innards into an all-encompassing shell. The design theory across all of the vendors we run across is pretty much the same: tuck everything behind the screen, minimizing clutter and extraneous peripherals.

There was one standout back in the halcyon days of 2010: the Lenovo IdeaCentre A300. I was quite a fan of the little tyke, dubbed "the World Thinnest All-in-One" when I first saw it (back at CES, coincidentally enough). Lenovo had the radical notion of tucking the PC's guts into the base, which lent the machine a stunningly slim profile and a design that couldn't help but stand out.

Vizio's All-in-Ones feel like an evolution of that. Its television-display expertise is evident, as the all in one serves up crisp, bright images at all-manner of viewing angles. The machines are equipped with a pair of HDMI input ports, so you can use the machine as a secondary display without turning the PC on--the 27-inch model I checked out was connected to a Xbox 360. You'll also find a few USB 3.0 ports planted about the base, as well as an eSata port, and a gigabit ethernet port. Of note: all of the internal wiring to the display is arranged inside the solid aluminum stand, an impressive touch that does wonders for the aesthetic appeal.

The large "box" sitting beside the unit is a combination power supply and subwoofer. Rather clever, actually, as most All-in-Ones ship with an unwieldy power brick, the sort of thing you drop into the rat's nest of wires behind your desk and forget about. Vizio's design gets a bit more use of the power brick, and it's attractive, fitting in rather nicely with the design ethos they're going for.

I wasn't blown away by the peripherals, though they are admittedly a work in progress. The keyboard's keys are flat, which looks great, but doesn't make for a great typing experience. It also feels a bit small (in my large, oafish hands) but that's a bit on the subjective side. I was told that changes have already been made, and the keyboard will go through a few more design iterations before a final build is made. The bundled trackpad is a neat addition.

Alas, the software wasn't ready on the units I fiddled with, so there's no support for multitouch gestures or the like. That said, both pieces feel sturdy, are really light, and wireless, which are all great things for All-in-Ones. There's also a bundled remote control, which is neat.

All told, a pleasant, unexpected surprise. I know that Intel's Ivy Bridge is going to make this sort of thing (sleeker, faster hardware) a bit more common, but Vizio's design philosophy and attention to detail have gone a long way. More details will trickle down in the coming months, so stay tuned for more news. I for one can't wait to get these in to the PCWorld Labs.

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2012.

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