First, we'll take the Sony VAIO VGC-LS37E All-In-One Desktop PC. It offers an Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 2GHz processor, 2GB of PC2-5300 RAM, a 19" widescreen LCD with a native resolution of 1680x1050, a 320GB Serial ATA hard drive, built-in webcam, NVIDIA GeForce Go 7300 video card, 802.11g wireless, dual layer DVD burner, and an HDTV tuner. An elegant "floating display" and wireless keyboard and mouse round out this system, which is priced at just over $2,000. (It's $2,049.99 at SonyStyle.com.)
Hewlett-Packard's entry into the All-in-One ring is the HP TouchSmart IQ770 Desktop PC. Adding to the Sony's specs, this $1,699.99 system ups the ante with a touchscreen display, 802.11a/b/g wireless, Gigabit Ethernet, Nvidia GeForce Go 7600, and a dual layer DVD burner with LightScribe technology. However, it features a slower AMD Turion 64 X2 RL52 1.6GHz dual-core processor and 2GB of PC2-4200 RAM. The design is a little bulkier and, less face it, clumsier than the VAIO's.
Finally, we come to the iMac. To even the playing field, we took the $1,199 base system and upgraded it with 2GB of PC2-5300 RAM ($150), a 320GB Serial ATA hard drive ($49), Apple wireless Mighty Mouse ($20), and Apple Wireless Keyboard ($30). This system, clocking in at $1,448, features an Intel Core 2 Duo 2GHz dual-core processor just like the Sony, along with an integrated iSight webcam and dual layer DVD burner. An ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT 128MB video card powers the largest-of-the-group 20" 1680x1050 display, while Gigabit Ethernet, draft 802.11n wireless, and Bluetooth 2.0+EDR provide the best connectivity of the bunch.
Our verdict? Despite Apple's image as a "premium" company, it's All-in-One offering clearly has the most bang for the buck. Priced at $250 below HP's TouchSmart, its specs trump even that of the Sony VAIO. While the iMac certainly isn't perfect – we'd love to see a better video card option and where's the HD tuner – it's a serious machine. The HP might fit in as the best option if you're in need of a Point of Sale machine, and the Sony might be the prettiest of the lot, but for a solid desktop/display combo, the iMac is still the way to go.Jeff Somogyi