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New Atom-based budget all-in-one desktops

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Your desktop PC is about to get a makeover. The same companies that refined the netbook have set their sights on the all-in-one in hopes of dethroning today's models with lower prices and smarter features. But are these new desktops better than their current counterparts? We compare three incoming models to find out.

Apple's iMac is one of the most iconic all-in-one desktops, offering a combination of power and performance at a price that's not too startling. Additionally, Windows fans also have an army of all-in-ones to choose from, including Dell's XPS One, Gateway's One (ZX190), Sony's VAIO JS series, and HP's TouchSmart series. Of those systems, the Dell XPS One has the lowest price point starting at $899. That includes a 20" display, Core 2 Duo processor, and a host of features including a DVD burner, TV tuner, and media card reader. The new all-in-ones plan on undercutting today's models by several hundred dollars. Here's what we can expect.

ASUS Eee Top
Leading the nettop brigade is ASUS with its iMac-like all-in-one. Like its smaller netbook counterparts, ASUS' Eee Top will house a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor with Windows XP Home. (ASUS confirmed a March 9 release date.) However, this slim desktop will also come with a touch-screen display. The screen, which will have a default resolution of 1366x768, will measure 15.6". (A 19" version will also be available.) Taking advantage of the screen is ASUS' Easy Mode, an overlay that will run on top of Windows XP and provide quick access to commonly-used apps, videos, music, and other programs designed to take advantage of the Eee Top's touch screen. The PC will lack an optical drive, but with 802.11n, a 1.3-megapixel camera, a 160GB hard drive, and a built-in memory card reader, ASUS hopes it will have enough features to win users over.
Value: A powerhouse PC this is not, but with a rumored price of $599, ASUS is hoping its Eee Top can double as a secondary PC or living room PC. However, for that same price you can get a fully-loaded laptop, making the Eee Top an expensive alternative by all counts.
Verdict: Pass.

MSI Wind NetOn
MSI's Wind NetOn will be the first all-in-one powered by a dual-core Intel Atom processor. The new processor is expected to pack more power than the current Atom CPU, which is one of the Atom processor's biggest setbacks. MSI is releasing three NetOns — the 15.6" M16 ($400), the 18.5" M19 ($500), and the 22" M22 ($799). The PCs will have an optional touch screen display and resolutions range from 1366x768 for the M16 and M19 to 1920x1080 for the M22. In addition to a larger display, the M22 will also have an optional Blu-ray drive and TV tuner. (DVD burners will be standard on the other models.)
Value: At $400, the entry-level M16 will pack more value than ASUS' Eee Top thanks to the M16's DVD burner. However, pricing for the dual-core versions of these systems has yet to be confirmed. (They will debut with the current generation of Atom CPUs.) Nevertheless, even the top-of-the-line M22 undercuts the Dell XPS One, which makes the NetOn the most promising all-in-one for budget-minded shoppers.
Verdict: Wait for it.

Shuttle X50 All-In-One
Hot on the heels of the MSI NetOn is the Shuttle X50, an all-in-one desktop with a dual-core Intel Atom 330 processor. Complimenting the CPU are 1GB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive, which is half the size of the Eee Top's drive. The unit's 15.6" display will be touch-sensitive and pack a 1366x768 resolution. Adding peripherals won't be a problem thanks to the system's five available USB ports and the X50 will also feature an integrated 1.3-megapixel camera and 802.11n connectivity.
Value: With a rumored price of $499, the Shuttle X50 will not be the cheapest nettop in town. However, its dual-core Atom processor makes it a better investment than the single-core ASUS Eee Top.
Verdict: Wait for it.

Conclusion
Unfortunately, none of these systems packs enough muscle to outperform any of today's all-in-ones. That said, power users will be better off with a dual-core-based system, such as Dell's XPS One or a refurbished iMac. For those on a budget, however, the $499 Shuttle X50 has the potential to wipe the floor with this recent batch of budget-priced all-in-ones, especially if its dual-core Atom processor performs as well as we hope.

Louis Ramirez is dealnews' Features editor.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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