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In the low-cost crowd, the HP Pavilion 23 is a standout

All-in-one desktops combine the computer and monitor into one unit that is sleeker and more compact than a traditional desktop. The trade-off for the compact design is that all-in-ones cost considerably more than their traditional counterparts with the same computing prowess. It's also more difficult to upgrade an all-in-one desktop if you want to increase storage space or add more memory. On the other hand, all-in-one computers are more stylish and take up less room.

The Apple iMac dominates the all-in-one category, earning top honors from most of the major reviewers. However, it is also relatively expensive (the cheapest iMac costs $1,300).

If you don't want or can't afford an iMac (which is covered in our report on Apple laptops and desktops, the HP Pavilion 23 (*Est. $550 and up) draws the best reviews among sub-$850 Windows all-in-one computers. Even the HP Pavilion 23's base configuration -- including an AMD Trinity processor, 4 GB of memory and a 500 GB hard drive -- is powerful enough for email, web surfing, basic graphics and simple applications, such as word processing. For more intensive use, multitasking and light 3D gaming, you'll likely be happier with a step-up configuration (*Est. $700 and up) with an Intel i3 or i5 Ivy Bridge processor and a minimum of 6 GB of RAM.

The HP Pavilion 23 makes for a pretty good desktop entertainment center. Atop an adjustable easel base you'll find a large, bright 23-inch screen that delivers full-HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels) resolution. It's a pleasure to watch video on such a vibrant display, reviews say. Though retail versions we spotted mostly ship with a DVD burner, a Blu-ray Disc drive is available if you configure the HP Pavilion 23 at HPs site. The speakers are a pleasant surprise as well. Alas, there's no HDMI input nor is there an option for a TV tuner card.

This all-in-one desktop computer offers more than adequate connectivity. There's a six-in-one memory-card slot, headphone and microphone jacks, Ethernet and Wi-Fi. You also get two USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 ports, although two of these will be occupied by the rather flimsy wired keyboard and mouse. Since it lacks a touch screen, it won't support Windows 8 touch screen features.

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