Home Computers & peripherals What happened to the box? Looking at the ViewSonic VPC100
After a long history in monitors, ViewSonic has expanded their offering to include full PCs.  Shipping with WinXP Home edition, this PC-in-a-monitor is definitely for the 'stylish' market.

The VPC100 is ViewSonic's first foray into computers after a 20-year history manufacturing a respected range of monitors and other "visual display products."

Open the VPC100 shipping box and you'll find just three major components – a flat-screen 18.5" monitor, mouse and keyboard (along with a quick-start guide and restore CD).  That's it.  Plug in the (strangely PS/2) keyboard and mouse, turn it on and you have a fully-functional PC.

Just 35mm deep, the display unit houses an Intel Atom-based processor, 1GB RAM, a 160GB hard disk and 1.3M pixel web cam.

Equipped with 802.11/b/g wireless and gigabit Ethernet, a writeable DVD unit, 4 x compact camera card reader and 4 free USB ports this wide-screen (1366 x 768) unit seems ideal for a variety of low-horsepower uses.

Unfortunately that describes the problem with this unit.  Intel's Atom range of processors is intended for low-powered uses – Netbooks and the like are a typical application.  The trade-off is in performance – it takes lots of electricity to be a blazingly fast Excel machine.  This unit doesn't use much electricity.

On the contrary however, a web browser takes very little electricity; and this more than anything else defines the place for this unit – for those organisations reliant on cloud-based computing, this is an ideal solution.

This is also a Henry Ford device – "you can have it in any colour you like as long you like black."

As was suggested on the previous page, the computer is only available in black.  Presumably, this makes it easier to choose.

Further, there is a large bezel area below the monitor (perhaps 12 cm high and the full width of the computer) which contains the 'computer' in the system.

Now, it may be true that the receptionist in your company will love this for the ability to festoon it with sticky-notes, but it seems to me that the whole system could be re-designed to mount the 'smarts' behind the LCD panel to permit a smaller appearance.  Of course this will reduce the bragging appeal of a slender system, but so what.

Being wide-screen format, this computer is ideal for viewing cinema-derived videos, which leaves something of a quandary.  Although capable of delivering such video, it may not have sufficient computing power to render high-definition video.

So, a quick round-up of pros and cons.

Pros: All-in-one form factor.  Coolness.  Price (RRP is $899, but as low as $650 on line).  The monitor (the View Sonic pedigree is obvious).

Cons: The keyboard (rush out and buy a replacement!) has an 'amusing' layout.  Performance.  Flexibility.  The DVD drawer – I was very concerned at how weakly mounted it seemed to be.  Perhaps a slot-load unit would have been a better choice.

Who would buy one of these?  I see two markets.  Those who need a relatively stylish low physical impact PC; for instance cloud-based corporates who need browser-based workstations.

The alternate being home users who want a good-looking machine to be 'seen' in their stylish apartment; there are plenty of people who fit that bill!


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