Packard Bell OneTwo L £800
13th Feb 2012 | 17:10
Can this touchscreen all-in-one do better than its brethren?
All-in-one PCs should be a big success.
By combining all the power and flexibility of a desktop computer into a slim and stylish form factor that included a monitor, all-in-one PCs such as the Asus Eee Top ET2010 and MSI WindTop AE220 could have been the Windows-based answer to the Apple iMac.
Instead, they're regarded more as pale imitations that are underpowered, cumbersome and neither as desirable as an iMac or as robust as a desktop PC.
The new Packard Bell OneTwo L enters this market with both an opportunity and a challenge: to finally be an all-in-one PC that is worthy of a space in our homes, be it in the living room, bedroom or study. But can it pull it off?
One of the most common criticisms of all-in-one PCs is their lack of power. While their small form means that multiple graphics cards and overclocked processors are a no-no, it also means that upgrading components is a far more fiddly process than with standard desktop PCs.
This means that they need components that are future-proof, so your new all-in-one won't seem out of date and slow only a year or so down the line.
Gaming laptops such as the Asus G74SX prove that a small body doesn't mean it can't be incredibly powerful - for a price.
Packard Bell's answer is to include some pretty decent specifications inside the OneTwo L I7526. The quad core Intel Core i5 2400S 3.1GHz processor is enough to handle pretty much all day-to-day computer tasks with ease, and 4GB of DDR3 RAM is ready to cope with multitasking. Sure, it won't handle the latest games like the Asus G74SX, but it costs nearly half the price.
It's still not cheap by any means, though, so Packard Bell still has its work cut out to convince us to part with our cash.
As the Packard Bell OneTwo L comes with a 23-inch touchscreen, it encounters another familiar hurdle - Windows 7 just isn't designed for touch interfaces. Packard Bell's solution is to create a new touch-friendly interface, superficially similar to Windows 8's Metro screen. But how well does it work?
3D Mark 11: 3133
Cinebench 10: 15,155
You've got to hand it to Packard Bell. It's upped its game since its mid-90s nadir, when the Packard Bell logo on a PC would be tantamount to a big flashing 'Do not buy' sign. Nowadays it has a much better reputation for building solid machines, and the Packard Bell OneTwo L is no exception.
Build quality is sturdy, but it's not the most stylish all-in-one computer, and certainly won't give Apple any cause for concern in the looks department. It's not too bad though, and resembles a slightly chunky LCD TV.
A large Packard Bell logo glows on the right leg of the OneTwo L's stand, which can be distracting if you're watching movies in a darkened room.
The similarities to an LCD TV don't end there. There's an RF Aerial socket at the back for receiving Freeview channels, although there's no Freeview HD.
While an HDMI port on a PC isn't much to crow about these days, the Packard Bell OneTwo L has an HDMI-in port, which means you can plug in a Blu-ray player or console and use the computer as an HD TV.
The OneTwo L impresses as a computer as well. As we mentioned previously, the Intel Core i5 2400S 3.1GHz processor and 4GB of RAM gives it an oomph that is often lacking in all-in-one PCs. There's plenty of hard drive space as well, with 1TB available.
Coupled with the excellent screen, capable of 1080p resolutions, this makes the Packard Bell OneTwo L a very persuasive media centre.
A standard Windows Media Center remote control is included along with a wireless keyboard and mouse. It's not amazing, but helps the Packard Bell OneTwo L look at home in your living room or bedroom.
While a multi-card reader on the side of the screen helps burnish the Packard Bell OneTwo L's media centre credentials, there are a few omissions that would make us pause in enthusiastically recommending this all-in-one as a media messiah.
To begin with, there's no Blu-ray drive, just a standard DVD-RW. While you can always plug in a separate one via HDMI, it still feels like a missed opportunity to make this a fully future-proof and feature-packed media centre PC.
The other omission is the lack of any decent audio-out ports such as optical S/PDIF - there's just a simple headphone jack. This means if you want to hook it up to external speakers or amplifiers, you're out of luck - you'll have to stick with the small built-in speakers.
If you'll use the Packard Bell OneTwo L for watching TV and movies - both standard definition and high definition, through online streaming services such as the BBC iPlayer - then you're going to be pretty pleased with this PC. The screen looks great, with great colour reproduction and smooth playback thanks to a pretty decent response time.
We'd even recommend plugging in a PS3 or Xbox 360 into the screen if you haven't got a dedicated HD TV. The only negative with the monitor is that it's quite reflective, which led to some bad glare when viewed in a room with lots of ambient light.
As a touchscreen it works as well as could be expected, with good responsiveness and accuracy. Windows 7 is as bad with touch controls as we've come to expect, but the included Packard Bell TouchPortal interface aims to circumvent this.
At first glance this seems like a poor man's Windows 8, with a weather app and large fonts that ape Microsoft's Metro interface. To dismiss it like this wouldn't be entirely fair though - after all, Packard Bell should be commended for acknowledging that Windows 7 isn't ideal for a touchscreen, and for trying to offer an alternative.
Applications such as TouchBrowser and TouchPhoto offer an internet browser and image viewer respectively that have enlarged interfaces and recognise touch gestures, such as a swipe of the finger to flick through photos. The gesture recognition is a tad hit and miss - it sometimes got confused about whether we wanted to view another photo or rotate the current one - but it's a nice extra feature. However, we can't really see it catching on.
Crucially, anything you can do here can be done much quicker and easier through the standard Windows 7 interface with the good old keyboard and mouse. We were hoping to see an interface that would make us want to ditch those in favour of the touchscreen, but it wasn't to be.
With the launch of Windows 8, however, this could become a fantastic touchscreen computer, with the new operating system and powerful components working in tandem to maybe produce the all-in-one PC that we've been waiting for.
As it is, though, Windows 7 just feels like a hindrance without a mouse and keyboard.
Using traditional controls reveals a nice, snappy performer, great for quickly browsing the web or watching movies. Games on the other hand didn't do well, though if you stick with casual games you'll be fine.
Weighing up whether or not to recommend buying the Packard Bell OneTwo L is a tricky decision. Don't get us wrong - it's a very decent PC and easily one of the best all-in-ones we've seen. It's packed with loads of features too, bar the exclusion of a Blu-ray drive and optical digital audio.
So what's staying our hand from stamping a big TechRadar recommendation all over this product?
The big problem is Windows 7 - it's a great operating system, but it's just not cut out for touchscreen controls. Icons, buttons and text are just too small to comfortably use with a touchscreen, and if you find yourself using the keyboard and mouse over the screen, what's the point in paying extra for it?
Sure, the Packard Bell TouchPortal makes a valiant effort to improve the usefulness of the touchscreen, but it's not the smoothest solution, and ends up locking away a lot of Windows 7's more advanced features.
What the Packard Bell OneTwo L really needs is an operating system that's been designed for a touchscreen, with all the power of a full version of Windows 7.
Of course, this is exactly what Microsoft is working on with Windows 8.
In a year or so, if the Packard Bell OneTwo L came with Windows 8 out of the box, we'd definitely recommend it. As it is, if you buy it now you may feel you'd need to shell out on upgrading to Windows 8 when it comes out. We're not sure at the moment how much this upgrade will be, but we'd recommend waiting until Windows 8 is launched.
The components inside the Packard Bell OneTwo L are certainly powerful, and for day-to-day computing and media playback it works smoothly and flawlessly. The 23-inch screen is also fantastic, if just a tiny bit too shiny, and the ability to plug in a Blu-ray player or games console and turn it into an HD TV is a massive boon.
For a machine that's so good at playing media, it's a shame that it doesn't come with a Blu-ray drive or decent audio-out options, meaning that it's not quite as future-proof as we'd have hoped. Also Windows 7 just doesn't work with the touchscreen, and the Packard Bell TouchPortal interface isn't quite good enough.
Looking for a small HD TV and a computer for your bedroom or living room? Then the Packard Bell OneTwo L is easily one of the best all-in-one PCs on the market, and a worthy investment. Want a powerful desktop PC for graphic editing, playing games or working on? You can get a lot more power for a lot less money elsewhere. Once Windows 8 arrives, however, this could be a very tempting purchase for all.