Although notebooks are doing a commendable job off killing of the desktop market, the growing popularity of portable PCs is doing a lot of favours for the all-in-one market. Systems such as the Toshiba DX730 are able to take advantage of the ever-increasing parity between mobile and desktop feature-sets to offer performance similar to a traditional tower PC, with a considerably reduced footprint, thanks to the combination of computer and display in a single chassis.
The popular iMac may have lead the way in this sector, but manufacturers including Lenovo, HP and, of course, Toshiba are doing their best to give Apple a run for its money, offering features unavailable on the iMac at any price. In the case of the DX730 specifically, the stand-out factors are a Blu-ray drive and a TV tuner. That Toshiba also offers a better specification than Apple for the money won't do it any harm either.
The appearance of the DX730 is that of a chunky monitor, with the chassis supported by a stand that enables it to tilt forward and backwards, but which offers no height adjustments. It's a small annoyance relying on having a desk at the desired height to put the DX730 at eye-level, but almost all all-on-one systems suffer from the same problem, so it's not an issue restricted to Toshiba's system.
The front of the DX730 is well suited to attracting fingerprints, with both a gloss black bezel, and a highly reflective screen. Although this looks nice, it does cause problems using the DX730 in all but a darkened room; unless you're vain enough to enjoy having your face stare back at you while trying to use your computer.
The model on hand here, the DX730-102 is priced at £999, but Toshiba caters for tighter budgets with lesser models dropping the price as low as £699, with a reduced specification and feature set. For the asking price, the DX730-102 offers a 2.4GHz Core-i5-2430M processor, 6GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM, and a 1TB hard drive partitioned into a system and data drive, the latter of which holds the recovery data needed to restore the DX730 to its out-of-the-box state. Graphics duties are handled by the CPUs built-in Intel HD 3000 GPU, which won't win any awards for its gaming performance, but will handle desktop tasks and multimedia transcoding perfectly well.
Bluetooth 3.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi cover the important wireless options, and a Gigabit Ethernet port at the rear caters to those looking for a wired option. Also at the rear is the input for the computer's TV tuner, which enables Freeview viewing on the DX730, as well as an HDMI input, letting the system double up as a monitor for external media players, or games consoles, although the small size of the screen might limit the use of this feature.
Also housed at the rear of the DX730 is a Gigabit Ethernet port, alongside four USB 2.0 ports. The right and left edges are home to the Blu-ray drive and a pair of USB 3.0 ports respectively. It would have been nice if Toshiba could also have found space for an eSATA port, but USB 3.0 is likely to take the place of eSATA for high-speed connectivity. Also on the left of the system are hardware controls for volume, brightness, input and a separate power control for the display. The latter is particularly useful, as the only other all-in-one PC to provide this ability, to my knowledge, is Apple's iMac (via a keyboard shortcut).
For everyday tasks the components in the DX730 are more than capable and even when heavily multitasking the system never struggles. The GPU, however, isn't powerful enough to handle the latest titles on even reduced graphics settings - Battlefield 3 was a complete no-go, for example - but older and less demanding games are handled with the details turned right down. This subjective perception is backup up by a PC Mark score of 2,701 - far from impressive, but good enough for the purposes for which this system is designed.
As expected of an all-in-one PC, the DX730 is bundled with Toshiba-branded peripherals. The keyboard is an uninspiring example, with shiny, mushy keys that don't feel great to the touch, and the mouse is similarly functional, but far from the quality of even a cheap third party alternative. Backing up the media-centre intentions of the DX730 is a remote control that is almost impressively bulky. All of these come out of the box pre-synced to the system, which saves a little hassle, at least.
Aside from being incredibly reflective, the 23in display is as good as I've come to expect from all-in-one systems. The TN panel has a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, which enables the DX730 to display 1080p Blu-rays (and other HD content, for that matter) at their native resolution. Colour reproduction and contrast are both good, if not great, and the deep blacks don't come at the cost of significant loss of detail in the shadows.
Also to its credit are the DX730s Onkyo-branded speakers, found behind a grille under the screen. These are fairly large for an all-in-one system, which is no doubt a factor in their impressive performance, pulling out plenty of detail, and only distorting at volumes higher than any normal person is likely to employ. A useful feature called Sleep-and-Music lets the DX730s speakers be used with an eternal device, even with the PC turned off, something other manufacturers might consider copying.
Where Toshiba stumbles slightly is in the system's software offering. The DX730 comes preloaded with a number of programs, including Skype, Google Chrome and McAfee anti-virus. Some of these are fairly harmless (Chrome is a great browser, and Skype isn't exactly a resource hog) but others are more questionable (Microsoft's free Security Essentials anti-virus is a better alternative to McAfee in my opinion). Whether the target audience for the DX730 will notice or care about this bloatware is a matter for debate, however.
Toshiba redeems itself here somewhat in the provision of its own Blu-ray playback software. This software is necessary as Windows 7 doesn't offer native playback of such discs yet. Windows is, however, quite capable of using the built-in TV tuner without any extra software, and Windows Media Centre offers a number of features such as live recording that let DX730 stand in as a capable alternative for a TV and DVR combo.
Toshiba's DX730 offers a range of features that help it live up to its claims of being an all-in-one PC. A TV tuner and Blu-ray drive are paired with a decent screen and capable speakers, making the DX730 a respectable multimedia system, and although the lack of high performance graphics rules out more than causal gaming, the DX730 will handle anything else thrown at it.
Pros: A built-in Blu-ray drive and TV tuner make the DX730 a great entertainment system.
Cons: The lack of dedicated graphics means that gaming is all but impossible.