Can You Use an All-in-One Computer as a Monitor?

Can You Use an All-in-One Computer as a Monitor

All-in-one computers have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their sleek, space-saving designs. These versatile machines pack the power of a desktop into a monitor form factor. But did you know that you can also use an all-in-one computer as a secondary monitor?

What's In This Article?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about using an all-in-one computer as a monitor. We’ll cover how to set it up, the advantages and limitations, alternatives, best models, and maintenance tips. Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways:

  • Most modern all-in-one computers can be used as a secondary monitor with the right cables and adapters.
  • Using an all-in-one as a monitor can save desk space and eliminate the need for a separate display.
  • There are some limitations like lower max resolution and refresh rate compared to monitors.
  • Alternatives include portable monitors, using a laptop as a monitor, or standalone monitors.
  • All-in-ones with Thunderbolt or DisplayPort are best for use as a monitor.
  • Proper cable management and display settings are key for long-term use as a monitor.

Understanding the Monitor Function of an All-in-One Computer

All-in-one computers integrate all the main computer components, like the processor, memory, storage, and graphics, behind the display panel. This allows for a minimal, clutter-free setup perfect for small spaces.

But this integrated design also means that the display panel can function just like an external monitor when connected to another device like a laptop. The all-in-one essentially becomes a second monitor you can extend your desktop to or mirror/duplicate another display.

How an All-in-One’s Display Works

The display panel of an all-in-one computer works the same way as a regular external monitor. There is a display controller circuitry that takes a video input signal and translates it into images on the screen.

This allows any video output from a computer, tablet, smartphone, game console, etc. to be displayed on the all-in-one’s screen. The display connectors like HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, etc. enable this external device connection.

Many all-in-ones even have built-in speakers so you can get audio along with the video signal too. This allows them to operate as full external displays.

All-in-One Display Specs

When comparing all-in-one display capabilities, some key specs to look for include:

  • Resolution – 1920 x 1080 and 4K are common resolutions offered. The higher the resolution, the sharper and more detailed the image.
  • Refresh Rate – Standard is 60Hz but gaming-oriented models may have up to 120Hz+ refresh rates for smoother visuals.
  • Aspect Ratio – 16:9 is the most common widescreen aspect ratio.
  • Panel Type – IPS panels offer the best viewing angles while VA have higher contrast.
  • Brightness – 250-350 nits is typical. Higher is better for combating glare.
  • Ports – HDMI, DisplayPort, and Thunderbolt enable external device connections.

Can You Use an All-in-One Computer as a Monitor?

The short answer is yes, you can use an all-in-one computer as an external monitor in most cases. Here are the key factors that determine compatibility:

Video Input Ports

The all-in-one computer needs to have video inputs like HDMI, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, or Thunderbolt to connect your other device. Most modern all-in-one PCs have at least one of these port types. Without them, you won’t be able to hook up your laptop or other device.

Operating System Support

Your all-in-one’s OS needs to support external display connections for this to work. This is the case for Windows, MacOS, ChromeOS, and Linux distros like Ubuntu. As long as your OS detects displays and allows extending or mirroring, you’re good to go.

Graphics Capabilities

The graphics processor in your all-in-one powers the display. Using the all-in-one screen as a monitor requires GPU resources from its integrated or dedicated graphics. This usually isn’t an issue for modern systems.

Cables and Adapters

You’ll need the correct cables like HDMI or DisplayPort to connect your laptop or device to the all-in-one. Adapters may also be needed to convert signals like Mini DisplayPort to HDMI.

As long as your all-in-one computer meets these requirements, you can use its display as an external monitor. The setup process is straightforward.

How to Use an All-in-One Computer as a Monitor

Here is a step-by-step guide to setting up an all-in-one PC as a secondary display:

1. Connect Your Devices

Use a video cable like HDMI or DisplayPort to connect your laptop or other device to the all-in-one’s display input port. Make sure to power both devices on.

Tip: You may need adapters like HDMI to Mini DisplayPort or USB-C to hook up certain laptops.

2. Configure Your All-in-One Display

Open display settings on the all-in-one and configure options like resolution and orientation for the external video input.

3. Manage Display Settings on Your Laptop

Go into your laptop or device’s display settings. Make sure external monitor connection is enabled. Choose to extend or duplicate the display.

4. Organize Your Displays

In display settings you can arrange your laptop screen and all-in-one display relative to each other. Place them in a configuration optimal for your setup.

5. Adjust Your Workspace

Open apps and windows on each display. Adjust settings like DPI scaling as needed. Optimize the multi-screen workspace layout.

And that’s it! With the proper cables and display settings configured, you can use your all-in-one PC as a second monitor.

Advantages of Using an All-in-One Computer as a Monitor

There are several benefits that make using an all-in-one computer as a display worthwhile:

Saves Desk Space

Adding an external monitor takes up precious desk real estate. An all-in-one minimizes the footprint, saving space for other tasks.

Reduces Clutter

Multi-monitor setups mean more cables and hardware. Using just the all-in-one cuts down on clutter significantly.

Adds Screen Space

Extending your desktop with a second display adds invaluable screen space for multitasking. An all-in-one makes this dual-monitor setup cleaner.

Better Ergonomics

A single external monitor alignment can cause neck strain. An all-in-one flanking your primary display provides better ergonomics.

Cost Effective

If you already own an all-in-one computer, there’s no need to buy another display. Repurposing it as a monitor is a cost-effective solution.

Portable Convienence

Unlike bulky monitors, slim all-in-one PCs are easier to transport if you need to move your workstation.

For many home office and tight workspace setups, converting your all-in-one into an external display is a smart move. Doing so enables a convenient multi-screen setup without the usual clutter.

Limitations of Using an All-in-One Computer as a Monitor

While using an all-in-one as a secondary monitor has some clear benefits, there are also limitations to consider:

Lower Maximum Resolution

Most all-in-one displays top out at QHD 2560 x 1440 or 4K.monitors You won’t get higher resolutions like 5K or 8K that high-end monitors offer.

Standard Refresh Rates

Don’t expect higher 120Hz, 144Hz, or 240Hz refresh rates from an all-in-one. Most cap out at 60Hz which is less ideal for gaming.

No Adjustments

Monitors are adjustable but all-in-one displays are not. You can’t alter height or tilt them to ergonomic preferences.

Not Ideal for Accuracy

All-in-one displays tend to favor style and slimness over color accuracy, uniformity, and other specs important for professional work.

GPU Resource Drain

Running the built-in display plus and external monitor taxes the all-in-one’s GPU, sometimes resulting in lag.

While fine for more casual use, these limitations make an all-in-one less suitable for gaming or professional visual work. Keep these factors in mind before opting to use it as your sole secondary display.

Alternatives to Using an All-in-One Computer as a Monitor

If the limitations outweigh the benefits for your needs, consider these alternative options instead of using an all-in-one PC as a monitor:

Standalone Monitors

External monitors designed specifically for the task will offer better ergonomics, image quality, and specs. A 24-27 inch monitor is a common choice for dual screen setups.

Portable Monitors

Compact portable monitors connect via USB-C or HDMI when you need a second screen. They take up minimal space when not needed.

Laptop as a Monitor

Some laptops can output their display via HDMI to use as a second monitor. This allows dual screen functionality from one portable device.

Smart TVs

A smart TV’s HDMI input can convert it into a makeshift external monitor. This option mirrors your desktop conveniently using an existing home TV.

Desktop PC Monitors

If you have a desktop PC connected to a monitor, connect your laptop to that larger screen for dual monitor capabilities.

Depending on your exact needs and setup, one of these alternatives may be a better option than attempting to use an all-in-one computer as your primary extended display.

Best All-in-One Computers for Using as a Monitor

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided that an all-in-one PC is the right choice for a secondary display, these models are your best options:

Dell XPS 27 All-in-One

With a vibrant 4K IPS touch display, Thunderbolt ports, and discrete graphics, the XPS 27 delivers an excellent monitor experience.

Microsoft Surface Studio 2

The Surface Studio’s articulating 28″ PixelSense display makes it perfect for pen and touch when used as a monitor.

Apple iMac 27-Inch

The latest 27-inch iMac has a gorgeous 5K Retina display, Thunderbolt 3 support, and works seamlessly with MacBooks.

HP Envy Curved All-in-One

This 34-inch WQHD+ model stands out with its wrap-around curved display and Qi wireless charging dock.

Lenovo Yoga A940

Tilt, raise, and rotate the Yoga A940’s 4K IPS touchscreen display thanks to its adjustable stand with a rotating hinge.

Prioritize all-in-one models that offer higher resolution displays, fast connectivity like Thunderbolt 3, and articulating stands for the best monitor experience. Avoid cheaper options lacking these features.

Maintenance and Care for Using an All-in-One Computer as a Monitor

To enjoy the benefits of using your all-in-one PC as an external monitor long-term, properly maintain it with these tips:

Manage Cable Clutter

Use ties or clips to neatly run and gather cables instead of letting them lay haphazardly. This avoids tripping hazards and wire damage.

Keep It Clean

Gently wipe down your all-in-one’s screen regularly using microfiber cloths and monitor cleaning solution to remove dust and fingerprint smudges.

Handle With Care

Be extra careful moving and adjusting an all-in-one used as a monitor. Don’t force it or apply too much pressure to prevent damage.

Use a Surge Protector

Plug your all-in-one into a surge protector power strip. This guards against sudden power spikes that could fry components.

Give it Rest

Don’t leave your all-in-one powered on as a monitor at all times. Give the display a break by turning it off overnight or when not in use.

Update Your Software

Keep display drivers, OS updates, and firmware updated so performance remains smooth over time while using it as an external monitor.

Check Connections

If you notice display issues, check that video cables are not loose or damaged. Firmly reconnect them if needed.

With proper care and maintenance, an all-in-one computer can serve as a reliable monitor for your dual display workspace needs.


While not a perfect substitute for a dedicated monitor, repurposing an all-in-one PC display is a clever way to create a dual screen setup. Taking full advantage does require factoring in a few limitations. With the right ports, cables, and settings configured though, an all-in-one can become an external monitor. This allows you to extend your desktop in a streamlined manner. For the many home office and small workspaces where desk space comes at a premium, using an all-in-one as a second display helps enable a clean yet productive multi-screen workspace.

Using All-in-One Computer as a Monitor FAQs

Q: Can you use an all-in-one computer as a monitor?

A: Yes, it is possible to use an all-in-one computer as a monitor.

Q: How do you use an all-in-one computer as a monitor?

A: You can use an HDMI or VGA cable to connect the all-in-one computer to another device as a monitor.

Q: What are the advantages of using an all-in-one computer as a monitor?

A: It saves space, reduces clutter, and eliminates the need for a separate monitor.

Q: What are the limitations of using an all-in-one computer as a monitor?

A: The all-in-one computer may not have the necessary ports or hardware to function as a monitor, and it may not be compatible with certain devices.

Q: What are the alternatives to using an all-in-one computer as a monitor?

A: You can use a traditional monitor, a laptop, or a tablet as a monitor.

Q: What are the best all-in-one computers for using as a monitor?

A: Some of the best all-in-one computers for using as a monitor include the Apple iMac, Dell Inspiron, and HP Envy.

Q: How do you maintain an all-in-one computer used as a monitor?

A: Keep the screen clean, avoid touching the screen, and use a surge protector to prevent damage from power surges.

Q: Can you use an all-in-one computer as a touchscreen monitor?

A: Yes, some all-in-one computers have touchscreen capabilities and can be used as a touchscreen monitor.

Q: Can you use an all-in-one computer as a gaming monitor?

A: Yes, some all-in-one computers have the necessary hardware and ports to function as a gaming monitor.

Q: Can you use an all-in-one computer as a dual monitor setup?

A: Yes, it is possible to use an all-in-one computer as a dual monitor setup with the right hardware and software.

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