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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dino PC Raptor GTX 750 Ti (H97) review: compact gaming PC offers good value, decent performance


Some of the gaming PCs we cover are huge fire-breathing dragons, extinguishing the toughest benchmarks and graphics test without so much as a twitch of a muscle. The Dino PC, though, is no such gargantuan beast. Rather, it's a modest-sized and enticingly priced little number that does almost everything fairly well, but without ever threatening to take your breath away. See what's the best gaming PC?

The presence of the Intel Core i5-4690 is perhaps the PC's biggest distinguishing point. This new CPU runs at 3.5 GHz as standard, compared to the 3.4 GHz speed of the preceding i5-4670K.

With full turbos on, the Core i5-4690 can get as high as 3.9 GHz - the Core i5-4670K was similarly 0.1 GHz behind here. The new Core i5-4690 won't perhaps be as well suited to overclocking specialists, but its general speed is very good. Indeed, it helped this system along to a figure of 6431 points in PCMark 7 testing. That's a very decent score given that the memory consists of 8 GB of 1600 MHz Crucial chips, and the Dino more than holds its own against the majority of the 16 GB systems.

Perhaps the real beauty of this system is that it never goes to excess. That CPU, for instance, doesn't need fancy cooling, and the standard Intel E97378-001 fan is (quite rightly) deemed capable of keeping the temperature down.

Neither does Dino feel the need to pack out the machine with a sizeable power supply, and the 500 watt CIT PSU is more than sufficient for the purposes. The Dino can still deliver where necessary, though. A 128 GB Corsair Force Series GS is an assured SSD unit, while the 1 TB Seagate Barracuda ensures that the PC has a decent reserve of storage on hand.

The graphics card consists of a Zotac GeForce GTX 750 Ti with 2 GB of video memoty, and this established performer turned up some comfortable framerates in testing. The 102 fps result at 720p in Aliens vs Predator is just 1 fps behind the figure from the recently tested Gladiator Firestorm OC, despite the latter system being overclocked to a mighty 4.2 GHz. The Dino PC retains that insignificant 1 fps deficit at 1080p, putting in a score of 53 fps here.

In Sniper Elite V2, it actually moved ahead of the Firestorm, its score of 196.4 fps at 720p leading its rival by around 2 fps. Even at 1080p, the Dino remained modestly ahead, tallying 19.7 fps to the Firestorm's 18.6 fps.

Visually, the Dino isn't perhaps the most arresting sight. We've seen some groundbreaking cases from Fractal Design in recent months, but this 1000 USB3 is very much a budget option. Fairly slim, it does nevertheless come with a number of compromises.

The front is robust but rather unstylish, and the power buttons are awkwardly situated towards the rear of the Fractal's right panel - if you want to place this on the floor, you'll have to do a lot of bending down while turning the machine on. The case isn't really set up for more than two 3.5in drives - you're probably unlikely to need more than this, but it is a limitation - and there isn't much space for extra fans.

Luckily, the Dino Raptor is a midrange system, so the case doesn't need to be able to accommodate top-grade components. Indeed, the case feels surprisingly airy inside, with plenty of space available to access the memory chips and CPU. It helps that the graphics card is a short single-fan option - the dual-fan version would take up rather more room - and the standard Intel CPU cooler doesn't take up much room either.

We can't say we're overjoyed by the case, but it's more than adequate for the components contained within. The system always keeps a lid on the power. Rarely even hitting 50 watt when idling, it only drew up to 104 watt even with a high load.

There are also a few other features to keep you happy. The 802.11n Wi-Fi is good, and the 24in Iiyama E2483HS is a nice flat-panel at a low price, packing its images with vibrant hues and tones, while retaining strong definition.

We can hardly extend the same compliments to the Gigabyte KM6150 USB keyboard & mouse combo, though. The keys are shallow, soft, and offer very little accuracy, while the mouse buttons feel cheap and unresponsive. Luckily, this PC is highly configurable, and you may wish to run through the options yourself and try to get the keyboard and mouse switched for higher quality equivalents.

You may also want to experiment with the warranty details. We specified the PromoCare option, which gives you three years RTB, with two of those also covered by the cost of the parts. You can pay extra, though, and have all three years covered for parts, or the six months of transport cover can be extended to a year or two. (See also: best laptops for games.)


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