With 8GB of memory installed, Dino PC’s Plutosaur 2500 has double the RAM of any of the competition. As such, it delivered the fastest score in our WorldBench 6 speed test with 160 points. However, in other areas the PC falls short of its rivals.

As we’ve mentioned previously, the standard i5-2500 chip has slower integrated graphics than the ‘K’ version. Framerates in the five-year-old game Fear didn’t highlight a huge difference in performance, but the Dino PC Plutosaur 2500's lack of pace was more noticeable in our intensive Crysis test.

Budget PCs chart ranking

  1. Chillblast Fusion Atom
  2. Arbico eXcel i5255 Pro
  3. Eclipse Matrix i525z68
  4. Dino PC Plutosaur 2500
  5. Chillblast Fusion Summit

Dino PC has provided the lowest-spec motherboard on test. It lacks 6Gbps SATA and HDMI, and the Plutosaur 2500 is the only PC here not to include USB 3.0 ports.

The 21.5in 2236SWA has a more traditional design than the other AOC monitors in the group. It incorporates a handy USB 2.0 port, which could be used to hook up a webcam or other device at desk height. But like the Eclipse’s F22s+, the Dino PC Plutosaur 2500's display has only a VGA (analogue) connection. Image quality will suffer as a result.

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Unlike Arbico and Eclipse, Dino PC has squeezed a pair of external speakers into the Plutosaur 2500's budget. This could be important for first-time buyers of a budget system.

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Budget PCs buying advice

Processor: Until recently, Intel’s Core i3 processor had the sub-£500 PC category sewn up. While you’ll still find good value in systems based on this architecture, second-generation Core i5 ‘Sandy Bridge’ chips blow them away in performance terms. Identify these chips by their four-digit model number.

‘K’ versions of Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors support overclocking, but you’ll need a pricey Z68- or P67-chipset-based motherboard (the latter also requires a discrete graphics card). A Z68 chipset provides additional support for SSD caching and auto-switching graphics.

Sandy Bridge chips also improve the integrated graphics performance. They provide accelerated graphics encoding, plus VGA and HDMI outputs. The ‘K’ chips come with more powerful integrated graphics than the standard versions. While neither option should be considered fast enough for a true gaming PC, some titles remain quite playable.

Memory: Expect 4GB at this price and don’t settle for less than 2GB. Most CPUs require DDR3 RAM, while older ones can also use DDR2. Check your motherboard has free slots if you plan to upgrade later.

Storage: Falling prices mean that 1TB is well within the budget of even a budget PC. You can never have too much storage space, and digital media will quickly fill a reasonably sized drive. Hard-drive space is easy to add later, however.

If you’re planning to upgrade hard drives internally, ensure that you’ve got spare drive bays inside your PC’s case. Get a drive that can write to the DVD+/-R formats at 16-speed or better. If you want to get 8.5GB on to one disc, get a drive that can write to dual-layer discs at 12- and eight-speed respectively.

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Flat-panel: It’s the component you’ll be spending all your time looking at, but PC makers often compromise on the monitor.

Good-quality full-HD monitors are available even in sub-£500 systems. Expect to find a 21.5in model, although these are often marketed as 22in screens. It’s best to get one with dual inputs and a digital connection, letting you get the best image quality available and hook up additional devices.

Graphics card: With the best graphics cards retailing for more than £300, a sub-£500 PC is unlikely to satisfy a hardcore gamer. However, decent graphics cards get cheaper all the time, and budget PCs can now handle games that were unthinkable a few months ago.

Intel’s Core i3 and i5 CPUs come with integrated graphics processors that deliver better performance than older Intel integrated solutions. The new Sandy Bridge chips are even faster and offer features such as dual monitor outputs. These machines support HD video without the need for a separate graphics card.

AMD’s ATI Radeon HD 5450 is a popular choice for a budget PC. It doesn’t offer a great speed advantage over Intel GMA integrated graphics, but it offers support for DirectX 11.0. Many cards can also drive multiple monitors.

If you really want to play games, nVidia’s GeForce GT 240 will provide some extra speed. Be prepared to lower your graphics settings, however.

Power supply: Expect only a basic PSU at this price point. A 450W or 500W model is a good starting point.

Sound card and speakers: You’re unlikely to get a sound card at this price point.

Dino PC Plutosaur 2500: Specs

  • 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • Asus P8H61-M LE motherboard
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 21.5in AOC 2236SWA (0.25mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • Intel GMA HD 2000 (games scores: Fear = 16fps, Crysis [Low] = 9fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Dino PC speakers
  • 22x DVD-R/22x +R/12x -R DL/16x +R DL/6x -RW/8x +RW/12x -RAM/16x -ROM
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 160
  • 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-2500
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB SATA
  • 8 x USB 2.0
  • Asus P8H61-M LE motherboard
  • 500W EZCool PSU
  • 21.5in AOC 2236SWA (0.25mm pixel pitch, 1920x1080)
  • Intel GMA HD 2000 (games scores: Fear = 16fps, Crysis [Low] = 9fps)
  • onboard sound
  • 2 x Dino PC speakers
  • 22x DVD-R/22x +R/12x -R DL/16x +R DL/6x -RW/8x +RW/12x -RAM/16x -ROM
  • three-year return-to-base warranty
  • WorldBench 6 score: 160

OUR VERDICT

If you need the extra memory, Dino PC’s Plutosaur 2500 will suit your needs admirably. Otherwise, we’d recommend a more balanced specification.

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