Dino PC Dark Spark GTX 960 desktop gaming PC review

Dino PC Dark Spark GTX 960 review: An excellent all-round gaming PC at a good price

This mid-range gaming PC provides everything you need for performance computing out of the box. Read our Dino PC Dark Spark GTX 960 PC review. Also see: Best gaming PCs 2015.

The Dark Spark GTX 960 from Dino PC is a complete PC package, bundled with all the peripherals you will need for an exciting gaming experience.

Based on Intel’s quad-core Core i5-4960K, overclocked from the standard 3.5GHz to an ambitious 4.6GHz, the Dark Spark GTX 960 achieves the fastest processor top speed in our mid-priced PC group test.

To keep CPU temperatures in check, Dino PC and selected a Be Quiet Pure Rock BK009 processor cooler, which features a quiet nine-blade 120mm fan and six heat pipes. Under full load, the processor reached 85 degrees Celsius which is one of the hotter results, but still within acceptable limits.

Graphics power comes from a Palit-branded Nvidia GeForce GTX960 with 2GB of RAM. This recently introduced card is proving very popular among mid-priced gaming PCs and turns in some good results at a reasonable price. Our gaming tests don’t benefit much from the boosted CPU performance, but more processor-intensive games such as Dragon Age Inquisition stand to see increased frame rates. Also see: Best gaming laptops 2015.

Storage comes in the form of two drives: A 120GB Samsung 850 EVO for fast booting and quick load times and separate 1TB hard drive for increased storage. A 120GB drive is enough to hold a Windows installation, but any sizeable game collection is likely to be forced onto the slower hard drive. We would recommend going for a larger SSD if your budget allows.

The system also comes with 8GB of RAM which is adequate, and very easily upgradable to 16GB later if you wish.

At the centre of the system is a Gigabyte Z97X-gaming 3 motherboard, which uses Intel’s Z79-Express chipset rather than the cheaper H81-Express chipset found in many other gaming PCs which, by contrast, offers fewer features and only unofficial overclocking. This particular model also includes enhanced quality audio and a built in amplifier for rear surround speakers and supports multi-card graphics setups from both AMD and Nvidia, allowing flexible upgrade options.

The Corsair VS power supply is only rated at 450W, but this proved adequate as, in our stress tests, we measured a maximum power draw of 310W. It’s worth keeping this limit in mind if you’re intending to add extra graphics cards or multiple hard drives, however. See all PC reviews.

Dino PC, like many other vendors, has chosen NZXT’s new Source 340 system case. The minimalist design of the Source 340 has no external drive bays, and presents an entirely blank front panel, while the side window obscures most of the cabling at the bottom, leaving a clean view of the more visually interesting components above.

The Dark Spark GTX 960 comes with some of the most impressive gaming peripherals, including a Corsair Raptor HS30 gaming headset and the Corsair Raptor K30 keyboard which features adjustable backlighting and programmable keys. This is matched to a Corsair Raptor M30 high-dpi gaming mouse which comes with a Raptor gaming mousepad.

A 24in Iiyama Prolite GE2488HS-B1 monitor is also included. Its TN panel is built for speed rather than colour accuracy, but it’s ideal for fast-paced gaming thanks to its 1ms response time and this display is aimed specifically at gamers.

Bear in mind that the three-year warranty covers parts for only the first two years, and none is on-site. The third year covers labour costs only, meaning you'd be better off buying and fitting defective parts yourself, or finding a local repair centre. The system will have to be returned to Dino PC should there be any hardware problems: carriage is free only for the first six months, after which you have to pay for shipping both ways. This is the only real weak point of the Dark Spark.

If you’re willing to sacrifice the peripherals, the CPU speed and downgrade to an H81 motherboard then Cyperpower’s Infinity Achilles Pro GT will offer you faster bottom-line frame rates on many games depending on the kinds of games you play.

See all gaming PC reviews.

Dino PC Dark Spark GTX 960: Specs

  • Intel i5 4690k 3.5MHz (overclocked to 4.6MHz) processor
  • Be Quiet Pure Rock BK009 CPU cooler
  • 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM
  • Samsung SSD 850 EVO 120GB
  • 1TB HDD
  • Corsair VS 450W PSU
  • Gigabyte Z97X-gaming 3 motherboard
  • Windows 8.1
  • 24in Iiyama ProLite GE2488HS-B1 (1920x1080) monitor
  • Palit nVidia GeForce GTX 960 OC, 2GB
  • Realtek ALC1150 115dB SNR HD Audio with Built-in rear audio amplifier
  • Ethernet Killer E2200 from Qualcomm Atheros
  • 6x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0
  • 2x PS/2, 1x D-Sub, 1x DVI-D, 1x HDMI
  • 8-CH HD Audio
  • 1x M.2 Onboard 10Gb/s
  • 6x SATA 3 Ports
  • 1x SATA Express
  • NZXT Source 340 case
  • Corsair Raptor Bundle
  • 3 Years PromoCare warramty
  • PCMark7 overall score: 7090
  • Alien vs Predator: 55fps (1080p), 103fps (720p)
  • Sniper Elite V2: 29fps (Ultra), 124fps (Medium), 286fps (Low)
  • Final Fantasy XIV: 86fps (Maximum)
  • max CPU temp under load: 85
  • power consumption: 77W (idle), 310W) load
  • Intel i5 4690k 3.5MHz (overclocked to 4.6MHz) processor
  • Be Quiet Pure Rock BK009 CPU cooler
  • 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM
  • Samsung SSD 850 EVO 120GB
  • 1TB HDD
  • Corsair VS 450W PSU
  • Gigabyte Z97X-gaming 3 motherboard
  • Windows 8.1
  • 24in Iiyama ProLite GE2488HS-B1 (1920x1080) monitor
  • Palit nVidia GeForce GTX 960 OC, 2GB
  • Realtek ALC1150 115dB SNR HD Audio with Built-in rear audio amplifier
  • Ethernet Killer E2200 from Qualcomm Atheros
  • 6x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0
  • 2x PS/2, 1x D-Sub, 1x DVI-D, 1x HDMI
  • 8-CH HD Audio
  • 1x M.2 Onboard 10Gb/s
  • 6x SATA 3 Ports
  • 1x SATA Express
  • NZXT Source 340 case
  • Corsair Raptor Bundle
  • 3 Years PromoCare warramty
  • PCMark7 overall score: 7090
  • Alien vs Predator: 55fps (1080p), 103fps (720p)
  • Sniper Elite V2: 29fps (Ultra), 124fps (Medium), 286fps (Low)
  • Final Fantasy XIV: 86fps (Maximum)
  • max CPU temp under load: 85
  • power consumption: 77W (idle), 310W) load

OUR VERDICT

The DinoPC Dark Spark GTX 960 is an excellent, well-rounded gaming PC with all the peripherals you’ll need to start playing. It also features the fastest overclock in our group test. It’s also available as a base unit only for £830. If you can live with the effective two-year, return-to-base warranty, it's a great deal.