If you haven't previously heard of Dino PC, don't worry -- you're not alone. It's a perky little upstart of a company that, although not in the same league as the Dells and Acers of this world, aims to offer low prices, quality and reliability, as well as a fast service.
The first of the company's products we've had in for review is the Mini Carnivore HTPC, a relatively small desktop computer designed for those who want to bring their PC kicking, but not screaming, into the living room. Our review sample shipped with an Intel Core i3-530 CPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 320GB hard drive and ATI Radeon HD 5570 graphics. It's available for around £540.
Mighty multimedia dwarf
The Mini Carnivore is small, but don't let its name fool you too much. It uses an Antec ISK 310-150 mini-ITX chassis, which is approximately the size of two Yellow Pages directories stacked on top of each other. That's not exactly tiny in comparison to other small-form-factor machines, such as the , but it's certainly less beastly than traditional ATX computers. The chassis can also be mounted on its side to minimise its footprint, should you need more space.
The Mini Carnivore has something of an appetite for the latest components. In its belly, you'll find Gigabyte's GA-H55N-USB3 mini-ITX motherboard, which has USB 3 connectivity, as the name suggests. To this motherboard, Dino PC has fitted some other relatively modern components, including a dual-core Intel Core i3-530 CPU, which runs at 2.9GHz, plus 4GB of DDR3, 1,333MHz RAM, giving the Mini Carnivore a very solid foundation.
Home-theatre PCs are supposed to excel where disk storage is concerned, but manufacturers often cut corners in this area due to the size restrictions of small-form-factor PCs. Sadly, Dino PC appears to have fallen into this trap. The Mini Carnivore ships with a 2.5-inch, 320GB hard drive. While not exactly modest, that falls short of the 1TB that torrent junkies consider a minimum requirement.
Dino PC's chosen to pair the hard drive with a slimline, 8x DVD±RW drive, which is fine for watching or burning DVD movies. The company also gives users the option to upgrade to a Blu-ray alternative for £131 -- not a bad investment if high-definition movies are your bag.
Seen, but not heard
The Mini Carnivore has the prerequisite visual computing power to handle Blu-ray movies, but its graphics system is something of a mess. Anyone who wants to connect this machine to their television will instantly gravitate towards the HDMI video output at the rear, but there's very little point in doing so, since the integrated Intel graphics chip to which this HDMI output is connected is pretty pants for demanding graphics applications.