Summary

Our Score

7/10

Review Price free/subscription

Last month I took a look at a complete Windows Media Center Edition (MCE) 2005 system from small form factor kings Shuttle and was generally impressed. Now system integrator Scan has created its own Media Center system called the CUBIT 5 using the guts of Shuttle's SFF MCE system but employing a housing from Hoojum.

Scan is noted for its systems sporting cases designed to make the beige box a distant memory and its Hoojum range will certainly do that. The case is a very solid block of aluminium with an entirely mirrored surface, much like the reverse side of an iPod. The front panel is of particular note with a sliver at the top for the notebook sized Panasonic UJ-845-BPN, which can burn dual-layer DVDs at 2.4writing speeds. There are also multiple memory slots at the bottom. Above these are two USB 2.0 ports, a four-pin Firewire connection and headphone and microphone sockets. The distinctive features though are the slots that run down either side, providing extra cooling. On the left is an infra-red panel, though this didn't seem to serve any function as the media center remote is an external USB box, as it was with the Shuttle.

The unit it's certainly something of a design statement, but to my eyes that statement is primarily 'toaster'. It's undoubtedly a stunning looking object, but I'd like to have a great looking piece of AV hardware in my lounge, rather than a fantastic looking kitchen appliance. Fortunately Scan offers the Hoojum in other colours, namely, black, white, blue, peach and red, so there's really something for everyone. The other colours are also significantly cheaper than the chrome finish. If you go for black, then you'll save a whopping £120. This drops to £115 less if you go for white and it will be £105 less expensive with any of the other shades.

As a media PC, the CUBIT 5 has many talents, even if one of them isn't producing perfectly done cooked bread products. The CPU supplied is a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 with 1MB of cache on an 800MHz front-side bus. This ensures that the system will be very capable of handling high definition video material smoothly. The processor is ably assisted by 1GB of Corsair RAM on two 512MB modules, ensuing dual-channel operation on the 915G chipset. The graphics card will also help with video playback.

While most media centre systems take it easy on the graphics performance to try and keep system noise down, Scan has an option to fit either a GeForce 6600GT or a GeForce 6800GT into the case, and the former was fitted inside my review system. With one of these cards then you'll clearly be trading off a near silent system for one with fairly conventional noise levels and there was simply no disguising the fact that the fan will make its presence felt in a lounge environment. Then again if you want to play games on the system you'll have to make that sacrifice. Halo was preinstalled on this test system and I launched it to see how the system faired. I was very quickly drawn into the game and was reminded what a great title Halo is. The whole experience was certainly a whole lot smoother than my own PC gave me at the time the game was first released for PC.

{Update: Scan has informed me that it can fit fanless GeForce 6600 cards to the system if required. I'd recommened it.}

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