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As expected, the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium is the OS of choice. It’s a very clean install with some benchmarking and burning-in tools the only installed applications and a very dull Scan wallpaper as the default background.
But now to the big question: how does this affordable gaming system actually perform in games? Most titles are handled with ease as long as you don’t go beyond Full HD resolution; for instance, Call of Duty 4 on maximum detail returned a silky 98fps at 1,920 x 1,200. Crysis in DirectX10 posed more of a challenge, and to get a really smooth gaming experience on high detail we had to drop the resolution down to 1,680 x 1,050 (for an average of 33.15fps) but it's still a very respectable show for a machine of this price.
DirectX11-compatible titles are where this card has a real chance to flex its muscles though, as demonstrated by the excellent result it achieved in Stalker: Call of Pripyat; an 63.5fps average on Ultra Detail at 1,920 x 1,200 is nothing to sniff at.
Looking now at value, the most interesting comparison is with CyberPower’s £600 Infinity i5 Hercules SE, which offers a better processor for less money. However, the overclock Scan has applied more than negates the Core i5’s advantage, except in heavily multi-threaded applications where the latter’s four physical cores still give it the upper hand – and of course the Core i5 750 is an excellent overclocker too.
Regardless, the simple fact of the matter is that graphics rule and here the £702.65 Scan also beats the CyberPower thoroughly, though admittedly it’s only a £50 upgrade to equip the i5 Hercules SE with an HD 5770. Also, prices have changed since we reviewed that system, so now a similarly-specified Cyberpower PC (with its Core i3 overclocked to between 3,600 and 3,900MHz) will set you back around the same. Obviously the Scan will still be faster and we like the company’s use of a fully-featured mini-ATX board, but the biggest differentiating factor will be warranties, with Scan offering one year on-site plus another year standard and free lifetime phone support, while CyberPower gives you three years standard and free lifetime phone support - of those we prefer Scan's option as on-site is obviously far more convenient.
Another interesting option is currently offered by Dell, which has a Studio XPS running a Core i5 650 at 3.2GHz stock, with 6GB of 1066MHz DDR3 RAM, the same HD 5770 graphics card and 2TBs-worth of hard drive space for just £719! However, if you do possibly see yourself doing some upgrading of your own down the line, the proprietary nature of the Dell system will severely limit what you can do, with the main drawback being its apparent lack of CrossFire support.
An impressively overclocked system with a good balance of components, Scan’s 3XS i3 OC Gaming PC provides decent performance for the price.
Addendum - 01/02/10: The Dell Studio XPS mentioned above has gone up to £809 since time of writing, and we originally thought the warranty on Scan's system was inferior to what it turned out to be. As the 3XS i3 was a borderline eight in value to begin with, we have upped its value score (and therefore overall score) to reflect this.