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Scan 3XS-M

Manufacturers have learnt the lesson that beige is boring, and the Scan system demonstrates what you can expect these days. The case has a genuine metal frontage and two grills that give it a retro fifties radio look. As it stands, it almost works but some users may wish to swap the black drives with those of a different colour. (See update)

Having said that, the silver and black theme is carried over with the monitor, keyboard and mouse, so clearly some thought has gone into it.

More importantly, the large round power button has a solid feel to it as does the reset switch. This makes a nice change from having to stab a pen into your case in order to get it to reboot. The front also sports two USB ports and one FireWire connector, complementing the four USB and single FireWire connectors at the rear.

Component-wise, Scan has taken a unique path, with the 2.6GHz Pentium 4 CPU, making this the only Intel based offering in the group test. The CPU takes advantage of the 800MHz front side bus and the Hyper-Threading technology supported by the Intel 865PE chipset in the Abit IS7 motherboard. This combination is a good choice for a mid-range system giving solid performance now, with scope for upgrading in the future.

The motherboard is also quite overclocker friendly with a BIOS that lets you alter voltages and multiplier settings. It has settings for the RAM timings, which are bizarrely referred to Turbo, Street Racer and F1 modes – perfect for all the boy racers out there.
The RAM is regular PC3200 DDR. This is on two sticks, enabling the system to take advantage of the dual-channel memory controller. Fortunately, Abit has supplied two spare slots giving plenty of upgrade potential. If you are in an overclocking mood, you may be assisted by the large heatsink and fan on the motherboard northbridge and the fan that sits between the case and the motherboard.

The motherboard also has a fair amount of integrated features, such as a Serial ATA (S-ATA) controller that supports RAID 0. An S-ATA Maxtor hard disk is connected offering a respectable 120GB of storage capacity. The small S-ATA cable helps keep airflow in the case fairly smooth. There’s also a re-writable DVD recorder for removable storage, which will burn to both DVD+R and DVD-R at up to four-speed if used with supporting media. There’s also a 12-speed DVD-ROM drive so you can burn disc-to-disc if you so desire.

The Scan also lets you enjoy a DVD movie in all its glory thanks to the integrated analogue 5.1-channel outputs for full Dolby Digital audio. This is paired with a set of Creative Inspire 5.1 5100 speakers. If you want to output to a external decoder for real home cinema power you can, thanks to an optical S/PDIF output. There’s also a similar input enabling you to record digitally from a DAB radio or CD player.

In the graphics department, Scan has gone for a card based on the nVidia GeForceFX Personal Cinema. This is nVidia’s take on ATi’s All-in-Wonder line, and in many respects matches it. However the GeForce FX5200 chip this card is based on can’t keep up with the Radeon 9800SE in the Jal and Evesham machines. The Scan’s score of 1538 in 3DMark03 won’t do much for the latest games and it could only muster a poor 8.9 frames per second in AquaMark3. The Personal Cinema is more about features than performance though and will enable you to capture and record from its internal TV Tuner or composite and S-Video sources.

The graphics card is hooked up to a 15in LG Flatron TFT panel. This has a resolution of 1,024 x 768 but suffers from uneven lighting. It’s also limited in its horizontal and vertical viewing angles which can be a problem even when you’re sitting in front of it.

Scan has made an attempt at including an office suite with Sun Open Office 1.1 already preinstalled. This is a decent suite but it’s freely downloadable from the Internet so the value it adds is debatable.

The keyboard and mouse are components that are often ignored by system builders so Scan has done well by including high quality Microsoft branded examples. The keyboard features many useful shortcut buttons that work with Windows XP. The optical mouse is solid and features two buttons on the side. These can be assigned to functions such as copy and paste, which can be a real time saver for filling tedious spreadsheets and the like.

There’s a lot to like about the Scan, but the average quality display and poor performing graphics means that its outclassed in the current company.


Verdict

The scan is a well built system with some quality components, but compared to the rest of the field it lacks 3D power and suffers from a below average display. This puts it out of the running for the awards in this Labs.


Update

After communicating with Scan Computers International, the company state that every single component in any 3XS specification is open to alteration at the customer's request. For example, the black drives may be swapped to ivory coloured models. This review has been edited to reflect this.

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