The most obvious place to start with this PC is to get straight to those all important specs. Sitting at the heart of the operation is an Intel E8200 CPU, which is a dual-core built using Intel’s much-fabled 45nm process, and that normally runs at 2.66GHz. In the case of this particular PC, Scan has actually overclocked the CPU to a whopping 3.4GHz (at a cost of £80), which is a speed not to be sniffed at. Being that the overclocking has been done by Scan, this also means it is completely covered by the standard 1-year warranty, which can be extended to three years for a mere £105, ensuring complete peace of mind for a good proportion of the life of the computer.
Propping up that overclocked CPU is some very capable RAM in the form of 2GBs of Corsair CM2X1024. This RAM is only rated to run at 800MHz (the FSB of the E8200 is 1,333MHz) but it offers low latencies, great overclockablilty, and most importantly rock solid stability. The other cornerstone of this system is the motherboard, which is, unsurprisingly, powered by an nVidia chipset, namely the 650i.
Now, this isn’t one of nVidia’s newest or fastest chipsets but the fact it can overclock a CPU from 2.66GHz to 3.4GHz just goes to show that you don’t always need the biggest and best. Also, the board itself, which is a P5N-D made by Asus, is fully featured with onboard sound, plenty of SATA ports for your hard drives, and with all the peripheral connections you can think of on the back panel, except eSATA that is. The only problem is the appalling cooler that sits atop the chipset. The small fan it uses constantly spins at high speed, which creates a very noticeable high-pitched noise – very annoying!
Of course, the big seller in this whole package is the graphics card and Scan certainly have gone to town by including a 9800 GTX, which as we just showed, is one of the fastest graphics cards on the market. To have one of these circa £200 cards included in a £799 PC is mightily impressive. Of course, the 9800 GTX isn’t ”the” fastest card on the market – that honour goes to the 9800 GX2 – but because the GX2 relies on SLi driver support, which can be rather patchy, it makes sense to go with the much more reliable performer in this everyday PC.
In terms of features, the card includes the aforementioned video decoding hardware for smooth playback of high-definition content. It has two dual-link DVI outputs that both support HDCP, so the PC can be used to playback Blu-ray movies. There’s also support for composite and component video output as well. One feature of this card that Scan hasn’t utilised, though, is the ability to pass audio out through the card’s DVI ports. When used with a DVI-to-HDMI converter, this enables you to use just one HDMI cable to plug your PC into a TV for both sound and video, which is really convenient. However, this requires a cable to be run from the onboard sound to a socket on the top of the graphics card and this hasn’t been done.