Scan 3XS Performance GT - Budget gaming from Scan's skunkworks
The current state of the PC market means you don't need to spend an absolute fortune on a PC to get a decent gaming experience. That's partly down to the lengthening of hardware generations, especially in the graphics card arena, but also because there's masses of gaming power at the lower end of the hardware spectrum. Exhibit A, m'lud: Intel's Pentium Anniversary processor. We checked out Intel's cheapo Haswell overclocking processor last month, and were mighty impressed with it, too. Now, Scan has used it as the basis of its well-priced Z97 Performance GT machine.
This is a ?600 rig with a great specs list, making sensible cuts in the correct areas and delivering in the right places. You've got MSI's GTX 760 Twin Frozr taking care of the graphical grunt work, a quality motherboard chipset, and one of the best system warranties money can buy. To keep the price down, Scan has made concessions in the storage, chassis and cooling. In any machine under ?1,000, there really isn't a lot of point splashing out on an SSD; you'll either be taking cash away from places it's better spent in performance terms, or you'll end up with a drive so small it will be no use to man nor machine. The choice to stick with a 1TB HDD is a wise one - we'd rather the machine took a little longer to get into a game but ran well, than launched quickly but had the frame rate of a zoetrope. And that 1TB of storage space will still be immensely useful when you can afford to upgrade to an SSD later down the line.
The Fractal Design Core 1000 chassis is rather basic, but you're not going to suffer by having your components housed inside it. The cooling might be a different matter. Scan has opted for the Arctic Cooling Freezer i11, which is an active air cooler with an almost silent, chunky fan. While it's more than a match for the Pentium Anniversary chip in general usage, it does seem to struggle a little at the hefty 4.5GHz overclock.
Our test machine developed some stability problems at that level and we had to replace the CPU after a day's testing. That's likely down to a failure in the CPU silicon itself rather than the Scan build, but any issue will soon present itself when the processor is running at 87?C in Battlefield 4. To us, that 4.5GHz overclock seems a little too ambitious given the temperature the chip achieves at such speeds. That does highlight how important it is to get a good warranty with your overclocked rig, and Scan offers one of the best. Problems with overclocked systems tend to happen within the first year, and so 12 months of on-site support is fantastic - you shouldn't be without a working system for long if anything does go wrong. Scan has put together a really impressive package with this well-priced, smartlyspecced system. Our only concern is the ambition of the 4.5GHz overclock. Aside from that, the GTX 760 is going to deliver a great 1080p gaming experience.