Inside the 3XS Cyclone SLI
Like all 3XS systems, the Cyclone SLI is available with a wide range of storage solutions. If SSDs and Blu-ray writers are surplus to your requirements it's possible to shave over £400 off the cost off the standard build. But Scan's default configuration, though pricey, attempts to offer an optimum mix of performance, capacity and reliability.
As part of the £3,000 fee, you get a pair of 120GB Corsair Force GT SSDs configured in high-performance RAID 0 acting as a 240GB system drive, a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black hard disk for excess storage, and a pair of 2TB Western Digital Caviar Green hard disks mirrored in RAID 1 for backup purposes. In keeping with the rest of the Cyclone SLI, the storage configuration is best described as extreme, and perhaps just a tad over the top.
Nevertheless, we certainly wouldn't mind owning such a setup, and it's supplemented nicely by an LG Blu-ray writer. Our one criticism would be the choice of Corsair's red-coloured Force GT SSDs. They may be Corsair's best offering, and we've shown in an earlier review that they're capable of hitting 1GB/s in RAID, but their colouring clashes with the rest of the build and unless you're partial to a splodge of red, it ain't too pretty. For aesthetics sake, we'd swap the Force GTs for a pair of Force 3s and pocket the change.
The heart of the beast
It's the centre of the 3XS Cyclone SLI that looks most impressive, and the beauty isn't just skin deep. Beneath a rather large Be Quiet! Dark Rock PRO BK016 cooler lies an Intel Core i7-2600K processor overclocked to 4.7GHz. That's a 38 per cent increase over Intel's stock frequency, and Scan leaves Intel's speedstep technology enabled - allowing the CPU to throttle down to as little as 1.6GHz when idle.
The Intel CPU is joined by 8GB of Corsair Vengeance LP memory (2 x 4GB), and despite the size of the CPU cooler, there's room to add a further two modules should you feel the need to upgrade.
CPU and memory performance isn't going to be lacking, and you shouldn't feel short changed on the GPU front, either. A choice of NVIDIA or AMD cards are available - from mid-range GeForce GTX 460 to extreme Radeon HD 6990 - but Scan's default configuration settles on two 1.5GB EVGA GeForce GTX 580s hooked up in SLI.
Two of NVIDIA's fastest single GPUs is a tantalising prospect, and Scan's put plenty of icing on this particular cake. Each GPU's 772MHz core is overclocked to run at 850MHz, and the 1,024 CUDA cores are bumped up from 1,544MHz to a cool 1,700MHz.
Said setup is going to generate a fair amount of heat, so Scan's opted to employ a liquid-cooled loop that consists of two EK Acetal+Nickel waterblocks, an EK bridge, an EK-DDC X-Res 140 reservoir, an 18W Laing DDC Pump, a 240mm XSPC radiator with two Akasa Apache fans, and a sprinkling of black Bitspower fittings to tie it all together.
There's a lot of graphical grunt on offer, but by employing thin liquid-cooling waterblocks, there's room between the two GPUs for Creative's gaming-grade sound card, the SoundBlaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Professional.
Overall, this configuration's performance should be every bit as good as it looks, but it's a shame Scan doesn't provide the option to liquid-cool the CPU. As it is, the mix of liquid-and-air cooling leaves the Cyclone SLI with a sizeable number of fans. There's a 200mm front intake, a 120mm rear exhaust, two 120mm fans built into the CPU cooler, two 120mm fans attached above the radiator, and another fan built into the power supply. That dazzling array bodes well for cooling, but as you'll see later in the review, not so well for quiet computing.
Let's see what she's capable of, shall we?