Scan Computers has turned its attention to the burgeoning small-form-factor (SFF) market, and with a long-standing reputation for producing high-performance machines, you won't be surprised to hear that the system integrator's latest compact gaming PC packs a serious punch.
Dubbed the Z87 Hadron Hydro, this new addition to the 3XS range is priced at a jaw-dropping £1,949 for the base-unit only, and is designed to prove that high-quality gaming can be delivered in small packages.
The key ingredient to any small-form-factor build is the chassis, and in case the name didn't already give it away, Scan has turned to EVGA's Hadron Hydro. Measuring 169mm (W) x 350mm (H) x 308mm (D), the Hadron Hydro is 45mm taller than the recently-reviewed Hadron Air, with the extra headroom adding support for a top-mounted, 240mm liquid-cooled radiator.
It is rare to see such high-end cooling potential in an enclosure of this size, though we do have one small reservation: the added height makes this version of the Hadron look just a tad less elegant. Some of the symmetry has been lost, the chassis is no longer quite as small, and from an aesthetic point of view, the Hydro isn't quite as cute as the Air.
Still, that's the price you pay for liquid cooling, and on the flip side Scan has put all of the available space to good use with an array of components that belies the 3XS Z87 Hadron Hydro's form factor.
You only need to take one look inside to realise that this isn't a faint-hearted rig. Smaller systems tend to make sacrifices in one department or another, but the 3XS Z87 Hadron Hydro goes for the jugular by combining an Intel Core i7-4770K processor with an EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Ti Superclocked graphics card.
CPU and GPU combinations don't come much more potent than that, yet why stop there? By default, Scan has the Intel CPU overclocked to a brisk 4.2GHz, and the GPU is ramped-up, too, with shipping frequencies of 1,156MHz on core and 7,060MHz on memory.
It's great to see the headline components overclocked as standard, and the supporting cast ain't bad, either. 16GB (2x8GB) of Corsair Vengeance 2,133 DDR3 memory takes care of RAM duties, storage is provided by a 500GB Samsung 840 Evo SSD, and it all sits atop of EVGA's Z87 Stinger Mini-ITX motherboard.
Having such components running at heightened speeds in a small-form-factor chassis could be a recipe for disaster, but any potential heat problems are placated via an elaborate liquid-cooling system. As part of the standard £1,949 specification, the CPU is cooled by EVGA's Hadron Hydro Watercooling Kit, which includes a 240mm radiator, a rear-mounted pump, CPU waterblock, tubing and green coolant.
Taking it one step further, Scan also integrates the graphics card into the liquid-cooling loop by using an EK-FC780 GTX Ti waterblock. The implementation is very slick and makes full use of the Hadron Hydro's feature set. In case you were wondering, the 35mm-thick radiator is housed in the roof of the chassis, and the two pre-installed 120mm fans are configured as exhausts directly beneath the rad.
Elsewhere, we can see a slim slot-loading DVD writer facing outward on the right-hand side, and the chassis' 500W Gold-rated PSU is installed at the bottom. The power supply conforms to rackmount standards and measures just 44.45mm thick - this 1U form factor is one of the reasons why other high-end components are able to fit inside such a compact case.
Scan's implementation is excellent throughout, with good attention paid to cable management and a clean 64-bit install of Windows 8.1, and though the default specification is lust-worthy, it's good to see that an array of configuration options are available on the 3XS website. Each system is built to order, and you could, if you so wanted, switch to, say, an Asus Z87I-Pro motherboard, an Intel Core i5-4670K processor, a 240GB SSD and GeForce GTX 770 graphics. Doing so would take the overall cost down to a more-palatable £1,330. Adding to the choice, various high-end cards can either be aircooled or watercooled, as well.
The 3XS Z87 Hadron Hydro is shaping up to be one of the most-capable small-form-factor gaming PCs available today, and of course, a key advantage to a turnkey system such as this is that it arrives backed by a three-year warranty that includes on-site support for the first 12 months. Scan has ticked a lot of the right boxes for enthusiasts looking to spend big bucks on a compact, high-performance gaming rig, and the only real caveat that we can think of thus far - other than price - is that future upgrades aren't always going to be easy. How much more could you possibly squeeze into this chassis? That's something to consider, but for now, let's get on to some benchmarking fun.