If you're on the hunt for a quality gaming rig, Scan's 3XS Performance GTX should surely be on your radar.
Launched back in March with a GeForce GTX 680 at the helm, the overclocked machine was found to offer outstanding gaming performance in a well-built and competitively-priced package. But there was room for improvement - the 3XS Performance GTX didn't feature an SSD as standard, and it shipped with an Intel Sandy Bridge CPU that has since been superseded with new-and-improved Ivy Bridge.
The time is right, then, for Scan to introduce a refreshed successor and it's doing so in the form of the 3XS Z77 Performance GTX.
Priced at £1,299 for the base specification and launched earlier this month to coincide with Intel's Ivy Bridge unveiling, the 3XS Z77 Performance GTX has a lot in common with its predecessor but packs a couple of key upgrades. The CPU, of course, is the first big change, with Scan moving from the venerable Sandy Bridge Core i5-2500K to an Ivy Bridge Core i5-3570K.
The new CPU is decorated with the latest Intel technology and has the added benefit of being more power efficient (the i5-3570K is rated at 77W, compared to 95W for the i5-2500K). To make the most of the new chip Scan has made the transition to a Z77 motherboard - Gigabyte's GA-Z77X-D3H to be specific - and, as expected, the processor is custom-cooled by a Thermalright HR-02 Macho heatsink and pre-overclocked at the factory by a Scan engineer.
What's interesting, though, is the overclock that's in place. Whereas the previous Sandy Bridge machine was pushed to 4.7GHz, the upgraded Ivy Bridge rig runs fractionally slower at 4.6GHz. Still a healthy overclock, but the downgraded speed is in keeping with what we've seen of Ivy Bridge processors thus far - they aren't particularly great overclockers. We'll find out if the reduced maximum frequency is a backward step for CPU performance a little later in the review, but we suspect the i5-3570K's architectural enhancements will be enough to swing the benchmarks in its favour.
Looking around the rest of the system we get a good sense of deja vu. Scan's sticking with Corsair's competent-but-noisy Carbide Series 300R chassis, graphics are provided by NVIDIA's best single-GPU offering, the GeForce GTX 680, there's 8GB of Corsair Vengeance LP memory which is pretty much standard fare, as is the DVD writer, and power is provided by a 600 Watt Corsair Gaming Series PSU.
These are the same components that adorned the previous 3XS Performance GTX, but the Z77 revision does introduce a few nuances. Making use of the motherboard's various expansion slots, Scan has seen fit to install a dedicated ASUS Xonar DG soundcard as standard, and the storage configuration has been revamped to include an SSD by default. Whereas the earlier model came equipped with only a 2TB Seagate Barracuda HDD, the new Z77 rig adds a 120GB Corsair Force Series 3 SSD as the system disk and the 2TB hard drive is retained to serve as a secondary storage device.
The £1,299 fee will still feel a substantial amount for a base-unit only configuration - remember, there's no monitor or peripherals included at this price - but Scan's proposition is compelling for high-end users; for the money you get a cutting-edge Intel CPU overclocked to 4.6GHz, NVIDIA's best single-GPU graphics card, a dedicated sound card and an ultra-responsive solid-state drive.
The 3XS 77 Performance GTX's default specification is strong and purposely geared toward gamers, but Scan's various configuration options make the standard component selection almost irrelevant - you can customise the machine to your liking. Perusing what's available to tweak and adjust, we'd actually recommend downgrading the GPU to a pre-overclocked GeForce GTX 670 - it'll be almost as quick as the top-of-the-line GeForce GTX 680 and the £80-odd saving could be put toward a Blu-ray drive and a chassis with better sound-proofing credentials.
Scan's 3XS team is for the most part flexible when it comes to component choices - they'll attempt to accommodate just about any product from the Scan catalogue if it's at all possible - and it's this attention to service that sets the company's PCs apart. As is usually the case, our review sample arrived in pristine condition with excellent cable management throughout, and the software is equally tidy - Windows 7 has all the available updates applied, the latest drivers are in place, and there's no bloatware in sight.
Like all Scan 3XS PCs, delivery is made by in-house drivers as opposed to national couriers, optional in-home installation is available if required, and the standard two-year 3XS warranty covers on-site parts and labour for the first year, followed by a second year of return-to-base support.
We've extolled the the virtues of Scan's 3XS service but let's find out what, if anything, the Ivy Bridge upgrade is able to add to the 3XS Performance GTX.