Scan 3XS FT03 Nanu Custom Gaming PC with GTX 660Ti Review
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They say good things come in small packages but is this true of Scan's latest 3XS Custom Gaming rig?
The Scan 3XS FT03 Nanu custom gaming PC is the latest in Scan's award winning 3XS range of custom built PCs. This PC system promises mighty power in a tiny shell. The standard specification is a Silverstone FT03B-Mini Mini ITX ‘Fortress’ case, Asus P8Z77 IvyBridge platform motherboard with an Intel i5-3570K processor (professionally overclocked to 4.4Ghz) and a brand spanking new Nvidia GTX660Ti 2GB graphics card. Along with a Corsair 120GB SSD, 2TB HDD and 8GB DDR3 Memory. On paper this little box of tricks should murder (or at least maim) anything you care to throw at it.
This system is targeted towards the user that perhaps wants a beast of a machine but doesn’t really care to have a massive box sitting next to their desk. With a footprint of just 235mm x 190mm and 400mm high this system is putting itself squarely in that small box market. Noise levels aside, the Silverstone FT03B Mini case should fit nicely amongst the rest of your home cinema equipment thanks to its black aluminium outer shell and cable free sides. If the thought of a mini-form factor PC sends you hiding behind your behemoth full-form factor PC, you might want to read on as the days of smaller inferior versions of components and poor gaming performance are behind us. The components used in this 3XS FT03 Nanu PC would not be any different (excluding PSU and Motherboard) than those used in a normal sized PC. So let's power it up and see what it's capable of.
Having reviewed Scan’s previous Nanu Gamer PC back in March 2012, this new version which is based around the Silverstone FT03 case, Intel Ivybridge platform and the newly released GTX660Ti graphics card should be even better. Given the price tag and the promise of these impressive specifications, we had high expectations and, in a nutshell, we were not disappointed.
Let’s start with the looks, which for some are unimportant, but if you're considering a mini-form factor PC, then they probably are. You get the Silverstone FT03B-Mini ‘Fortress’ case which is finished in high quality black aluminium and the looks live up to the name. The connections all come out of the top meaning you have no connections or cables coming out of the sides which gives a very clean finish. The top grille lifts off to access all the connections which include everything you should need and the front and back pull off to gain access to the system components.
Our first minor gripe with this PC is that, although we like the idea of not having any connections around the PC, it can get very untidy with a load of cables coming out of the top. We’d rather have had everything coming out of the back because unless you plan to have it in the middle of a room and want to gaze at all four cable free sides, you are going to have it up against a wall or a desk and not see at least one side anyway. Also, we would suggest investing in some 90 degree cables, as you have to bend some of the cables over to fit the top back on properly. However, if you take the 90 degree approach and do some tidying up, you can get it looking very nice.
Priced at £1,279.99, including VAT (delivery and setup are available for £35 extra) it is a reasonable sum of money that you're being asked to part with but it offers good value for a professionally built PC with the very latest components. The GTX660Ti graphics card on its own is £250 and a quick comparison from various sites gives a system price if you built it yourself of £1,170. So we don’t think asking £100 to have it professionally built, overclocked and fully tested is unreasonable. Clearly if you can do it all yourself fine, but if not then this system offers an excellent alternative.
For your money you get a professionally overclocked and stress tested system, an extremely tidy installation and wiring job, particularly given the confined space to work in, and a smart looking Silverstone FT03B-Mini black aluminium case. It arrives from Scan all configured and ready to go. They even install all the latest Windows updates, which is always a chore whenever you get a new PC, as well as the latest graphics drivers. You just need to get it home (or pay £35 for delivery), turn it on and sit back and enjoy. Due to the lightning fast nature of the Corsair Force 3 120GB SSD, within 6-10 seconds of pressing the power button you can literally be using it.
The high specifications, including the Nvidia GTX660Ti graphics card, Intel i5-3570K CPU overclocked to 4.4Ghz and very fast Corsair 120GB SSD, allows you to play the latest games at maximum settings with an excellent frame rate. Battlefield 3 flew along in this system at 1920 x 1080, on Ultra settings giving a superb frame rate of 58fps. Call of Duty: MW3, which you could quite easily play on a 486 DX66, nevertheless gave a frame rate of 175fps here. Only Max Payne 3 struggled on the very highest setting, giving just 20fps with MSAA at the maximum of 8x. Reducing the Multi-Sample Anti-Aliasing (MSAA) to 4x whilst keeping every other setting on maximum doubled the frame rate to 40fps. On maximum this game used 1.8GB of the 2GB available graphics card memory. Added to this you can watch Blu-rays at Full HD 1080P 24fps with no slow downs or stuttering and you get all the connections you need to integrate it into your home cinema system, if you so wish.
Our second minor gripe with the system is the noise level which, whilst coping superbly with keeping everything cool, does mean there are several fans running very fast. It is not ridiculously noisy, coming in at 41dBs at 4 foot, but it’s not a noise level that lends itself to use in your home cinema, especially for watching movies. To be fair it is aimed towards PC gamers and not as a HTPC and for gaming, unless you are playing without sound, the noise level will not be much of an issue. As long as you don't expect your new PC to be whisper quiet, then you won't be disappointed but it is worth bearing in mind.
With top end components, professionally built and superb gaming performance you get a system that should keep you happy for a long time to come. Should you wish to upgrade, you can have a graphics card up to 9.5” long and there's plenty of room for other components meaning you won’t be restricted further down the line when a Call of Duty game finally gets released with a new game engine! If you want a dedicated gaming PC in a mini-form factor then this 3XS FT03 Nanu gaming PC is definitely worthy of your consideration, not to mention an AVForums Highly Recommended badge.
The first thing you will hopefully notice when you take this system out of the box is the gorgeous Silverstone ‘Fortress’ FT03B-Mini black aluminium case. Bereft of any ports or connections on any of the four sides you get a very clean and minimalistic finish with only the DVD slot on the front and the top grille that covers the connections giving away its real purpose. As the name suggests, it resembles a little fortress with its tall appearance and the case sitting raised off the floor on four corners allowing air flow from the 140mm fan at the bottom. Three of the sides pull off, so no screws to undo here, allowing access to the interior components.
Once inside, at the front you have an EVGA Nvidia 2GB GTX660Ti graphics card and the Sony slot loading Blu-ray reader drive. On the right side you have the 450W Silverstone Strider PSU and to the rear you can see the rest of the components including the Corsair H60 closed loop water cooler sitting on the Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard. The wiring job is very tidy, especially when you consider how much space Scan had to work with. You have a maximum of 78mm of space, should you wish to fit a different CPU cooler later on.
Connections and Switches
At the top you have the power, reset, 2 x USB 3.0 ports (which Asus claim increase the speed by 170% thanks to their USB 3.0 Boost Technology) and the mic and headphone connections. Underneath the removable top grille that covers the cables, there’s an impressive set of connections including 2 x USB 3.0 ports, 4 x standard USB ports, HDMI, DVI and Display Port for the on-board video, 2 x eSata ports, a network connection and the two connections for the on-board WiFi which uses 802.11 a/b/g/n supporting both 2.4 and 5Ghz bands. The graphics card also provides a Display Port, HDMI, DVI-D and DVI-O connections and let's not forget the SPDIF, line out, line in and mic in connections too.
Pretty much any connection you could wish for is provided here, but we would recommend getting some 90 degree terminated cables, if only for the power and whichever video connection you choose, as you get just 70mm of space for the cabling. After connecting a few USB cables, DVI, power and the Wi-Fi antennas the clean, minimalistic look that we described earlier does tend to wane with cables coming out of the top at all angles.
Power On, Start-up and Initial SetupThe system arrives with Windows 7 64bit SP1 installed, configured and ready to go. Helpfully the various drivers are all updated to the latest releases and all the latest Windows updates have also been applied. All you have to do is unpack it, connect everything up and away you go. The only thing that it doesn’t come with is any software to play back Blu-rays. It would have been nice to see it come with a pre-installed version of PowerDVD12 for example, this is easy enough to do yourself, but seeing as they have done everything else, it would have been nice to see it included too.
The 120GB Corsair Force Series 3 SSD has a formatted space of 112GB and with the Windows installation on it, that leaves 96GB of free space available for several games and a few other programs that you want to run at the best possible speed. With Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: MW3 and the huge Max Payne 3 (about 30GB alone!) installed this still left another 40GB, which is more than enough to cater for an ever growing Windows folder along with a few programs or some more games.
The built-in a/b/g/n wireless capability - using the two supplied antennas - gives an excellent connection to the two wireless points we had available. We tested both Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 via this connection and suffered no issues or dropouts and had a good ping. In fact the wireless here is a significant improvement compared to the previous Scan 3XS Nanu system we reviewed, which suffered over any great distance, whilst the wireless on the Asus here maintains a full signal at all times from approximately 20' away. We note that Scan have now changed the motherboard in that system to the same as the Asus in this version.
Let’s start with the newest component in the system, an EVGA Nvidia 660Ti 2GB graphics card. Only released on the 16th August 2012 this card aims to improve on the excellent 560Ti that was so popular due to its performance vs price point. The system comes with Scan’s 3 year warranty anyway, but you also have the backup up EVGA’s 3 year warranty on this graphics card too. The 660Ti gives you 2GB of GDDR5 memory @ 1502Mhz and a GPU clock running at 915Mhz and using the latest PCI-E 3.0 x16 bus. Whilst the 660Ti is not quite up to the performance levels of the GTX670 it is about £50 cheaper. The Test Results page of this review and the gaming tests below should give you an indication of how well this new 660Ti card performs.
On to the rest of the components now and we get a system based around the recently released Intel Ivybridge platform. Here we have the Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard and an Intel i5-3570K quad core CPU which Scan have overclocked from 3.4GHz to 4.4GHz. This is cooled via the excellent Corsair H60 closed loop water cooler. For those not familiar with this cooler it is very low profile compared to the usual ‘massive chunk of metal’ air coolers and comes with a radiator which is mounted just above the Silverstone FT03’s bottom case fan. This normally results in a much quieter system, although in this system the case fans are fairly loud anyway, but with a conventional CPU cooler the system would be far too noisy in its overclocked state.
Following on from this we have 8GB (2 x 4GB) of Corsair Vengeance low profile DDR3 memory running at 1600MHz, a silent Silverstone Bronze 80 rated 450W PSU and the Sony BC-5650H slot loading Blu-ray reader drive. Finally, for storage, we get two drives including a conventional 2TB Seagate Barracuda 7200RMP Sata 6GB/s ST2000 HDD and a lightning fast Corsair Force Series 3 120GB SSD. Windows is installed to the SSD leaving enough space for several games and programs and the whole 2TB of the HDD for whatever your heart desires. The SSD tested extremely fast and it was literally just 10 seconds from power on to a useable desktop. The days of instant on PCs are getting ever closer!
All the following were tested at a resolution of 1920 x 1080.
Released in late October 2011 and with several DLC map backs released in 2012, Battlefield 3 was the long awaited sequel to the hugely popular Battlefield 2. Building on the original Frostbite engine used in Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Frostbite 2.0 aims to test PC hardware to the maximum.
With the i5-3570k CPU overclocked to 4.4 GHz and the Nvidia GTX660Ti graphics card; this system flew along and even on Ultra settings on the largest of maps gave an excellent 58fps. Dropping to High settings gave an even better 83fps. The graphics card was running at stock settings so providing the temperatures don't get too high, you can squeeze a bit more juice out of it and should see an increase in frame rate if you find 58fps for Ultra unacceptable.
Installed on the Corsair SSD this resulted in very rapid game and map loading times and no issues during the game whatsoever. You just need to find a map with no round start time set, meaning you can be in and across the map to the nearest tank/jet/spawning point before anyone else!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Released shortly after Battlefield 3, in November 2011, Modern Warfare 3 is the latest annual release from the Call of Duty franchise; a hugely popular game but sadly not a demanding title for PC hardware, being a straight console port. On maximum settings this gave a frame rate of 175fps which just goes to show how dated the Call of Duty game engine is. You could probably play this game on your 13 year old Pentium 3 system that is gathering dust in the loft, but nevertheless you won’t have anything to complain about with Call of Duty: MW3 on this system.
Max Payne 3
Released on the PC in June 2012 and complete with the excellent bullet time feature, this is another critically acclaimed first person shooter that should test this system to its limits. Of the three games we tested on the system this one gave it the sternest workout. With everything on maximum settings and using 1.8 of the 2.0GB of graphics card memory, a frame rate of just 20fps was seen.
It appeared playable despite the low frame rate but a slight adjustment in the Multi-Sampling Anti-Aliaising (MSAA) control from x8 to x4 doubled the frame rate to 40fps, which to some may still be too low but was perfectly playable even during busy scenes. A further tweaking of the settings whilst keeping as much on maximum as possible would see an even greater increase in the frame rate.
No crashes, BSOD or other problems were encountered during any of the gaming tests run on this system.
Home Cinema Integration and Blu-ray Playback
One of the major selling points of a small form factor PC, such as this one, is the ability to integrate it into your existing home cinema without it standing out visually - if only to keep from annoying a family member who questions yet another big black box in the living room.
With Windows 7, display configuration and networking is much easier than it used to be on previous versions of Windows. We connecting to our amplifier via HDMI and upon boot up the Windows desktop appeared on our HD TV with no additional changes or configuration needed. There was no messing about with resolutions or other display settings and it also automatically detected the amplifier for the sound output, which was nice.
Sadly, no Blu-ray software was pre-installed; a quick download of Power DVD 12 trial corrected this oversight. This is a very user friendly piece of software with a multitude of options including the one setting we did have to change to ensure our amplifier received the correct HD audio signal. Other options such as WinDVD are also available.
We tested the system using both Transformers and Star Trek and the Blu-ray discs loaded very quickly compared to a standalone player, as you would expect. Running at 1080P/24 the image was crisp and clear with no stuttering, slow downs or system freezes being encountered. As previously mentioned, the noise level from this system is rather high and during most scenes you could clearly hear the system fans, so something to consider if you're sensitive to external noises during your viewing. The amplifier reported the correct Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio signal during playback of both discs.
When connected as part of our home network, streaming audio or video files presented no problems and with the integrated Windows Media Centre, video files, pictures or anything that takes your fancy can be played back with minimal effort. Windows 7 really does make it very easy to have a PC integrated into your Home Cinema. With a small form factor PC such as this Scan FT03 Nanu Gamer, you can really open additional avenues of entertainment that previously you may not have considered (noise levels aside of course). Missed that crucial episode of your favourite series? No problem, just stream it from a service such as Netflix or download it from iTunes and playback directly on your TV.
The Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard uses the Intel Ivybridge platform with the Intel 1155 socket supporting the latest 2nd and 3rd generation i5 and i7 processors. The system can easily be upgraded to an i7-3770K for example. The 8GB RAM can be easily doubled to the maximum capacity 16GB (2x8GB) if you so wish. The graphics card is probably the most likely candidate for a future upgrade in most PC Gamers systems and, with 9.5” of space available it will allow you to fit most of the current crop of graphics cards. However, do keep in mind that this system only has a 450W PSU which is not recommended for the top end graphics cards such as the wallet busting GTX690 or GTX680. You also won't have any fears of invalidating the warranty should you plan to upgrade in the future. Scan will still cover the original components and all they ask is that you contact them prior to fitting anything new so that they can ensure compatibility will not be an issue.
But to sum up, unless you are planning on using some ‘Crazy Dave’ multi monitor system, then this Scan 3XS FT03 Nanu gaming PC should keep you more than happy for a long time to come.
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Custom Gaming PC with GTX660Ti Graphics
Scan 3XS FT03 Custom Gaming PC
Suggested price: £1,279
Reviewed 21st August, 2012 by Greg Hook
To get the best out of your TV or projector, consider getting it calibrated.
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