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.
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
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 Setup
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.
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 7200RPM 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!
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
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.
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.
Benchmarks and System Information
Bootracer 3.1 is another useful free program that allows for an accurate and repeatable test of the time it takes to get to the desktop. This machine gives a lightning fast boot up time of just 10 seconds. With Windows installed to the 120GB Corsair Force Series 3 SSD it shows the amazing boot times that you can now achieve with today's PCs. No longer does a PC's boot time need to be a source of frustration. We did get as low as 6 seconds initially, prior to installing a few more programs but even then, restarting the PC is so quick that before you have even turned your back it's already on the desktop again!
Bootracer will keep a history of boot up times, allowing you to check should the time suddenly change for the worse (or better) following the installation of a new program or piece of hardware. It is also affected by programs that load on start up such as Steam, Origin, Anti Virus etc and from our experience leaving a DVD in the drive will add quite a few seconds to the time reported.
Super Pi – 1 million decimal points – 8.389 seconds
Super Pi (again, another free program) calculates Pi to a specified number of decimal points. It is used to test the CPU power and is widely used by overclockers to test their speeds against the World Record times and the stability of their computer following an overclock. Super Pi is not optimised for dual or quad core processors and tests a CPUs single threaded ability. We have used the 1.5 mod version as it shows more detailed timings.
Scan’s overclock of the i5-3570K from 3.4 to 4.4GHz gives a very impressive result of 8.389 seconds from the 1 million decimal point test run, which is an excellent time and as expected for this CPU and speed. This compares to 9.032 seconds on the last Scan 3XS system we reviewed which had an overclocked i5-2500K running at 4.2GHz and our own PC at 8.396 seconds running an i5-2500K at 4.5GHz.
Windows Experience Index 7.7
A standard test included in Windows 7, it gives a quick performance score of the current system. It is a simple test and is not favoured as a benchmarking tool, but is a quick and easy way to see how your computer fares.
The result here is an impressive 7.7. The graphics and SSD provide top marks, the 8GB memory almost reaching the top and leaving just the CPU to bring the overall mark down. Although don’t bin the CPU yet as you won’t reach 7.9 on the CPU score unless you have at least an 8 threaded processor such as an overclocked i7 range. This compares to the 7.5 scored by the previous Scan system reviewed, which for the other scores was identical apart from the better CPU which resulted in the increase to 7.7.
3D Mark 11 - 7884 3D Marks
The latest version of Futuremark’s popular benchmarking tool is freely available to download, although to unlock its full functionality, you need to spend an additional £14.61. This test is particularly GPU intensive and is one of the favourite programs for PC gamers, in particular, to test their system and compare it against a wide range of scores available on the internet. It is especially useful following the introduction of a new piece of hardware (such as a graphics card) to your system.
The system arrived from Scan with the 304.87 Nvidia drivers installed, due to the graphics card only being released to the public on the 16th August but Nvidia immediately released a new set of updated drivers for this card called 305.86. 3D Mark gave a 'Graphics driver is not approved' when the test had been completed on both versions of the driver, presumably due to their brand new nature.
The 3D Mark result remained very similar between the 304.87 and the 305.86 drivers, with a respectable 7884 3D Marks. This compares favourably to the 5093 3D Marks on the previous Scan system we reviewed. The Nvidia 660ti graphics card performs well here and compares with similar results on Futuremark’s website. Whilst being GPU intensive, overclocking the CPU further can result in increased 3D Mark 11 scores as can be seen by searching for similar results on Futuremark's website.
ATTO Disk Benchmark - SSD
The SATA 3 6Gb/s Corsair Force 3 Series drive is quoted by Corsair as offering a maximum read speed of 550MB/s and a maximum write speed of 510MB/s. The write speed here is excellent and as you will often find with the cheaper SSDs, they offer high read speeds but the write speed is much lower. SSD manufacturers push in their marketing the maximum read and write speeds but IOPS is the rating that will give you the most real world benefit and what you should keep in mind when considering an SSD. When Windows starts for example, it accesses many small files and even if you have an outstanding maximum read speed, if it has a much lower IOPS rating than other drives, you won't see much of a difference. The Corsair quotes 85,000 IOPS (4k Aligned) which basically means it claims to do 85,000 requests of 4KB of data per second. Using the formula 'IOPS = (MBps Throughput / KB per IO) * 1024' we can see from the ATTO result that we achieve 72,600 for read and 45,900 for write.
Using the Atto Disk Benchmark program, you can see below that speeds of 547MB/s were achieved for reading which is slightly down on the 550MB/s quoted, whilst 525MB/s were achieved for the writing, which is above the 510MB/s quoted, showing that this is a very fast SSD. It is worth noting that it’s not recommended to run these benchmarks too often on SSDs, although they are a good indication to check that your SSD is running close to the manufacturers quoted speeds. Whilst you are very unlikely to actually achieve them, you should be close as is shown in the results of the benchmark test we ran.
PassMark Performance Test 7.0
The final benchmark test gives an overall system performance following tests run on the CPU, GPU, Memory and disk drives. The results here were an excellent 3857.5 which is far higher than the 3087.90 on the previous Scan i5-2500K/GTX560Ti system we reviewed and also the 3355.3 scored by our own i5-2500K/GTX570 system.
With Passmark you can compare your results to other tests that users have submitted, but due to the graphics card only just being released, there was only 1 other test to compare it to (an i7 system) and it performed well here with comparable or better results in the graphics tests.
Temperatures and Noise
The screenshot below from HWMonitor shows the maximum temperatures the various system components reached during a session of gaming on Battlefield 3 and running various intensive system tests. The Corsair H60 CPU cooler copes well here, reporting a maximum temperature of 63C and the GPU shows a maximum of 79C. You should also note the excellent system idle temperatures of both the CPU and GPU. Eagled eyed readers should ignore the 128C temperature reported by the Corsair SSD, this is a known bug and rest assured the SSD wasn’t slowly burning away!
Whilst it copes excellently with heat, because of this the noise it produces could be an issue if you are looking for a reasonably quiet PC. During gaming or if you use a headset this is not much of an issue but with Battlefield 3, for example, the system and graphics card fans are mostly on high and the increase in noise was noticeable. In fact, from 4' away you could get a sound rating of 41dBs, although unless you were playing without sound, the noise level was not high enough to become a nuisance. Our own PC gives the same 41dBs at 4' and we've gradually got used to it. It's not a whining noise, just a constant whooshing of the fans but if you are one of these people that wants their PC as quiet as possible, you may be disappointed here. At idle, the system doesn't appear to be much quieter giving a rating of 38dBs at 4'.
Watching a Blu-ray disc gave noise levels similar to gaming. Testing during Transformers and Star Trek we could hear the system noise during most scenes except the loud explosions, dramatic scenes etc and we know that ultimately this would start to annoy us. If you are thinking of using this system in a home cinema, it would probably be best to remove the overclock but that would then obviously slow it down.
- Excellent gaming performance
- High specification components
- Latest Nvidia GTX660Ti Graphics Card
- 3 Year Warranty
- Noise levels aside will fit seamlessly in a Home Cinema
- Perhaps too noisy for Blu-ray playback
- Top cabling system could get messy and cluttered
- No Blu-ray player software installed
- 450W PSU not enough for larger graphics card
Scan 3XS FT03 Nanu Custom Gaming PC with GTX 660Ti Review
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.
System tools and benchmark links:
Benchmarked Performance (averaged)
Video Playback Performance
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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