Scan 3XS SLi-512 review
When you consider some of Scan’s recent offerings, from the colour-changing Chameleon to the custom-painted green Taipan, the metallic brown SLi-512 looks just a touch drab. But considering that Scan’s custom paint jobs can cost as much as £1,000, it’s pleasing to see that the company has spent money where it really counts.
Opening it up reveals a host of components at the top of every enthusiast’s Christmas list. Hidden under the Zalman CPU cooler is AMD’s fastest single-core processor, the FX-57, while the 2GB of RAM is Corsair’s finest 3500LLPRO, which comes complete with superfluous but impressive-looking diagnostic LEDs on the top.
Our benchmarks are designed to take advantage of dual-cored systems, with our multitasking and 3D rendering tests being particularly well suited to two CPUs. The SLi-512’s score of 1.29 is little short of amazing then, as it means it’s faster than many dual-cored systems. This is in part thanks to the hard-core processor and RAM combination, but also to the four Samsung SpinPoint 200GB hard disks. Arranged in a RAID0+1 array, they offer both increased data security and speed, reducing the amount of data that’s caught in a hard disk bottleneck during intensive tasks. You get a total of 372GB of usable space, which, coupled with the incredible performance, makes the Scan a great choice for high-end image- and video-editing tasks.
We review nVidia’s brand-new 7800 GTX 512MB graphics card on p68. It’s an incredible piece of hardware, but note that unless you have a monitor that supports some extreme resolutions you won’t feel the benefit of the massive amounts of power on offer. And so we approached the Scan, which has two 7800 GTX 512MB cards, with a little caution. Their combined power means you won’t notice any difference if the maximum resolution your monitor can display is 1,280 x 1,024, and even 1,600 x 1,200 gamers will see little benefit.
We turned the resolution (using a CRT) up to 2,048 x 1,536 and still saw 64fps in Lost Coast, Half-Life 2’s HDR-enabled add-on. At 1,600 x 1,200, we saw 80fps. In the standard version of Half-Life 2, again at 1,600 x 1,200, we saw 120fps, while Far Cry – with HDR – ran at 46fps at 1,600 x 1,200. The only word of warning is that the 7800 GTX 512MB cards are very new, and early adopters might find themselves tripped up by a slight lack of driver support – we couldn’t get Call of Duty 2 to run in DirectX 9 mode at all, and F.E.A.R. ran slightly slower here than it did with a single 7800 GTX 512MB. Once these issues are resolved, this system will blow these games away too. This is, by some degree, the fastest combination of gaming hardware you’ll find.
The cards, CPU and RAM are all installed on Asus’ A8N32-SLI motherboard, and Scan has made a fantastic job of the build. With so many internal cables – four hard disks, two optical drives and two large graphics cards requiring additional power cables – it’s a pleasant surprise to find that getting access to any of the components within the Scan is incredibly easy. Judicious use of cable ties, rounded IDE cables and careful routing make this a PC that would actually look good with a window in the chassis.
Of more practical benefit to all this effort is the effect on airflow. The SLi-512 survives on just four fans – one on the CPU heatsink, one on the power supply and two more 120mm fans at the front and rear of the case. Since the CPU cooler is vertically mounted, all the heat is exhausted straight out of the back, while the front-mounted fan cools the hard disk array. It’s all beautifully thought out and implemented, as well as being surprisingly quiet.