Carrera SSC Octan 64 AIW Pro review

£599
Price when reviewed

Carrera SSC knows how to pack in the value, regardless of the price, and the Octan 64 AIW Pro is another classic example of a bargain PC. The usual chassis is slightly changed – it now has a mirrored front with a cool blue glow from two LEDs.

Carrera SSC Octan 64 AIW Pro review

Inside, there’s plenty of room to work and the exceptionally neat cable routing makes it easy to upgrade or replace components. Not that you’ll be wanting to for a while: there’s an Asus K8VSE Deluxe motherboard, which sports an Athlon 64 3000+ CPU along with 512MB of memory in two of the three DIMM sockets.

With the new 160GB DiamondMax 10 hard disk from Maxtor, which is incredibly quiet, the Octan scored a decent 2.20 in our 2D application benchmarks. In our sound tests, it registered 39.9dB(A) when idle – only the Microland was as quiet among the £599 PCs. This is partly down to the 400W PSU, which has a large 120mm cooling fan, rather than the usual 80mm unit.

The motherboard provides Serial ATA RAID, gigabit Ethernet and FireWire controllers, so you won’t need to fill the four spare PCI slots too quickly. The fifth is occupied by a V.92 modem. You won’t even need to use up a slot for a TV tuner since the graphics card is an ATi All-in-Wonder Radeon 9800 SE. This managed 49.3fps in Unreal Tournament 2004, but the limit came with Halo where it couldn’t break 20fps. Holly’s SFA2S managed 46fps in the latter.

But the Octan is aimed at more couch-based entertainment. ATi’s Multimedia Center 8.6 isn’t a patch on Microsoft’s Media Center Edition 2005, but allows you – via the RF remote control – to control TV and DVD playback from a distance.

No speakers are provided, but the coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs mean you can connect this PC directly to your home cinema audio system, while the S-Video output means you’re not limited to using the 17in Sharp TFT. However, the LL-172G-B is currently on our A List and produces a supremely bright, sharp image.

With the DVD writer and DVD-ROM combination plus a three-year on-site warranty, the Octan looks great on paper. However, our recent Reliability & Service survey revealed that only 60 per cent of Carrera SSC customers would buy from the company again – a disappointing figure. Although Carrera SSC has put a lot of new customer support systems in place since the survey took place, including 24-hour hardware support, this affected the Octan’s feature point tally and meant it just lost out on an award this month.

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