Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 £1326
5th Sep 2013 | 15:11
Customisable and good value all-in-one PC
For years, Scan has sold custom-built laptops, workstations and servers, in addition to its traditional business as a component vendor. But all-in-one computers was uncharted territory for the brand, until now.
Scan's 3XS Mirage AIO245 is the company's first touchscreen all-in-one PC. Considering the vast sea of competing all-in-one desktop designs, with all sorts of bells and whistles to tempt prospective owners, the Mirage is relatively conservative.
A unique aspect of the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 immediately caught our attention, though. Scan offers a wide range of upgrades, which are relatively affordable, unlike the majority of other all-in-one manufacturers, which charge a hefty premium for minor additions such as a small SSD upgrade or a slightly faster processor.
This is especially welcome due to the integrated nature of all-in-one PCs. You can't usually upgrade the components yourself, so it's a good idea to choose the best configuration you can when you buy it. But that quickly becomes expensive with most manufacturers.
Although the standard configuration of the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 costs £1,075 (around US$1,680 / AU$1,825), only slightly less than Apple's entry-level 21-inch iMac, it comes with a larger 23.6-inch screen, a more powerful graphics card and is far better value for money when configured with beefier components.
Scan sells a more affordable variant called the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO244, which is otherwise identical aside from its lack of a touch-sensitive display. You can also drop the bundled operating system, if you plan to use Linux or transfer an existing operating system license, which brings the cost down to just £845 (around US$1,320 / AU$1,435).
We chose the specification of our Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 review unit ourselves, based on the available options on Scan's website.
The configuration page offers a choice of Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 Ivy Bridge processors, Blu-ray or DVD drives, a range of hard drive and mSATA SSD storage capacities, wireless networking and memory capacities, along with accessories such as keyboards and mice, which are not included with the default specification.
Different versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8 are offered or, as mentioned, you can opt out from a pre-installed operating system.
Our review PC had a quad-core 3.1GHz Intel Core i7 3770S, which was the fastest processor option available, plus 8GB of DDR3 memory, a 128GB SSD for Windows and applications, and a 1TB hard drive for large media files. This all came to £1,326 (around US$2,070 / AU$2,255), a considerable sum, but competitive when compared with what certain big-name firms charge for the same specification.
An upgrade to a 3TB Western Digital Green hard disk only costs an additional £40 on top of the base price, which is exceptionally good value, and no more than a stand-alone drive. A quad-core 2.9GHz Intel Core i5 3470S is only £50 more than the base price.
A 256MB Plextor mSATA SSD is £140 extra, with higher quoted read performance than the other available SSD options.
One component that cannot be changed is the chipset, which includes an Nvidia GeForce GT 750M mobile graphics card, with 2GB of dedicated video memory. This is a mid-range mobile GPU, unlike the pricier GTX series, which are capable of better gaming performance.
It still provides the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 with considerable graphics grunt, enough to run just about all games, although you might have to slightly lower the detail settings or resolution. This is still better than other all-in-ones that have onboard graphics, which will really struggle to run the most recent titles.
Because the screen is the central component which an all-in-one PC is built around, its quality is of the utmost importance. Scan has chosen to use a 1080p 23.6-inch LED panel in the 3XS Mirage AIO245, based on older twisted-nematic technology rather than IPS.
Although it's not the finest display we've ever used, we have no major complaints about its picture or viewing angles. Its colours are satisfyingly vibrant enough, its blacks deep, and there was no noticeable lag in games.
Including HDMI input is a brilliant decision, since it means the display can be used independently of the computer, with games consoles, for example.
There's also a built-in webcam, a card reader, six USB ports, ethernet, HDMI-out and an optical drive at the sides, along with a slightly flimsy brightness control.
3D Mark: P2994
For straightforward computing tasks, such as browsing, digital photography, office work and playing music and video files, even the entry-level Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 has a specification that will be fast enough for most peoples' needs. But once you add some extras, using it becomes spectacular.
Thanks to the SSD in our review unit, Windows 8 loads in less than 20 seconds from cold boot, and the 1TB of storage we chose is fine for modest media collections. Software loaded quickly and the system felt exceptionally responsive, despite the mid-range quoted performance of the lower-capacity mSATA SSDs available.
For gaming, we found it to be mostly excellent as well. A 3D Mark score of 2,994 points is a fairly average rendering performance, but still impressive considering the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 uses a mobile graphics card.
The only title that struggled was Battlefield 3, which is still a tough test of modern graphics cards. We could only play with a comfortably smooth frame rate on medium detail settings, at the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245's native 1920 x 1080 resolution. The game still looked pretty on medium detail though, and most importantly, it ran well enough for multiplayer.
Dota 2, a less graphically intense multiplayer game, worked perfectly, although some of the prettier effects caused slight slowdown whenever the action got busy, with all the detail settings set to maximum. Sid Meier's Civilization V is more dependent on a computer's CPU than on its GPU, so it worked particularly well, and was fun to play using the touchscreen display.
That said, we switched back to standard mouse and keyboard controls after 15 minutes, thanks to a combination of arm fatigue and irritation at the gimmicky control method. We had a similar experience swiping and flicking on the screen to get around the modern UI in Windows 8.
Not everyone is convinced that this is the best way to use desktop computers, and you're certain to eventually revert to the mouse and keyboard, especially when using desktop software. That's an important consideration, given the possible savings when ordering a Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 without a touch-sensitive screen.
The fans were mostly inaudible, save for a fairly faint hum after a long gaming session. The built-in speakers don't offer spectacular sound quality, but are sufficient.
Our only real criticism is the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245's build quality, which pales in comparison with the high-end all-in-one desktop offerings from competing manufacturers.
While it looks absolutely fine when viewed from the front, it's less impressive at the rear. A clear gap between the display and the white plastic used for the chassis serves as a blunt reminder that all-in-one computers are merely components tacked to the back of a monitor.
The rear-mounted controls also feel tacky, and are poorly labelled and hard to reach. It's very easy to accidentally dim the screen by pressing the eco button, which seems like a fairly pointless addition for a non-mobile device.
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There's an enormous range of high-quality all-in-one computers available, and the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 has few of the same gimmicks that they offer. While its build quality and overall appearance isn't as good as the designs of competing manufacturers, it stands out from the crowd by beating the majority of them on value for money, given what's on offer, in terms of performance and screen size.
With most all-in-one computers, running any up-to-date games at a playable frame rate is nearly impossible, unless you've chosen a high-end model with an expensive configuration.
While it does a commendable job at gaming, an all-in-one is never the best option for serious gamers, who are better off with a desktop PC that has a more powerful discrete graphics card.
The Nvidia GeForce GT 750M, and its associated gaming performance, is offered even with the entry-level Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245. Bump the specification up with a more powerful processor and SSD, and the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 becomes a real powerhouse.
The GeForce has other benefits beyond its decent handling of games, when using certain software. For example, Adobe's Creative Suite receives a performance boost when applying certain filters and effects, and many video editing tools use a GPU to speed up conversion times.
The 23.6-inch screen is another addition that isn't common to all-in-one computers at this price point. Although it isn't the best display available, its picture quality beats what's available in budget all-in-one computers, and is big enough that you can watch a full movie without squinting.
Compared with rival offerings, the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 only suffers from its build quality. Although it's hardly ugly and the screen is more than adequate, the plastic chassis and tacky controls are more reminiscent of a computer from an unbranded Chinese all-in-one manufacturer, and a far cry from the aluminium curves of an iMac.
Intel's Haswell processors aren't yet an option, but we've no doubt that Scan will introduce them later. Relying on Haswell's integrated GPU could mean a version of the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 that's even more affordable and really tempting for non-gamers, and we'd like to see Nvidia's more powerful GTX series of mobile GPU offered as well.
As it stands, the Scan 3XS Mirage AIO245 is a tempting prospect. What it lacks in design glitz from all-in-one offerings from the likes of Sony and Apple it makes up for with raw performance, its wide range of optional upgrades and affordability.
First reviewed 16 August 2013