With Sony’s PlayStation 4 looming on the horizon and Alienware’s console-like X51 PC making a play for the living room, it’s somewhat reassuring to get our hands on a proper computer such as Scan’s 3XS Z77 FT03 Nanu - even if it is of a diminutive form factor. It’s also the first PC we’ve seen with Nvidia’s mighty GTX Titan graphics card, which takes pride of place. But is it worth its stupendous asking price?
Silverstone’s FT03-Mini case is host to all Scan’s bits and bobs, and its probably the smallest case you could fit such a huge graphics card in. It’s like a normal case bisected vertically, and its small footprint means it’ll happily sit atop a desk. Three of the anodized aluminium side panels pop off without the need for a screwdriver, but it’s let down by a plasticky grill on top, which makes it look like something you’d use for transporting chickens.
Naturally, such a small computer requires a mini-ITX motherboard: in this case (literally) it’s an Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe, which is titchy but doesn’t include PCI Express slots for adding in a soundcard.
Our sample also came with 16GB of Corsair Vengeance RAM, an Intel Core i5 processor, and, of course, the whopping Nvidia Titan graphics card. Scan’s PCs are infinitesimally customisable via its website, so you can pick and choose components to fit your budget or requirements.
A speedy 240GB Corsair Force Series SSD is provided with Windows 7 Professional preinstalled, and it’s just right for installing a few games. It’s backed up with a 2TB hard drive for everything else. A minor niggle is that it can only be provided with a slot-loading DVD rewriter - had it included a Blu-Ray drive its small size would make it an ideal media centre.
The GTX Titan powers games on the Nanu, and it’s a truly astonishing card. It handled everything we threw at it without so much as breaking a sweat - Metro 2033’s notoriously harsh benchmark averaged a smooth 47 frames per second, and Batman: Arkham City’s ludicrously detailed titular city managed 53 frames per second. Both had the detail turned all the way up and the resolution set to 1920 x 1080.
Thanks to Nvidia and AMD’s ongoing battle for graphics supremacy, there’s a wealth of extra features included with the GTX Titan. Nvidia’s 3D Vision is supported, and Scan will chuck in a 27-inch Acer monitor and 3D glasses for £358. You can also attach up to three monitors at once via a combination of two DVI, one HDMI and one Displayport output.
A worry with such a small case is that the tightly-packed components will turn it into a hugely expensive and noisy oven. Thankfully it’s well thought-through, and essentially turns all the components 90-degrees so heat flows upwards rather than sideways. It’s whisper-quiet, too, but our sample unit developed a rather annoying and completely untraceable click every 10 seconds or so.
The GTX Titan adds a humongous £750 to the Nanu’s price tag, and it can be picked up without a PC for £885. It is extremely pricey, especially when the next card down Nvidia’s pecking list - the GTX 680 - goes for less than half the price. Yes, the Titan performs a little better, but unless you’re the most enthusiastic of enthusiasts we can’t imagine justifying spending so much more.
Scan has put together a little PC capable of great things thanks to the Nvidia Titan, but we don’t quite think it’s worth its £2000-plus asking price. Drop the Titan and you can pick it up for about a grand, which is much more reasonable. We’d love to be able to tell you to wait six months for the Titan to come down in price, but rumour has it Nvidia’s going to keep the price high for the foreseeable future.