Scan 3XS Hoojum CUBIT 5 media centre system
All roads lead to chrome
While most media centre systems take it easy on the graphics performance to try and keep system noise down, Scan has an option to fit either a GeForce 6600GT or a GeForce 6800GT into the case, and the former was fitted inside my review unit. With one of these cards the fan will make its presence felt in a lounge environment. Then again if you want to play games on the system you'll have to make that sacrifice. Halo was pre-installed on the test system and I launched it to see how the system fared. The whole experience was certainly a whole lot smoother than my own PC gave me at the time the game was first released for PC.
I was very concerned when I first booted up the system because the CPU fan noise from the Shuttle ICE cooling system was extremely loud. But a trip to the BIOS sorted this out - the fan setting had been put on maximum. Setting this to Auto saw the noise level drop significantly and even at its lowest setting it still does a good job of extracting warm air to the rear. This means though that it needs to be placed in a well ventilated location so that warm air doesn't linger causing ambient temperatures to rise. _
Scan bundles a NorthQ PC-to-DVD Link Cable Kit, which enables you to hook up the system to your CRT TV via composite or S-Video without having to go hunting for more bits. The best image quality though would be to use the DVI ports of the 6600GT card and hook up to an HD-ready TFT or plasma screen. Staying with graphics for a moment, Scan hasn't covered over the built-in VGA port, so users could get confused the first time they set up the system.
One genuine bonus the supplied system has over the Shuttle MCE machine is that it has Freeview Digital TV PCI TV Tuner card - a Hauppauge WinTV-Nova-T. This is a very welcome inclusion and is a far more welcome sight than an analog tuner. However, the big downer is that unlike the Shuttle there's no integrated Wi-Fi. This seems quite an odd omission considering that it's based on the same barebone chassis. There is at least an integrated wired network port. Also at the rear are two USB 2.0 ports, a six-pin Firewire port and coaxial and optical digital outputs. Ports for the 5.1 channel capable Realtek AC'97 sound chip are also integrated onto the board.