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.
It lacks the ability to double up as a tablet, like the Dell XPS 18 and friends, or to easily have its internals tinkered with, as with the HP Z1 workstation, for example.
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.