The fourth quarter of 2020 ought to be the perfect time to consider a PC upgrade. Nvidia's latest RTX GPUs have raised the bar for gaming, new AMD Radeons have kept pace, and the latest crop of AMD Ryzen processors have proven to be excellent in just about every regard. Add to that the promise of PCIe 4.0, ultra-fast storage and the convenience of USB-C, and there's more than one reason to retire that ol' hunk-of-junk gathering dust on your desktop.
There is a snag for consumers, however, in that 2020 has become the year of stock shortages. First it was toilet roll, then it was pasta, and for tech enthusiasts it's now proving extremely difficult to get your hands on a latest-gen CPU or GPU. Heck, I've convinced the wife to get me an Xbox Series S for Christmas, but with just four weeks to go I don't fancy our chances.
Might bundles and prebuilt systems offer a glimmer of hope? It's possible, as while Ryzen 5000 Series chips are proving hard to come by, CPU bundles including motherboard and RAM are available to add to basket at the time of writing. Point is, if you're planning an entirely new system, taking a prebuilt route could potentially be a path to the front of the queue.
If you're living in that hope, Scan's 3XS Gamer RTX is worth a closer look. Designed, says Scan, "with a focus on providing the most frames per second per pound," this mid-range base unit fuses AMD's Ryzen 5 5600X processor with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 graphics at an attractive £1,500 price point.
On paper it has the makings of 1440p gaming perfection, and in the flesh, there seems little to quibble about when it comes to component selection. The six-core, 12-thread Ryzen CPU is at home on an Asus RoG STRIX B550-F Gaming motherboard that promises forward-looking features such as PCIe Gen 4.0, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C and, to our pleasant surprise, fast Intel 2.5GbE Ethernet.
16GB of Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200 memory is about right for a mid-range gaming PC, the Corsair H100X liquid cooler should have no difficulty with the 65W AMD chip, and an EVGA GeForce RTX 3070 XC3 Black Gaming 8GB graphics card ticks all the right boxes for high-quality QHD gameplay.
What concessions have been made to hit the £1.5k price point? Well, the 1TB Intel 665p M.2 SSD offers plenty of storage but isn't as quick as pricier PCIe 4.0 solutions, and the OEM-only NZXT H511 chassis, while nice and compact, doesn't offer front-facing USB Type-C. Minor points in the grand scheme of things, but worth knowing about.
Surprisingly, and in the interest of full disclosure, we did encounter problems with the PSU. Scan employs a Bronze-rated Corsair CV650 whose capacity ought to be ample for this particular build, yet our initial review unit exhibited horrendous whine when gaming. A faulty supply and an isolated incident, we're assured, as Scan quickly sent out a replacement system, with all the same components, that exhibits no such issues. The second base unit is perfectly quiet; however a quick search suggests that we aren't the first to encounter such problems with the CV650.
Another interesting and more favourable observation is that while Scan doesn't overclock the CPU or GPU per se, Multicore Enhancement is enabled by default within the Asus BIOS. This allows the Ryzen 5 5600X to run free of TDP constraints and operate at 4.6GHz across all cores under load, compared to 4.2GHz we have observed with AMD stock settings.
Elsewhere, there's a clean install of Windows 10 with all the latest drivers, cable management is tidy throughout, and a quick scout around various retailers suggests it would cost somewhere in the region of £1,600 to put together the exact same PC yourself. Scan's turnkey pricing is favourable - even more so when you factor in the standard three-year warranty - so let's run the benchmarks to confirm whether or not those 1440p gaming ambitions have been realised.