Typically, when we receive a desktop PC from a boutique manufacturer, we receive a high-end system that is absurdly powerful and absurdly expensive. And hey, that’s understandable – those sorts of computers are their specialty. It’s their edge, the unique quality that separates a small custom shop from a behemoth like Dell or Acer.
Yet it is still nice to try out a more reasonably priced configuration from time to time. Here we’ve been given that chance by Maingear, which has provided us with a Vybe Super Stock for review. These system is the company’s entry-level desktop, and the configuration provided to us isn’t even the most powerful possible.
That’s not to say it’s a runt. Our review unit still packs a Core i7-2600K processor along with 8GB of RAM, two GeForce 560 Ti video cards running in SLI and one terabyte of hard drive space. There’s also a 20GB SSD included (for use with Intel Smart Response). This is an impressive array of hardware, and it will run you about $2,100 according to Maingear’s site.
Compared to the hyped-up tri-SLI systems we usually test, however, this Vybe is downright affordable. Let’s see if is still up to the task of playing high-resolution games and slamming CPU benchmarks.
Looks good in white
The Vybe chassis can be had in black, but our review unit came with the more unique white exterior. White seems to be coming in to style among desktop PC cases, and there are several on the market that offer different renditions of the theme.
Color aside, this enclosure is simple. It has boxy dimensions with fans at the front, rear and top. The front and rear fans are covered with perforated metal. There’s no front case door, and though there is a case window, it’s triangular and smoked, limiting your view. If you want your PC to be distinctive visually, you’d better order the white, as there’s otherwise little to set the Vybe apart.
The situation becomes better when you start to explore this PC with your fingertips. Textures have been put to good use. Much of the top and front has been given a soft-touch coating which provides this simple case a premium feel.
Opening the case only requires the removal of two thumb screws, after which the side panel slides off. Inside, the layout is functional. Because this is a smaller case, the working space is cramped in comparison to larger and more expensive options, but there’s also less hardware installed. Plenty of room is available for new hard drives. Room for additional expansion cards seems limited to a single PCIe 1x slot located above the twin 560 Ti video cards.
The small size of this case can be a boon for hardware gurus in subtle ways that make up for the smaller available space. Unlike the monolithic Maingear Shift and its competitors from other boutiques, the Vybe is extremely easy to carry around or rotate. There’s also little confusion about wire routing, and no concern about wire length inside the case. Everything should connect easily and quickly, and everything is located in the same desktop compartment. Frankly, this kind of case is better for your average enthusiast than a titanic enclosure that requires training in proper weight-lifting technique before you attempt to move it.
Connectivity at the front is robust thanks to three USB ports and individual headphone and microphone jacks. Around back you’ll find a plethora of options including two USB 3.0 and eight more USB 2.0 ports. The video cards can connect via DVI or mini-HDMI.
The front also features our only minor gripe about the enclosure: The LEDs used for power and hard-drive activity. They’re extremely bright and annoying in a dark room. You can disconnect them – but that defeats the point of having them at all.
Software and extras
Our Vybe cam with a plastic binder that included a Maingear t-shirt, a few spare adapters, several install discs (including the operating system), a code for a free copy of Batman: Arkham City and a quick-start guide. Notably missing was a sheet describing the system and any quality control tests that might have been conducted to ensure its operation. We’re accustomed to seeing such a piece of paper included, if for no other reason than to give the boutique a chance to brag about how its system handled benchmarks and stress tests.
No software was pre-installed on our review unit. Zip, zero, nada. The only obvious alteration was the Maingear brand wallpaper installed on the desktop. As a result of this – and the system’s quick hardware – boot times were swift and Windows felt responsive shortly after the desktop appeared.