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Maingear Vybe review: Great bones, outdated details

Maingear Vybe desktop sitting on a table.
Maingear Vybe review: Great bones, outdated details
MSRP $3,500.00
“The Maingear Vybe is a beautiful gaming PC marred by frustrating design choices.”
Pros
  • Excellent build quality
  • Useful preinstalled software
  • Fantastic customization options
  • Attractive case
  • Great 4K gaming performance
Cons
  • Some upgrades are difficult
  • Runs loud
  • No Wi-Fi on preconfigured models

“Just build your own.” It’s a phrase any aspiring PC gamer has heard from friends, forums, and YouTube videos, but you don’t build the best gaming PC on your first try. That’s where machines like the Maingear Vybe come in, offering a solid foundation to help newcomers get started in the world of custom PCs.

The Vybe has been a hallmark of custom PC builders for years, sitting alongside machines like the Origin Neuron and Digital Storm Velox. It’s still a great option in 2022, and it has the best build quality I’ve seen out of any prebuilt gaming PC I’ve tested.

Both performance and style are in check, but a few antiquated ideas about case design are present on the Vybe that hold it back.

Design

The logo on the front of the Maingear Vybe.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The only in-house component of the Maingear Vybe is the case, and the company promises that it’s “whisper quiet.” That’s easy to debunk within the first five minute of using the Vybe. The case looks nice, and it has a few decent features, but it is far from quiet.

Even before running a benchmark, the fans ramped up. Installing software seemed to be too tall of an order, with Maingear’s custom curve kicking in whenever I had a download. It’s not hard to see why the Vybe has problems here. The case is choked in the front, leaving the front two 120mm fans gasping for a wisp of air.

I like the look of the case but not the design.

Airflow issues aside, the case looks fantastic. This is one of my favorite prebuilt case designs aesthetically, offering up plenty of gamer flare while adhering to the subdued, minimalist design mentality that has been pervasive in PC gaming for the last several years.

Inside, you’ll find a slew of RGB lighting, including some illuminating off of the back fan, the all-in-one liquid cooler, and some preinstalled RGB strips. The Maingear logo on the front also lights up when the machine turns on, as does the chunky and satisfying power button.

I like the look of the case but not the design. There are a bunch of small issues inside. The AIO cooler — your only option for CPU cooling — just barely has enough clearance to fit the RAM modules. And although there are dust filters for the power supply and top of the case, there isn’t a dust filter for the front intake.

There are some positive notes — captive thumbscrews on the side panels and a preinstalled fan hub chief among them — but the Vybe case is otherwise a run-of-the-mill mid-tower.

That doesn’t cut it when prebuilt machines like the HP Omen 45L are pushing innovative case designs, while boutique makers like Origin are using top-shelf cases like the Corsair 4000X.

Specs and internals

CPU AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
GPU Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Founder’s Edition
Motherboard MSI MPG X570 Gaming Plus
Case Custom Maingear Vybe ATX mid-tower
Memory 32GB Kingston Fury RGB DDR4-3600
Storage 1TB Intel 670p M.2 NVMe SSD, 2TB Seagate HDD
Power supply EVGA 750W 80 Plus Bronze
USB ports 10x USB-A (7x rear, 3x front), 2x USB-C (1x rear, 1x front)
Networking 2.5G Ethernet

Maingear offers several configurations of the Vybe. At the low end, you can pick up a version with a Ryzen 5 5600X, 16GB of RAM, and an RTX 3060 Ti for $1,700. The most expensive version clocks in at $3,500, and it comes with the specs listed above. If you don’t want one of Maingear’s configurations, you can always customize your own. Custom builds start at $1,599, or at $3,899 if you want custom watercooling.

The prebuilt configurations show off AMD and Nvidia, but you can also customize the Vybe with up to an Intel Core i9-12900K and AMD RX 6900 XT.

This is a solid configuration, though the 750-watt power supply doesn’t leave a lot of room for upgrades. That technically meets Nvidia’s minimum PSU specs for the RTX 3080 Ti, but it means you aren’t using the power supply in its most efficient region. An 850W power supply would be much better.

The 1TB Intel 670p SSD doesn’t make much sense, either. It’s limited to PCIe 3.0, despite the fact that the Ryzen 9 5900X supports much faster PCIe 4.0 hard drives. Thankfully, you can choose a PCIe 4.0 drive if you configure the machine yourself.

It’s hard to complain otherwise, though. Maingear is using all off-the-shelf parts short of the case, but it still adheres to standard form factors. In addition, the Vybe comes with Founder’s Edition cards from Nvidia. That might be a pro or a con depending on where you fall on the 12-pin power connector, but I’m a fan of the Founder’s design for RTX 30-series cards.

You can customize everything else, down to which motherboard you want. Maingear doesn’t offer the same premium board options that you’ll find in the Origin Neuron, but the company still offers a decent selection. The only thing I missed was Wi-Fi, which isn’t available on the MPG X570 Gaming Plus. There are other X570 boards around the same price with Wi-Fi, and I would’ve liked to see them on the Vybe, even if a wired connection is best for online gaming.

Upgradability

The RAM and CPU cooler on the Maingear Vybe.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The Maingear Vybe uses all standard-sized components. That means you can swap, upgrade, or augment anything that comes in the PC.

That doesn’t mean upgrades are easy. As mentioned, there’s a fraction of clearance between the cooler and RAM modules. If you want to get at anything at the top of the motherboard, you’ll need to take out the cooler. There are some critical items missing from the box, too. There isn’t any mounting hardware for 2.5-inch SSDs, for example, nor any extra SATA cables to hook them up.

By far, the Vybe has the best cable management I’ve seen from a prebuilt.

Maingear includes everything that comes with your motherboard and power supply, so you’ll find extra screws and cables if they’re available. Hardware that comes with a case normally, such as hard drive mounting screws, isn’t included. So although upgrades are possible in the Maingear Vybe, they aren’t always practical.

A view of the cable management system on the Maingear Vybe.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

I don’t want to disparage the machine too much, though. By far, the Vybe has the best cable management I’ve seen from a prebuilt, and there are plenty of cable tie-down points around the case.

Connectivity

The Maingear Vybe I reviewed came with an MSI MPG X570 Gaming Plus motherboard, but you have several motherboard options available. Your connectivity will change depending on which motherboard you get, so make sure to look up the specific model you choose if you customize your own Vybe.

Around the back, you have access to a total of seven USB-A ports, split across four USB 3.2 Gen1, one USB 3.2 Gen2, and two USB 2.0. There’s also a USB-C connection, which I like to have around for external SSDs and USB-C peripherals like the SteelSeries Prime Wireless.

Maingear’s custom Vybe mid-tower case comes with three USB 3.2 ports upfront, as well as a USB-C connection. Some modern gaming PCs, such as the HP Omen 45L, don’t include any front panel USB-C connections. However others, such as the Asus ROG GA35, go further with two ports upfront.

The main issue with the MPG X570 Gaming Plus is its lack of a Wi-Fi chip. That locks you out of wireless internet, as well as Bluetooth. Maingear offers a B550 motherboard with Wi-Fi, but otherwise, you’ll need to spend an extra $350 for a premium motherboard with AMD’s Ryzen 5000 processors. Thankfully, that’s not the case with Intel’s 12th-gen processors, as all of Maingear’s motherboard options come with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Processor performance

The CPU cooler on the Maingear Vybe.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The Ryzen 9 5900X is, despite its impressive performance, nearing the end of its life cycle. It still put up impressive numbers in my tests, but there’s a much more compelling argument to go with Intel’s 12th-gen processors right now, especially considering that they’re cheaper at Maingear.

Maingear Vybe (Ryzen 9 5900X) Origin Neuron (Ryzen 9 5950X) MSI Aegis RS 12 (Core i7-12700KF)
Cinebench R23 multi-core 20,802 25,166 20,445
Cinebench R23 single-core 1,597 1,587 1,890
Geekbench 5 multi-core 12,724 15,872 15,362
Geekbench 5 single-core 1,718 1,682 1,886
PugetBench for Premiere Pro 956 1,088 920
Handbrake (Seconds, lower is better) 59 50 N/A

The MSI Aegis RS 12 with its Core i7-12700KF is a prime example. Where it doesn’t match the Ryzen 9 5900X, it exceeds. That’s especially true in single-core performance, where Intel’s chip shows a big boost over even the Ryzen 9 5950X in the Origin Neuron.

Although AMD may leapfrog Intel when Ryzen 7000 processors are here, that’s not the case at the moment. On Maingear’s website, the Core i7-12700K is more than $100 cheaper than the Ryzen 9 5900X, and as the Aegis RS 12 shows, Intel’s chip is the better performer. That also opens up the option of DDR5, which provides a boost in apps like Premiere Pro (though, as my tests show, this app still likes the high core count present on the Ryzen 9 5950X).

The good news is that Maingear offers both options. The preconfigured machines are limited to AMD, but you can customize your own machine with a 12th-gen Intel processor if you want.

Gaming performance

For gaming performance, there isn’t much to report with the Vybe. Although the machine may get loud, it’s not thermally limiting any of the components inside. It was able to exceed the Origin Neuron in several games, despite the the Neuron coming stocked with a more powerful processor and third-party RTX 3080 Ti.

Maingear Vybe (RTX 3080 Ti) Origin Neuron (RTX 3080 Ti) MSI Aegis RS 12 (RTX 3070)
Forza Horizon 4 148 fps 146 fps N/A
Red Dead Redemption 2 76 fps 72 fps 52 fps
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla 64 fps N/A 46 fps
3DMark Time Spy 17,160 17,937 13,545
Fortnite 82 fps 89 fps 57 fps
Cyberpunk 2077 non-RT 38 fps N/A N/A
Cyberpunk 2077 RT w/ DLSS 38 fps N/A N/A

I ran benchmarks at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K, but the results in the table above are for 4K with the highest graphics preset. In a standardized test like 3DMark Time Spy, you can see the slightly less powerful Ryzen 9 5900X take a back seat to the Ryzen 9 5950X in the Origin Neuron. In real games, however, you can see how little of an impact the CPU has at 4K.

Stepping down to the RTX 3070 in the MSI Aegis RS 12, you can see what the RTX 3080 Ti can do for 4K gaming. The base RTX 3080 is a fine 4K graphics card, but I like the Ti model more for 4K, especially in demanding titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Here, the RTX 3080 Ti in the Vybe can manage about 60 frames per second (fps), which is tough for even the most powerful hardware.

The graphics card inside the Maingear Vybe.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Rounding out my testing, I went through Cyberpunk 2077 with and without ray tracing. Ray tracing is demanding no matter how you slice it, and Cyberpunk is still one of the most taxing games for modern PCs. Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) means you don’t have to feel the performance hit of ray tracing, though maxed-out settings aren’t possible, even for the RTX 3080 Ti.

Software

This section of desktop reviews is almost always a place to talk about cons. Even fantastic machines like the HP Omen 45L come stocked with bloatware that not only takes up space on your hard drive, but bogs down your experience with an onslaught of advertisements. Not the Maingear Vybe.

If you’re going to preinstall software, you should make it useful, and that’s what Maingear did.

It comes with some preinstalled software, all of which is useful. My machine came with AMD Ryzen Master for the CPU, Nvidia GeForce Experience for the graphics card, MSI Center for the motherboard, and even 3DMark so I could easily benchmark the PC. If you’re going to preinstall software, you should make it useful, and that’s what Maingear did.

The only downside here is a slightly out of date Windows update. My machine arrived with Windows 10’s May 2021 update, not the more recent November 2021 update. There wasn’t an option to upgrade to Windows 11, either, despite the fact that the machine supports it.

Our take

Boutique machines like the Maingear Vybe only have two opportunities to stand out — case quality and build quality. Maingear has the build quality down. This is by far the nicest prebuilt I’ve seen when it comes to build quality. The case leaves a lot to be desired, though, especially as companies like Origin and HP push for more innovative designs.

Among custom PC builders, Maingear is slightly cheaper, so that’s a plus. This is still a great gaming PC, and it’s reasonably priced. It just doesn’t reach the highest tier of prebuilt machines in 2022.

Are there any alternatives?

Yes. You can find a host of machines that match the Maingear Vybe, and you can build an almost identical copy yourself:

  • Origin Neuron — More expensive, but much higher case quality and more control over components.
  • HP Omen 45L — Cheaper and with a better case design, though much larger and with a few minor build issues.
  • MSI Aegis RS 12 — Slightly cheaper and better case airflow, but poor build quality.

How long will it last?

Given the components inside, you can expect the Maingear Vybe to hold up for several years without upgrades. That’s one of the reasons to go with a company like Maingear, though. You can continue upgrading the Vybe for as long as you want.

Should you buy it?

Maybe, depending on your budget. If you’re on a strict budget and want the attention to detail boutique PCs bring, the Maingear Vybe is a great option. Spending a little more can net you a high-quality boutique option, however, and you can give up some build quality while saving money with a mainstream option.

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