Maingear Shift Review

Maingear’s Shift flips conventional case design on its head with a unique vertical airflow design that enables uncompromising performance.
Maingear’s Shift flips conventional case design on its head with a unique vertical airflow design that enables uncompromising performance.
Maingear’s Shift flips conventional case design on its head with a unique vertical airflow design that enables uncompromising performance.

Highs

  • Unstoppable performance
  • Innovative vertical airflow design
  • Solid, attractive and unique case
  • White-glove packaging, assembly quality and service
  • Reliable despite white-knuckle overclocking

Lows

  • Connecting cables up top can be inconvenient

maingear shift reviewHow do you tell a desktop built by an enthusiast from one pieced together at a boutique shop? Typically, if you strip away a handful of case stickers, the answer is: “You can’t.” While big names like Alienware and HP’s Voodoo arm can custom-order parts to spec, many smaller outfits are still left cobbling together gaming PCs with the same basic parts available to the end user. The Shift represents an end to that limitation at Maingear, introducing the first chassis totally unique to the company, which owns the design and even the tooling for it.

And a unique case it is. The aptly named Shift eschews decades of business-as-usual PC design by pinwheeling the motherboard a full 90 degrees. The ports end up on top, cards in the motherboard run vertically, and hot air follows its natural course up and out the top of the case like a chimney, rather than getting forced out the back. The result, Maingear claims, is superior cooling and superior performance. With a starting price a bit over $2,300, it better perform!

Specs

Maingear offers the Shift in an array of configurations for gamers, but the common thread among them all lies in Intel’s venerable Core i7 processor. The stock model will get you the 930 model clocked at 2.8GHz, while top-of-the-line units get the 3.33GHz 980X Extreme Edition. Add Maingear’s Redline overclocking, as we did, and you can open the throttle on Intel’s hottest hardware all the way to an eye-watering 4.35GHz.

maingear shift reviewMaingear also offers a choice of either AMD or Nvidia GPUs, and was one of the first companies to adopt the flagship GeForce GTX 580 – a brutally fast GPU with a combined 3GB of GDDR5 memory in SLI configuration, and like the CPU, the option for additional overclocking.

All that silicon sucks a lot of wattage, and the Shift can be outfitted with Silverstone power supplies between 750 watts and 1.5 killowatts to provide it. Maingear also offers standard SATA drives up to 2TB and Crucial RealSSD drives up to 256GB, with a whopping six bays to pack them into. Other goodies include Blu-ray writers, Asus Xonar 7.1-channel surround sound cards, and EVGA’s Killer Xeno Pro gaming network card.

Our Shift came decked out with an overclocked 4.35GHz Intel Core i7 980X, 6GB of Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600MHz RAM, dual EVGA GeForce GTX 580 cards, a 128GB Crucial RealSSD drive with Windows 7 installed (which we ran all the games off of), and an additional 1TB drive. Check the specs page for a more detailed rundown.

Case

If Alienware’s grille-studded cases echo classic cars of the 1940’s and iBuypower’s neon-bathed custom rigs call to mind high-revving Japanese tuners, Maingear’s Shift must be an F-150 of the computer world: classic, understated, and freakin’ huge.

Though you can order it in seven exterior colors and six more inside (for a price), our stock black model gave off a menacing Hal 9000 vibe without much hint of its gaming purposes, save for a glowing bank of green LEDs visible through the left-hand side window. Maingear keeps the edges straight, the surfaces clean (brushed aluminum all around) and the doodads to a minimum. The front card reader and ports swing out from a door in the top of the chassis, the drive bays hide behind a magnetic-clasped aluminum door, and the back, which is typically a mess of punched steel, is just a clean aluminum slate.

maingear shift reviewWhere did it all go? The Shift case relocates that clutter to the top, beneath a perforated grille that hides it from view. Since the cables still have to exit somewhere, a cutout a few inches tall in the back consolidates the tangle into one bundle that streams out the back like a ponytail. While it cleans up the look significantly, you’ll also need to remove two Philips screws to get to your cables every time — or leave them off and look at two empty screw holes. The slim gap also forces thick cords, like DVI cables, to bend awkwardly at 90 degrees right at the connector to get out the back. If you choose to hide it under a desk, you’ll also need to pull it out to connect things, rather than simply crawling underneath.

Since the Shift design relocates the power supply to the bottom of the case, the power cable (which was about the thickness of a 240-volt dryer cable for our 1.2kW Zeus) connects separately in a little cavern below.

Two sliding lock levers beneath the top allow the sides to fall away without any screws, revealing the truly unusual design inside the Shift. Two massive fans at the bottom of the case draw in fresh air from vents in the side and push it up past the hard drives, optical drives, motherboard, graphics cards and RAM out the top through both vents in the PCI slots and another top-mounted fan. Though this design defeats the need for system-wide liquid cooling, you don’t get to 4.35GHz on a CPU merely by pushing air around, and Maingear uses its LiquidX 1700 cooling system to keep the Core i7 from breaking out in a sweat. While it’s compact, sealed design makes it incredibly practical, the 14-year-old in all of us yearned for translucent tubes full of radioactive-looking fluid, rather than modest black tubes that could have passed for wire loom.

What didn’t disappoint us was Maingear’s wiring job, which makes NASA’s job in the Apollo capsule look downright sloppy. Every possible trace of wire has been artfully snaked out of view behind the motherboard, and what few could not (like the power connectors for the GeForce boards) ended up zip tied to the case in ruler-straight lines running directly to their respective parts, like solder traces on an invisible board.

Product Review

Asus Zephyrus S is a laptop for gamers. Everyone else need not apply

RTX graphics have finally made it to gaming laptops, and the first we've tested is the new Zephyrus S. Now with a 17-inch display and those new graphics inside, the Zephyrus' unique design boasts some additional power.
Computing

If Core i5 CPUs are great for most people, do you really need a Core i7?

This guide is designed to help you decide whether you need the extra technological enhancements provided by the i7 core, or if the more affordable Core i5 will suit your needs. In the i5 vs. i7 battle, which is best for you?
Computing

This gaming PC rig costs less than most smartphones. Here's what we put inside

Building a great gaming PC doesn't take as much time or money as you might think. We've put together a list of great gaming components to build a budget gaming PC for under $500.
Computing

Get up to $400 off Alienware, XPS laptops with Dell Presidents’ Day sale

If you're looking for some savings, you're in luck. Dell launched its biggest Presidents' Day sale ever, running from February 11 to February 19, promising big savings on its Alienware, XPS products, and more.
Computing

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Computing

Windows is getting a face-lift in 2020, but you can get a sneak peek right now

Microsoft is increasing the lead time for an upcoming major update to Windows 10, giving Windows Insiders the ability to test it right now, even though it's not set for release until 2020.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Here's how the impressive A.I. works.
Deals

The best Presidents’ Day sales 2019: Amazon, Walmart, Dell, and more

Presidents' Day sales are a great chance to score electronics, clothing, home and office stuff, and other goodies at a discount. We’ve smoked out a large handful of the best of these Presidents' Day deals, from tech to bedding, to help…
Deals

Keep your MacBook safe and dry with an Under Armour backpack for under $50

Under Armour is having a huge sale this weekend to help you on your quest for a better backpack. The UA Outlet Exclusive sale is going on now through Monday, February 18th, offering great discounts on stormproof backpacks.
Deals

Walmart Presidents’ Day sale: Instant Pot, Google Home, and 4K TV deals

Presidents' Day weekend is one of the best times of the year to find deep discounts on 4K TVs, laptops, Instant Pots, clothes, mattresses, and furniture. And Walmart is offering deals on all of those things and more.
Computing

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Computing

Wi-Fi helps connect all of our devices at high-speed, but what exactly is it?

What is Wi-Fi? It's a technology we all use everyday to connect all of our portable devices, but understanding how it works and how far it's come from its humble beginnings is another thing entirely.
Computing

In the age of Alexa and Siri, Cortana’s halo has grown dim

In a sea of voice assistants, Cortana has become almost irrelevant. The nearly five-year-old voice assistant is seeing little love from consumers, and here’s why it is dead.