First Look: Maingear Pulse
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First Look: Maingear Pulse

3:07 /

We hate to criticize PCs that strive to balance performance and power efficiency, because the goal is noble. But despite its visual charm, Maingear's Pulse requires too many speed compromises to entice PC gamers, and too few benefits over a competing system from HP. Its base configuration may have some appeal as a digital entertainment system, but this higher-end Pulse needs the core technology to catch up to its aspirations.

[ Music ] ^M00:00:03 >> Hi, I'm senior editor Rich Brown for CNET.com. Today we're gonna take a look at the Main Gear Pulse. So this is a pretty unique little PC that has some ambitious goals in life. It wants to be a gaming system, but it also wants to be very power efficient. Now, we found that we like the design, and it certainly does hit its power efficiency goals, but the gaming performance isn't quite there. Now, we can see non-gaming consumers getting excited by power efficiency, as long as it came with good features. But for gamers, frame rates are king, and unfortunately, this system doesn't quite deliver the gaming speed that you'll find in an equivalent standard desktop at the same price. Up here, you get a DVD burner. Down here, there's only two USB ports. Now, Main Gear does offer Blu-ray drives and other options for the front, but it's relatively spare. Now, the back of the system shows a nice array of ports, and the system's actually pretty living room friendly, given all its connectivity options. Now, this particular config does have a graphics card, which overrides the embedded video ports here, including the HDMI output. So that's a little bit unfortunate. That means you have to put an HDMI adaptor on one of these DVI ports if you want to connect to an HD television. But that would still work, certainly. You can see that there's wireless networking here. You get a handful of USB ports, as well as digital audio out, standard networking, eSATA, and standard analog audio. Now, unlike the HP Firebird that came out earlier this year and also sort of blended the gaming and power efficiency models, you can actually do a little bit of upgrading of this system, particularly to the graphics card. There's an 80-plus power supply. It's especially power efficient. There's also a lower voltage Intel Quad Core chip underneath the power supply, and down here, you get an eco version of an NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT graphics card. Now, all those parts kind of combine to provide the power efficiency. They're all lower power drawing parts than you normally find in a standard desktop. And in fact, the Main Gear's actually more power efficient than the HP Firebird from earlier in the year. And it's also a little bit faster. You'll face a couple limitations, though, mostly because of the size of the system. It sort of limits you to very short cards, which means that there's not a lot of room to upgrade beyond this 9800 card. Most cards that would be faster would take up more space. Now, the case has two memory slots, as you can see back there. And down here, there's a single, laptop size, 7200-RPM hard drive. So it's big enough, and you don't sacrifice a lot of speed, but it also doesn't take up a lot of case in the system. Now, actually, this is sort of another ding against this system because the Firebird actually lets you put in two smaller hard drives. Now, Main Gear does offer different configurations for the pulse, and while our review model is about 1300 bucks, it starts at $800.00. And for that, you don't get a graphics card, and the CPU is a little bit slower, but you do still get all the great connectivity. So that means it probably would work pretty well in the living room or as a dedicated digital media box, wherever. But for this particular configuration, the performance just isn't there, and because gamers aren't willing to compromise, we can't recommend this PC as a gaming desktop. So I'm Rich Brown. This is the Main Gear Pulse. ^M00:03:04 [ Music ]

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