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Maingear goes mainstream with the Dash

Maingear announces the Dash Friends and Family PC

New Jersey-based boutique PC manufacturer Maingear today announced its first mainstream system. In an odd bit of marketing, it claims to be selling the Dash Friends and Family PC so its existing customers have an affordable nongaming PC to recommend to their friends and, yes, family. While the baseline $799.99 is cheap compared with Maingear's high-end systems that it builds for gamers and home theater geeks, I did a quick price comparison to similar models from Dell and HP and found that Maingear's customers' friends and family members will be paying a bit of a premium for Maingear's custom craftsmanship.

For $799.99, the Maingear Dash supplies an AMD Athlon X2 4200+, 1GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, integrated Radeon X1250 graphics, Vista Home Premium, and a one-year warranty. A similarly configured HP Pavilion a6210z sets you back a mere $538.99, and Dell's Inspiron 531 costs only $429 with a slightly faster CPU. And both the Dell and the HP include Microsoft Works; the cheapest productivity suite, Office 2007 Basic, offered on the Maingear Dash adds $200 to the bill.

This isn't to say the Dash is a bad deal. While I had hoped the difference in price would be smaller, there's something to be said for buying from a small company. For one, it means you're in a smaller pool of potential callers to tech support, and I'd wager that Maingear does an admirable job training its tech support staff. Also, you'll know that your PC doesn't just roll off the assembly line and into a box but that it's put together with care. Maingear says the Dash makes no compromise when it comes to build quality.

What I like best about Maingear's announcement is the promise that each Dash will be 100 percent bloatware free. That alone might be worth the price of admission. Also, Maingear charges only $22.50 to double the memory to 2GB. For that price, you'd be a fool not to, especially given the fact that neither Windows XP nor even Vista Home Basic is offered. Lastly, online PC configuration tools can be overwhelming to the uninitiated, which is why I'm pleased to see Maingear make the Dash's configurator so simple and clear. It's so easy I'd almost be able to step my mom through the process of customizing and purchasing a Dash. If I were willing to saddle the old bird with Vista, that is.