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Maingear's SFF Pulse gaming PC arrives

Photos of Maingear's new Pulse small form factor gaming desktop

We're prepping this system for testing as I type this, but in the meantime I thought I'd post a few shots of the Maingear Pulse, which showed up in the lab an hour ago.

The Maingear Pulse SFF gaming PC CNET/Sarah Tew

First, this thing is tiny. It comes in at 11.25 inches high, 7.5 inches wide, and 8.25 inches deep. Essentially the Pulse looks like one of Shuttle's smaller small form factor systems turned on its end.

Left side-interior shot, with the graphics card and solid state hard drive toward the bottom CNET/Sarah Tew

Unlike the typical SFF gaming box, Maingear is gunning for the same combination of 3D graphics horsepower and power efficiency that HP showed off in its Firebird back in February. Our $1,275 Pulse review configuration is about $850 less than the Firebird we reviewed, but it also only has one graphics card and no Blu-ray drive. That's a fair trade given the price difference, but the Pulse also addresses one of the Firebird's chief issues by using a standard 16X PCI Express graphics card slot. That means you can upgrade the 3D card in the Pulse post-purchase.

We still have questions about how, exactly, this system counts as Nvidia Ion-based as Maingear has claimed, if it uses a discrete 3D card and a full-fledged Intel Core 2 Quad CPU. We also want to see what kind of balance it strikes between 3D performance and power efficiency. All that and more to come in the next day or so.