Maingear Vybe review: Maingear Vybe

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MSRP: $1,299.00

The Good Strong performance on multithreaded PC games; wireless networking and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 included free.

The Bad A few underwhelming features for its price; less-than-convenient drive cage layout.

The Bottom Line Maingear's Vybe is the first desktop in our lab with AMD's new six-core Phenom II X6 processor. That chip alone can't save this system from tough competition among midranged gaming PCs, but if the Vybe isn't the best all-around PC at this price, it has some impressive gaming chops. Just be prepared to make a few sacrifices along the way.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Support 8

Editors' note: This review has been updated with new benchmark results and text to account for previously unactivated overclocking settings that the vendor includes at no additional charge.

Maingear's Vybe is the first PC we've seen with AMD's new six-core Phenom II X6 CPU. And though this $1,299 desktop is a relative bargain compared with the $4,999 Intel-based six-core PC we reviewed, the more-affordable AMD chip helps the Vybe only on programs that can use six cores effectively. For programs that aren't as well-threaded, Maingear made a few tweaks to help its case, but other PCs in this price range still offer better performance. Maingear assembled the Vybe with its customary attention to detail, and also threw in a few useful extras to sweeten the pot. We like all of that stuff, and we recommend this system if you have very specific processing or gaming needs that will make use of the Vybe's six cores. For the rest of you, this PC is likely overkill.

Maingear describes the Vybe as the spiritual successor to its Prelude 2 line of midrange gaming desktops. The Vybe's matte-black exterior and case markings echo that of the higher-end Maingear Shift we reviewed earlier this year. Unlike the Shift, the Vybe has a standard motherboard orientation inside the case.

The midtower Vybe is also significantly smaller than the full-tower Shift, but that hasn't stopped Maingear from equipping the Vybe with a full-size ATX motherboard, specifically the Gigabyte GA-890GPA-UDHE. The board features AMD's relatively new, Phenom II X6-supporting 890GX chipset, but also comes with two wider-bandwidth USB 3.0 ports and support for faster SATA 3.0-hard drives. Both features are new to higher-end PCs this year, and though they're not yet common in the $1,000 to $2,000 price range, we expect they will spread, in part because of the new 890GX motherboards like the one in the Vybe.

The motherboard is also unique because it includes a full-size PCI Express graphics-card slot, also an uncommon feature at this price. Maingear sent us a midrange ATI Radeon HD 5830 graphics card with the Vybe, and we generally advocate upgrading to a higher-end single card instead of doubling up on midrange GPUs. Our configuration's 500-watt power supply would also give us pause before adding a second 3D card. For both of those reasons, the extra graphics-card slot will be best appreciated by Vybe buyers who spend more on a higher-end configuration.

  Maingear Vybe Gateway FX6831-01
Price $1,299 $1,299
CPU 3.2GHz AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860
Motherboard chipset AMD 890GX Intel H57
Memory 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5830 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5850
Hard drives 640GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive 1.5TB 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11n wireless Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

By coming in at $1,299, the Vybe fits neatly alongside a handful of midprice gaming/performance desktops we've seen recently. Gateway's similarly priced FX6831FX6831-01 is the most recent competitor, but you could go to Dell, HP, Velocity Micro, or elsewhere and build a decent PC for around the same price. None of those vendors, however, currently offers the new Phenom II X6 chip--at least, not yet.

We matched the Vybe against the Gateway directly both because it's the most recent desktop we reviewed and we really liked it. For the same price as the Vybe, the Core i7-based Gateway offers more than twice as much hard-drive space, a faster graphics card, and more RAM. Maingear includes the six-core AMD chip, and also has an edge in its wireless-networking card, which is thrown in for free with this configuration, plus a coupon for a free copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

We can't say we value wireless that much in a midtower desktop, but if it's free, it's hard to complain. And though we prefer the Vybe's understated black exterior to the Gateway's gaudy red accent lighting, the Gateway has a truly useful front-accessible hard-drive-tray mechanism that makes swapping hard drives a breeze. The Maingear has a traditional internal-access hard-drive cage, with all the drives annoyingly aimed inward. That gives Gateway the advantage in terms of case utility, as well as in features-for-the-dollar. The performance situation is less clear.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Velocity Micro Edge Z30
Maingear Vybe
Gateway FX6831-01
Asus Essentio CG5290-BP007

We'll come right out and say that for the most part, the Vybe's application performance is disappointing. It fares well on both Cinebench tests, but on every other benchmark it falls behind the Gateway and other Intel-based PCs in its price range. We were surprised by the results of our multimedia multitasking test, which we thought would give the Vybe's six-core CPU a chance to shine. The Cinebench test suggests that for programs written to take advantage of all available CPU cores, the six-core Vybe has some benefit. In most other cases, you're better off with a fast quad-core Core i7 chip.

We actually ran into a minor testing issue with this system, hence the Editors' note above. We first ran this review with an iTunes time of 155 seconds, and a single-core Cinebench score of 3,596. After we published, Maingear pointed out that the Cinebench score in particular looked low, especially considering Maingear had used AMD's Overdrive software to overclock the Phenom II X6's TurboCore settings. TurboCore is a new feature in AMD's six-core CPUs that can automatically ramp-up the clock speed of three of the six cores, which would improve processing times on programs that aren't fully multithreaded. AMD's stock TurboCore setting boosts the cores to 3.2GHz, from 2.8GHz; with Overdrive, Maingear set TurboCore to go all the way to 4.0GHz.

Our best explanation for the low single-core Cinebench score is that Overdrive didn't kick in the way it should have. Maingear says it sent the Vybe to us with Overdrive enabled. Our test procedure specifies that we leave running all programs resident when the system first turns on. Regardless of why the scores were low, Maingear insists that it will sell this system with the overclocked settings enabled at start-up. We've elected to take Maingear at its word, but we expect that, in light of our experience, Maingear will rectify any improper set-up procedure going forward. Again, we have no way to determine the cause of the original slowdown, so we cannot say for sure whether Maingear did indeed do anything incorrectly.

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