An appealing new chassis is the most obvious highlight of Maingear's updated Vybe Super Stock gaming desktop, but it might be the less obvious new support policies that help Maingear retain customers in a newly competitive boutique PC gaming field. This $1,948 configuration has the build quality and overall value we expect from a Maingear desktop. It is also heartening to know that if you run into any problems within the first 30 days of ownership, Maingear will rebuild the system with new parts, free of charge. That's not common in the desktop world, and it should help offset some concern you might feel over making a rather significant purchase. For those who buy, and keep, this PC, you'll find yourself in possession of an attractive, rock-solid gaming desktop.
The Vybe Super Stock is the higher-end variant in Maingear's Vybe line, with a pair of graphics cards and the option of higher overclocking than that of its linemates. You can also choose a black version of the new Vybe case. We like the white one, although it seems like white gaming desktops have become a trend for 2011.
More interesting than the color is the feel of the case, to which Maingear has given a soft-touch treatment. Rather than cheap plastic, the exterior of the case almost seems rubberized, and feels sturdy. We wish that sturdiness extended to the actual rubber feet on the bottom of the case. Rather than being screwed in, the feet are attached to the bottom with an apparently weak adhesive; one of them slipped off as we moved the case around the lab. It was easy enough to reset the foot in its original position, but it still felt cheap that it was only glued on.
|Maingear Vybe Super Stock||Digital Storm Ode Level 3||Alienware Aurora|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel Z68||Intel P67||Intel P67|
|CPU||4.5GHz Intel Core i7-2600K (overclocked)||4.8GHz Intel Core i7-2600K (overclocked)||3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600|
|Memory||8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||4GB 1,866MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||(2) 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti||(2) 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 570||(2) 2GB AMD Radeon HD 6950|
|Hard drive(s)||1TB 7,200rpm Samsung||120GB Intel SSD, 1TB 7,200rpm Samsung||2TB 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||Blu-ray/DVD burner combo||Blu-ray/DVD burner combo|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
The Vybe Super Stock offers competitive value in the same general price range as the fixed-configuration Digital Storm Ode Level 3. Both are substantially better deals than the overpriced Alienware Aurora.
What doesn't come out in our configuration comparison is the fact that the Maingear has a 20GB solid-state caching hard drive built into the Intel Z68 Express motherboard. The drive uses Intel's new Smart Response Technology (SRT), which debuted this year with Intel's Z68 chipset, to cache data between the standard hard drive and the system memory. The idea behind SRT is that it analyzes the files you use most frequently and automatically stores them on the solid-state drive, speeding access time. You will notice its speed benefits most after you use a program often enough that the drive starts to cache the associated files.
Whether we'd recommend SRT over a faster graphics card or a larger storage hard drive depends on your priorities. Those looking for a well-rounded PC will be satisfied with this system and the embedded SSD. Pure gamers, particularly those with larger monitors, might rather put the money spent on the SRT drive into more 3D processing power. Unfortunately, you have to accept the SRT-equipped Z68 motherboard on the Vybe Super Stock.
That brings us to a disconnect we have with this PC. On the more affordable Vybe SE variant, SRT is a configurable option. Adding it will run the cost up $149, but you have the freedom to opt out. You don't have the same flexibility with the Vybe Super Stock, but this is also the only Vybe variant with two graphics cards. Although the SRT drive is a useful feature, being forced to take it on the Super Stock when it's apparently optional on the SE might irk gamers who may reasonably prefer putting their money toward more 3D processing power instead of read/write acceleration. We're not sure if the restrictions on the various Vybe variants are accidental or built around a necessary cost structure, but we'd obviously prefer having complete freedom to choose components.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
The Vybe Super Stock performs as we'd expect given its comparatively modest overclocking. We don't fault Maingear for holding the Core i7-2600K chip in the Vybe to 4.5GHz, rather than the 4.8GHz or higher we've seen in other systems, including previous Maingear PCs. It reflects the reality that you won't achieve record-setting clock settings every time you try to overclock a chip. It also lets us demonstrate that the minor differences in clock speed don't always translate to dramatic gaps in application performance. The Maingear falls right in line with the other high-end PCs we've reviewed over the last year or so, and we expect anyone with a need for a fast computer, for gaming, digital content creation, or otherwise, would be happy to own this desktop.
|1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)||1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)|
|1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)||1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)|
|2,560x1,600 (DirectX 11, very high)||1,920x1,080 (DirectX 11, very high)|
|Extreme (1,920x1080)||Performance (1,920x1,080, 16x AF)||Entry level (1,680x1,050)|
From a purely gaming-driven perspective, the Vybe Super Stock also sits where we expect on the competitive landscape given its pair of 2GB GeForce GTX 560Ti graphics cards. Our only complaint here relates to our earlier comments about being forced to accept the built-in SSD in the Vybe Super Stock, rather than being able to opt out of the drive and direct the savings toward a pair of faster 3D cards.
On Metro 2033, our most challenging real-world gaming test, the Vybe falls short of our ideal score of 60 frames per second, suggesting it has room for some performance gains. This is still a rock-solid mainstream gaming PC, and we expect all but those playing with 3D effects or with multiple high-resolution monitors will be satisfied with this desktop. This system can handle Metro 2033's actual gameplay with relative smoothness at the same high settings at which we tested it. Just understand that a pair of higher-end graphics cards would likely help the Vybe maintain that same high performance for future games, and more so than the SRT drive.
Rounding out the Vybe's features, we were happy to see a full assortment of connectivity options on the motherboard. You get eight USB 2.0 jacks on the rear panel, along with a pair of USB 3.0 jacks for faster transfers. Audio outputs include a set of 7.1 analog audio jacks, and an optical S/PDIF digital audio out. For video you get four DVI outputs and a pair of Mini-HDMI-outs between the two graphics cards. You even get a few legacy ports by way of a FireWire 400 jack and a PS2 mouse and keyboard input.
If you want to upgrade the Vybe, you get a pair of 1X PCI Express slots and a standard PCI slot to play around with for adding a TV tuner, wireless networking, or a dedicated sound card. You can also add two more memory sticks and four more hard drives.
|Maingear Vybe||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||3.23|
|Sleep (10 percent)||2.92|
|Idle (25 percent)||93.5|
|Load (5 percent)||427.1|
|Annual power consumption cost||$72.27|
The Vybe, like most modern, overclocked gaming PCs, is not modest in its energy demands. At least Maingear put only a 660-watt power supply in this system. You can opt for a higher-end PSU if you want the freedom to add very high-end graphics cards, but for this configuration, Maingear paired the power supply appropriately with its specs.
The chassis and the integrated solid-state hard drive constitute the most novel hardware features of the Vybe Super Stock, and Maingear's updated service and support policies put it alongside Falcon Northwest in offering the most robust customer protection available. The system comes a one-year parts-and-lifetime-labor warranty, along with a reasonable time frame for phone support, which runs from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT Monday through Friday, and from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT on Saturdays.
Those policies are relatively standard. Among the new support terms is a 30-day no-fail guarantee, wherein Maingear will rebuild your system with new components if you experience a part failure within the first 30 days of ownership. Also interesting is a new trade-in program, in which Maingear will pay you a rebate for the system to put toward a new one. The rebates move on a sliding scale, with a 33 percent refund within the first six months of ownership, and then 25 percent during the next six months, and then 15 percent during the third six-month period. That would translate to just under $300 if you returned this system after a year.
Maingear debuted an assortment of new features and perks with this Vybe Super Stock. We love the new case, and the 30-day no-fail offer. The rebate program is welcome as well. We certainly understand the benefits of the integrated SSD for speeding drive access, and we agree that many people will appreciate that feature, but we wish Maingear would expand the flexibility of its configurator, at least for the Super Stock variant of its Vybe line, to allow you to select or opt out of the various hardware features according to your usage priorities. That's a small criticism of an expertly built desktop, of course, and we recommend the Maingear Vybe Super Stock to any PC gamer or performance enthusiast.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Alienware Aurora (Core i7-2600K, spring 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K; 4GB 1,866MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 2GB AMD Radeon HD 6950 graphics cards; 1TB SATA 300 7,200rpm hard drive; 2TB SATA 600 7,200rpm hard drive
Digital Storm Ode Level 3
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.8GHz Intel Core i7-2600K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 graphics cards; 128GB Intel solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive
Falcon Northwest Mach V (Core i7-2600K, spring 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.6GHz Intel Core i7-2600K (overclocked); 16GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards; 128GB solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive
Maingear Vybe Super Stock (fall 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4,5GHz Intel Core i7-2600K; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti graphics cards; 1TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive
Origin Genesis (Core i7-2600K, spring 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-2600K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics card (overclocked); 80GB solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive