Joining Origin's Genesis in the middle of the boutique price spectrum, Maingear's new $2,849 Vybe Super Stock further demonstrates that you can spend an only slightly absurd amount of money and still get one of the fastest gaming desktops around. The smaller Vybe chassis means you'll want to look elsewhere to load up on storage or more exotic configurations; otherwise, from its performance to its value to its build quality, the Vybe Super Stock offers everything we look for in a gaming PC at this price.
We last wrote about Maingear's Vybe line about a year ago. Neither the chassis nor Maingear's attention to detail in building this system has changed, but we're impressed that Maingear fit two graphics cards as well as a liquid cooling rig inside this smaller chassis. At 15 inches high, 8.25 inches wide, and 19.25 inches deep, the Vybe is still no Nettop, but its efficient design makes this PC less imposing than an average gaming tower.
Unlike the earlier Vybe, this model is one of Maingear's Super Stock systems, which start at a higher price point and have a more robust set of specifications. The motherboard in the Vybe Super Stock supports multiple graphics cards, it comes with integrated Bluetooth and wireless networking support, and you get a beefier power supply and a larger dorsal fan than in the standard model. The distinction is mostly marketing; if you opted for two graphics cards and an overclocked CPU, you would get those extra features regardless. Still, as we note below, our Vybe Super Stock review unit is competitively priced, so in this case there's no real harm in dressing things up a little.
|Maingear Vybe Super Stock||Origin Genesis|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel P67||Intel P67|
|CPU||4.8GHz Intel Core i7 2600K (overclocked)||4.7GHz Intel Core i7 2600K (overclocked)|
|Memory||8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||(2) 2GB AMD Radeon HD 6950||1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 (overclocked)|
|Hard drives||250GB Intel SSD, 1TB 7,200rpm Samsung||64GB Crucial SSD, 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital|
|Optical drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
Our Vybe Super Stock is more expensive than the Origin Genesis system we reviewed a few months ago, but it's also easy to equalize the two if you discount the Vybe's capacious, expensive 250GB solid-state hard drive (SSD). Knock that down to a 120GB SSD and the Vybe's price falls to about $2,449, with little if any sacrifice of performance and overall capability. The Maingear system can't offer quite the same expandability as the Origin system due to the difference in case size, but the Vybe Super Stock more than makes up the difference with its performance for the dollar.
Other than the SSD, the primary difference between the two systems comes down to the graphics card configuration. Origin included a single high-end Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 card, while Maingear sent us two upper-midrange AMD Radeon HD 6950s. Both Maingear and Origin use cards with GPU core and memory speeds pushed higher than the stock specifications for their respective graphics chips, but the added horsepower of a second 3D card took Maingear's system past the Origin system, as evidenced by our gaming charts below.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
While the Vybe Super Stock ekes out performance wins on all of our application tests, its small margin of victory is in keeping with its minor clock speed advantage over the Origin system. Keeping in mind that the Core i7 2600K chip ships at 3.4GHz, the overclock speeds in these high-end PCs continue to impress us. We've heard (but not yet seen) that it's possible to hit 5.0GHz with a Core i7 2600K, but even the Vybe Super Stock's 4.8GHz clock speed represents significant added value, if not that much of a leap ahead of the 4.7GHz Origin Genesis. Short of activities like rendering feature films, conducting high-volume, high-velocity financial trades, or simulating real-time global weather patterns, the Maingear Vybe Super Stock is more than fast enough for typical consumer and home enthusiast applications.
|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)|
|2,560x,1,536:23 (DirectX 11, very high)||1,920x1,080:41 (DirectX 11, very high)|
We're also happy with the Maingear as a gaming system, although as you can see from our Metro 2033 scores, maximum-quality DirectX 11 gaming will still prove a challenge to these PCs. Independent of the benchmark, the Vybe can play Metro 2033 well enough and at a high-enough image quality that you won't feel shortchanged. You can also see that across our gaming tests the pair of Radeon cards gives the Vybe a noticeable advantage over the single-card Origin system. You will find limitations of this system's gaming capabilities when you start maximizing the settings of the most advanced DirectX 11 titles. In most cases, though, you should be able to play games on the Vybe at high resolutions and with suitably attractive image quality.
Despite its smaller chassis and two graphics cards, the Vybe offers more upgrade room than we expected. You get two free 1x PCI Express slots, a free PCI slot between the two 3D cards, one free 3.5-inch hard-drive bay, and two free 2.5-inch drive bays accessible via the front panel. You also have room to add two more memory sticks. We don't believe going from 8GB to 16GB of RAM would bring huge performance payoffs now, but it doesn't hurt to have the option.
Maingear has also chosen a motherboard with plentiful connectivity options. The Intel DP67BG Extreme board features three USB 3.0 jacks, eight USB 2.0 ports, and both FireWire and eSATA ports for external data connections. For audio you get 7.1 analog jacks as well as optical S/PDIF output, and for video each graphics card offers a pair of DVI ports, a pair of Mini DisplayPort outputs, and an HDMI output. We haven't seen Thunderbolt on a Windows system yet, but that's the only feature we can think of that's missing here.
|Maingear Vybe Super Stock||Average watts per hour|
|Raw (annual kWh)||568.91|
|Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$64.57|
The PCs in the upper end of the gaming category are notoriously power-hungry, so we don't expect them to meet Energy Star requirements, for example. Still, given the Vybe Super Stock's leading performance, we have to credit Maingear for coming in second in overall power draw. You'll pay more than $5 monthly on your power bill to own this system, but it could certainly be worse.
Maingear's default service plan gets you a yearlong hardware warranty and lifetime labor and phone coverage. It also offers discretionary on-site service from a third-party provider, as well as free, two-way repair shipping for the first 30 days of ownership. You'll find a variety of support options on Maingear's Web site, including remote desktop support. In all, Maingear's support is on par with or better than that of many vendors out there, boutiques included.
The Maingear Vybe Super Stock is an Editors' Choice winner on the strength of its performance, especially for gaming, as well as its build quality and surprising upgradability. You don't need to spend $2,849 or even $2,449 to play the latest PC games, but we can think of no better alternative than this system if you're inclined to spend that much.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Falcon Northwest Mach V
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
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7 2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 5870
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit; 3.87GHz (overclocked) Intel Core i7 960; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards; 80GB Intel X25-M solid-state hard drive; 1.5TB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive
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
Velocity Micro Z40
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.0GHz Intel Core i5 2500K (overclocked); 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560Ti graphics card (overclocked); 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive