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Maingear X-Cube (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6800) review: Maingear X-Cube (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6800)

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The Good Crisp, clean system design inside and out; fast application performance; fast Vista gaming performance, depending on the title.

The Bad Not quite fast enough Vista gaming performance, depending on the title; no built-in Wi-Fi; no memory card reader; uncertain PC gaming future makes it hard to purchase an expensive PC like this one right now.

The Bottom Line Maingear's sharp, tidy X-Cube packs a mostly powerful gaming punch. It loses a few steps due to Vista, and we wish it had a few more features. With so much in PC gaming in flux, we're also reluctant to recommend such a pricey purchase now. But if you need a fast, small gaming PC today, the X-Cube mostly delivers.

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7.4 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 8

Maingear may not have changed its X-Cube's case since we last looked at one about a year ago, but the hardware and software on the 2007 model are entirely brand new. With the latest in everything, this high-end, semiportable gaming system has a comparable price tag, coming in around $4,570 at the time of this writing. For the most part, it delivers the performance and features to match. It's also a very attractive system. With PC gaming in such a state of flux at the moment, it's hard to make any definitive statements about this X-Cube's future prospects. But if we had money to burn on a high-end PC and wanted to keep things small, we would have few qualms about picking up a system such as this for fast performance.

When we said the X-Cube has the latest of everything, we weren't joking. Its 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6800 quad-core processor and 768MB GeForce 8800 Ultra graphics card are both very new parts--the 3D card is barely a week old--and they both currently lead their respective categories in terms of raw performance. This system has 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM for memory, and a single 750GB 7,200rpm hard drive for storage. You have room to upgrade the memory and add another hard drive, and Maingear offers faster 10K drives or roomier 1TB drives, should you need more or speedier hard-drive storage.

To measure the X-Cube's performance, we've compared it to a number of different gaming systems, ranging from an Editor's Choice-winning, $5,760 Dell XPS 710 H2C to a more modest, bang-for-the-buck-oriented $2,750 AVADirect Core 2 Duo SLI. The results we saw were surprising, both pleasantly and otherwise. Its Photoshop and iTunes scores makes sense, given that the faster systems have either faster hard drives or more memory. We didn't expect the X-Cube's chart-topping CineBench numbers, though, since we're used to that test benefiting most from CPU speed. The 3.2GHz Dell should have been faster if that was all that mattered. We suspect that the Maingear's faster 800MHz memory helped it gain an edge, since the Dell has only 667MHz of RAM. For common multimedia application performance, the X-Cube performs as expected or better, which is to say, very fast.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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

Cinebench 9.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Maingear X-Cube
Dell XPS 710 H2C
Polywell Poly i680 SLI

Gaming was a somewhat different story. We wouldn't expect the X-Cube and its single GeForce 8800 Ultra to beat the Dell and its pair of GeForce 8800 GTX cards, but that the Polywell and its single, older GeForce 8800 GTX beat it on Quake 4 was surprising. Granted, the Polywell has a faster CPU clock, but we're more inclined to attribute the X-Cube's laggard Quake 4 scores to the fact that it's running in Vista, while the Polywell's scores are XP-based. The Maingear triumphs over the other single-card PCs in F.E.A.R., which shows that not all games will suffer from Vista slowdown, but that this $4,757 X-Cube can't beat a six-month-old Polywell--that even half a year ago cost $1,100 less--would be a hard pill to swallow if that was our money. Our hope is that with time, Nvidia's drivers will improve to handle Vista gaming better. We can't guarantee anything, though.

Quake 4 performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048 x 1,536 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
1,600 x 1,200 (4x AA, 8xAF)  
1,280 x 1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
Dell XPS 710 H2C
Polywell Poly i680 SLI
Maingear X-Cube
AVA Direct Core 2 Duo SLI
ABS Ultimate X Striker Elite

F.E.A.R. performance (fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048 x 1,536 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
1,600 x 1,200 (4x AA, 8xAF)  
1,280 x 1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
Dell XPS 710 H2C
Maingear X-Cube
ABS Ultimate X Striker Elite
Polywell Poly i680 SLI
AVA Direct Core 2 Duo SLI

You should also consider the overall state of the PC gaming market right now. First, ATI has a whole family of new 3D cards right around the corner. You would be wise to wait to see how their performance stacks up to Nvidia products before making a major PC purchase. Further, even though Vista is prevalent in new PCs these days, true next-gen DirectX 10 Vista games haven't hit the market yet. So even after ATI's cards come out, we won't have the whole next-gen gaming story until we can test the games these cards have been designed to support. We hope to have a few DirectX 10 tests together by the fall at worst, but the entire industry will be only speculating until a fully-cooked DirectX 10 game emerges.

Our remaining comments about the X-Cube don't really vary from the last time we looked at one of Maingear's small-size PCs. The custom paint job (blue this time) extends from the chassis to the Saitek Eclipse II keyboard and the Logitech G5 Laser Mouse (first generation), and while it's undeniably attractive, it represents $300 of this system's overall price. A dual-layer DVD burner with LightScribe capability gives you as much standard-definition disc-burning and reading capability as you'd want. We wish Maingear had found a way to add a media card reader to this system, though; perhaps in the spare optical drive bay.

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