Boutique PC gaming companies think big at CES 2019

Custom system builders like Origin PC and Maingear offer specialty products to stand out from the big guys.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read
Sarah Tew/CNET

Every major PC maker has a division that makes PC gaming desktops and laptops , from Dell's Alienware brand to HP's Omen line. But at an event like CES 2019, it's a bad idea to sleep on the smaller boutique PC makers who often bring new and interesting prototypes to the show.

Origin PC's sweet sixteen

Origin PC has been building high-end desktops and laptops since 2009. This year, the CES highlight was a new laptop design, called the Evo16-S. As you might be able to guess from the name, this isn't a 15-inch gaming laptop or a 17-inch one. It's a very, very rare laptop with a 16-inch display, something I've only seen a handful of times in the past decade or so.


The new 16-inch Evo16-S.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Normally, I might think of this as an idea not worth the extra size and weight to deal with, but the 16.1-inch 144Hz FHD display fits into a chassis about the size of a slim 15-inch gaming laptop, and weighs a reasonable 4.5 pounds. Even the power brick is smaller, closer in size to what you'd get on a non-gaming laptop. Naturally it includes the new Nvidia RTX GPUs, and will start at about $1,900.

Watch this: Origin PC brings a 16-inch gaming laptop to CES 2019

The company also brought two concept pieces to CES. One is a giant motorized standing desk. This still-unnamed desk is extra wide to accommodate big monitors, mousepads and anything else. Cables can be routed through openings in the top, and A/V ports on the desk can be used to connect other devices to a display, while the desktop itself sits on a shelf bolted to the bottom of the desk. No firm details on when or if this will be released or how much it will cost.


The unnamed motorized standing desk.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Another concept piece Origin PC is talking about is the Cube, a small form factor desktop with an all-glass body. This prototype can handle a full-size desktop GPU, liquid cooling and up to seven drives. That unit hadn't arrived yet when we previewed the company's CES lineup, but we hope to see it in person soon.


The Maingear F131 with Apex Spectrum lighting and cooling.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Maingear hits an Apex

New Jersey-based Maingear kicked off a colorful CES 2019 lineup with Apex Spectrum, a custom lighting and liquid cooling system for its micro-ATX F131 desktop. It takes last year's Apex cooling, which is a series of water pumps, temperature sensors and a large reservoir specifically built to fit inside that particular case, and adds RPG lighting for a seemingly endless list of possible color combinations. A version of the Apex Spectrum will also be available for the larger Maingear Rush desktop, but only for a limited time, according to the company.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Also new for CES 2019 is a 17-inch version of the Pulse, a fairly slim gaming laptop that will include Nvidia's new RTX GPUs. RTX graphics are coming to the existing Pulse 15 model as well.

But the biggest surprise of our tour was a unique feature built into the F131 desktop on display. Maingear is a company that will build pretty much anything an ambitious PC gamer can ask for, including occasional one-time specialty builds for a very specific purpose. There's a slot on the side of the chassis that fits a Nintendo Switch console. Slide your Switch in and it connects via a USB-C plug inside and routes the video output from the Switch to your PCs display.

See all the best laptops from CES 2019

See all photos

CES 2019: See all of CNET's coverage of the year's biggest tech show.

CES schedule: It's six days of jam-packed events. Here's what to expect.