Maingear Vybe review

The Maingear Vybe gives us the best gaming performance among entry-level gaming desktops.
Photo of Maingear Vybe

The Maingear Vybe ($999) is a gaming rig that comes in at an entry-level price. While you can get less expensive multimedia systems, $999 is about the right price for a starter gaming rig with a serious graphics card like the Nvdia GeForce GTX 650 Ti. The Vybe also features Intel’s newest fourth-generation Core i5 (codenamed Haswell) processor, and it gives the Vybe a leg up on many of our performance tests. The proof is in the numbers: The Maingear Vybe is powerful enough to wrest the Editors’ Choice award for entry-level gaming desktops from the Alienware X51.

Design and Features
The Vybe comes in a fairly plain (for Maingear) chassis, painted with a soft-touch, matte black finish on the front and top panels. The case has a Maingear logo on the front, along with accent stripes running up the front and the top face, but with its clear plastic side panel, it’s still the kind of case that we’d expect out of a home build rather than the huge all metal cases we’ve come to expect from Maingear. It’s not a huge nit considering the price point, but it’s still more utilitarian than we’ve seen. The utility has a purpose, however, since this gives Maingear the space to install one of Intel’s new fourth-generation Intel Core i5-4570 processors, along with 8GB of DDR3 memory, a 1TB hard drive with 32GB SSD cache drive, and a gaming-class Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti graphics card.

The system’s motherboard and interior have plenty of space for future upgrades, including a pair of PCIe x1 slots, an additional PCIe x16 graphics card slot (more on this below), two old school PCI slots, and two DIMM slots free for future memory expansion. There are four SATA ports on the motherboard for extra hard drives. You’ll fill the ports before you fill the chassis however: the system has space for six more hard drives and two more optical drives. The future expansion of the system is somewhat limited by the motherboard and the system’s 500W power supply, since the motherboard doesn’t support SLI at this time (only AMD’s CrossFireX), If you add an additional Nvidia graphics card, it can’t be bridged for more 3D performance; it will simply support multiple monitors. The 500W PSU can handle the current load fine, but if you’re thinking of installing a power-hungry Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 card in the future, you may want to upgrade the PSU to 850W or higher. All that said, the internal expansion is much more spacious than our former Editors’ Choice for entry-level desktop PCs, the Alienware X51.

Other possible upgrades can be done externally, with the Vybe’s plethora of I/O ports. On the top of the system are a set of easily accessible USB 2.0 ports (2), USB 3.0 ports (2), and audio jacks (mic and hedphones). The front of the system has a DVD burner, which will help with playing older games that aren’t on Steam or Origin online.

On the back of the system are four USB 2.0 ports, another pair of USB 3.0 ports, PS/2 ports (for your favorite old mouse and keyboard), Ethernet, and a large number of video ports. The GTX 650 Ti card has a pair of DVI ports, a HDMI port, and a DisplayPort. You should connect your main monitor to the Nvidia card. The motherboard has another set of ports: HDMI, VGA, and DVI, which can be used to connect a second monitor. You can use the second monitor to display IM and browser windows so you can multitask during gaming sessions. If you want to run multiple monitor-spanning games, you’ll have to pull the GTX 650 Ti card and replace it with a pair of AMD Radeon HD cards, but then again that’s something unlikely to be on the table for an entry-level gamer. Monitor-spanning is really something for the mainstream or hardcore enthusiast gamer.

Like most Maingear and other boutique-built systems, the Vybe comes free of hard drive cluttering bloatware. It comes with the Windows 8 operating system, the standard set of Win 8 apps, the latest drivers for the graphics card, and that’s about it. Maingear knows that most gmers don’t want to spend an afternoon decrapifying their system, so they leave off trial programs like anti-virus suites and other extra utilities. About the only nit we can pick on any other policies is the relatively short 1-year warranty. Sure you probably won’t ever have to use it, but two to three years is a better bet for a system likely to see a lot of stress, like a gaming rig.

Performance

The Vybe is a very good performer at both our multimedia and our 3D gaming benchmark tests, thanks to the Intel Core i5 processor and the system’s GeForce GTX 650 Ti card. GTX is Nvidia shorthand for high-end gaming graphics performance, and as such it can easily handle playing high-end 3D games at medium quality settings. The Vybe returned buttery smooth frame rates on our two games, Aliens vs. Predator (AvP) (117fps) and Heaven (95fps). At the maximum quality settings at 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, the Vybe’s AvP score was playable (42fps) and Heaven was somewhat playable (37fps). With a little tweaking you should be able to fill a 24-inch monitor with beautiful HD vistas while stalking your prey on the game grid.

Both games on the Vybe were much smoother than on the Editors’ Choice for mainstream multimedia desktops, the Velocity Micro Vector Z25 ($999). What really remarkable is that the Vybe at $999 has an AvP maximum quality score that’s only a few FPS short of the $1,600 Digital Storm Bolt (45fps). That said, the Bolt was faster on every other test by a significant margin. In contrast, the Lenovo IdeaCentre K430 ($1,049) was left in the dust on all the 3D and multimedia tests, so the Vybe is a better bargain. The Velocity Micro Z25 traded blows with the Vybe on the multimedia tests, with neither system coming up as a distinct victor, but the Velocity Micro Z25 will hold on to its crown as the midrange desktop EC.

As a gaming rig, the Maingear Vybe shows much of the same spirit as its bigger brothers, the Maingear Shift and the Maingear Potenza Super Stock. And like its brothers, the Vybe shows its stuff on the game grid and comes out victorious compared to like-minded systems in its category. We therefore conclude that the Maingear Vybe is currently the system to get if you’re in the market for a starter hardcore gaming rig. As such, it’s our new Editors’ Choice for entry-level gaming desktop PCs.

BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Check out the test scores for the Maingear Vybe

COMPARISON TABLE
Compare the Maingear Vybe with several other desktops side by side.

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Specifications
Processor Family Intel Core i5
Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce GTX 640 Ti
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8
RAM 8 GB
Type Gaming
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 1000 GB
Secondary Optical Drive Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW

Verdict
With its fourth-generation Intel Core (Haswell) to Nvidia's GeForce GTX 650 Ti graphics. the Maingear Vybe gives us the best gaming performance among entry-level gaming desktops.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc