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Maingear eX-L 15 Notebook Review: All Dressed Up and Ready to Game

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Maingear

Introduction and Design

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Viewed from a bird’s eye, gaming laptops seem to be a homogenous bunch. Although there are rare exceptions like the Alienware M11x, most are 15.6” or 17” models with quad-core processors and discrete mobile graphics, most frequently the Nvidia GTX 460M. The two gaming laptops we’ve most recently reviewed, the ASUS G53 and MSI GT680R, most certainly fit into this mold. 

Upon closer inspection, however, the market for gaming laptops begins to expand and multiply into a wide array of options. While the big players like ASUS, Toshiba and MSI are happy to offer their pre-configured models with roughly similar hardware, customized rigs are as numerous as stars in the sky. Everyone has heard of Alienware, of course, but you may not have heard of companies like Origin, Falcon Northwest, AVADirect, AFactor Gaming, Malibal, Digital Storm and Maingear, just to name a few (or if you have, you may have only heard of their desktops). 

Maingear’s eX-L15 is a stereotypical example of a custom gaming laptop. It’s big and it’s bulky, but its appearance is not much different from your average laptop. Inside, however, there is a buffet of high-end hardware.

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The review model represents an upgraded variant. The Maingear eX-L15 is configured with a Core i5-2520 and GTX 460M by default, and when so equipped is priced at $1,550, which is more than the pre-configured options but competitive with other custom laptops. When upgraded to the tested specifications the price shoots up to $2,377. That makes the Maingear eX-L15 the most expensive laptop PC Perspective has reviewed, but this price tag is rather modest for a customized portable gaming rig.

Usually spending that much cash entitles the buyer to some luxury, however – can a small company like Maingear provide a laptop that feels worth the price of entry?

Design

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In a word, Maingear’s eX-L15 is monolithic. Like the ASUS G53, the eX-L15 takes an extremely conservative approach to design, forgoing even the slightest hint of LED accents or exuberant paintjobs in favor of a simple matte finish. The eX-L15 takes this aesthetic even further, however, by not even indulging in character lines. This laptop would not look out of place protruding from the ruins of an ancient alien civilization. While this might be labeled as boring by some, I find that the no-nonsense aesthetic gives the eX-L15 a formidable, even intimidating stance. 

Plastic is the material of choice here, but not all plastics are the same. Those used on the Maingear eX-L15 are given a soft-touch coating on the lid and most of the interior, resulting in a pleasant, almost leathery texture. The only glossy plastic on the entire laptop can be found surrounding the display bezel, but the bezel itself is thin. Even die-hard matte finish fans should be able to tolerate it. 

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Once open, the Maingear eX-L15 reveals a dull but formidable interior. Maingear, unlike many other laptop companies, doesn’t engage in the practice of adorning their laptops with a million stickers – the only two to be found are small silver badges that blend in well enough.  A sound bar can be found across the top of the keyboard, surrounded on both sides by blue indicator LEDs and a power button on the left. These indicators glow a dull blue that’s a bit hard to see in a bright setting, but the advantage of this dim lighting is a lack of distraction while gaming in a dark environment.

Build quality can only be described as robust. Although actually lighter than many competing 15.6” gaming laptops, the Maingear eX-L15 feels like a brick. Holding the laptop up from any one side resulted in absolutely no groans of protest from the laptop’s plastic, an indication that the chassis is rigid. The easily removed battery is located at the front right side of the laptop, and most internal components can be accessed by removing two service panels. These are held in by screws and aren’t difficult to open once the screws are removed.

 

May 26, 2011 | 05:26 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Don't put it in the cedar, you will scratch it! Amazing laptops like this deserve the best of care! :)

July 5, 2011 | 04:58 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

Don't worry, I put down a cloth when I take these photos on rough surfaces. You just can't see it.

May 27, 2011 | 08:30 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If you need an kick-ass, jaw-dropping mobile gaming powerhouse and you can afford a lappy from Maingear, then take your money and get an Origin laptop.

Simples.

June 2, 2011 | 09:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I smell envy.

June 6, 2011 | 11:54 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Why? Maingear has a proven track record, wins awards, and has great customer service according to Reseller Ratings and the BBB. Are you a jealous competitor?

July 5, 2011 | 05:11 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

The Origin EON15-S actually uses the same chassis as the Maingear eX-L 15.

June 1, 2011 | 10:37 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

laptop gaming sucks! While intriguing it's not where it needs to be, (Graphics look off, battery life, esthetics, smallish screen) especially with those glossy screens, yuck.

June 14, 2011 | 03:35 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

then why u even bother coming here ?? yuck !!

May 7, 2012 | 05:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Sorry for being late for the party, but I'd like to add a comment. Anyways...

This laptop looks really amazing. My father bought this model, and he loves it, so I decided to do the same. I've ordered it a little while ago and it should arrive in a few days. I got the same model, but the SuperStock version, which adds a back-lit keyboard, support for Extreme Edition Intel chips, and the GeForce GTX 675M instead of the current 670M. The laptop I'm getting has the following specs:
- 4-core (8-thread) Intel Core i7-2670QM w/ 6MB L3 cache and clocked @ 2.4GHz (up to 3.5 Turbo)
- 16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3 RAM @ 1660MHz, 1.5V
- GeForce GTX 675M GPU with 2.0GB GDDR5 VRAM
- 750GB Seagate Momentus XT 7200 RPM hybrid SSD (32GB SSD for faster access of commonly used files) hard drive
- 6x Blu-Ray reader/burner and 8x Super Multi Combo drive
- Bigfoot Networks Killer Wireless-N Ultimate Wireless Network Accelerator
- 3 year hardware warranty and lifetime Angelic Services Labor and Phone Support

I also got some free stuff included as well, including three games (Batman Arkham City, Battlefield 3, and Just Cause 2), a "Premium Portable Laptop Stand", and a shirt. The custom builder also decided to add in a Blu-Ray burner for FREE because this is the third computer my family bought from this company (it's not a policy of theirs to give free disk burners after buying a certain amount of laptops, the builder just decided to do it to be kind).

The version I'm getting is even more powerful than the one tested in this review, so I can't imagine how powerful it is going to be! I'm psyched!

Amazing review by-the-way. It's probably the most helpful one I've found.

January 10, 2013 | 01:28 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Maingear EX-L 15 is different from other Ivy Bridge laptops. Features provide are 1080p full HD screen, Keyboard have island styled buttons, backlighting on the keyboard, woofer is deeper and louder, Core i5-2520M second generation processor and Nvidia GeForce GT 670 M chip.http://www.techiecop.com/laptops/maingear/maingear-ex-l-15.html

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