MAINGEAR Shift System Review - Triple HD 7970s and Sandy Bridge-E
Introduction and Exterior
When we do system reviews at PC Perspective we tend to look for some specific feature, or some unique asset, that the builder has to provide value to the consumer and potential customer. I have seen systems that provided a great cost value, ones that offer an extremely quiet experience, some that are in a small form factor, etc. Our review of the MAINGEAR Shift custom machine is here due simply to an impressive collection of hardware.
While you can grab a Shift PC starting under $2000, ours isn't going to come anywhere near that. In fact, as of this writing, the configuration we are detailing would run you about $6,200. Why? Take a look at the specifications:
- Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E
- 16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866
- ASUS Rampage IV Extreme X79 Motherboard
- 3 x Radeon HD 7970 3GB Graphics Cards
- 2 x Corsair Force GT 120GB SSDs (RAID-0)
- 1TB Western Digital 7200 RPM HDD
- Corsair AX1200 watt power supply
- MAINGEAR Epic 180 water cooler
- MAINGEAR Epic Audio system
- Fancy White LEDs
So with a Sandy Bridge-E processor, 16GB of memory, three HD 7970s running in CrossFireX and Corsair SSDs running in a RAID-0 array, this is one of the fastest gaming PCs you can purchase today.
A Look at the Shift
The specifications are just part of the story though; MAINGEAR is well known for building a high quality machine with attention to detail and continues to push forward with unique ideas like a vertical system design (first system builder to introduce it), custom 180mm water coolers and even in-house thermal interfaces.
While MAINGEAR does offer systems in a variety of colors, our system uses the basic brushed black aluminum. The window on the side panel is another option that was included on our demo rig.
When you look at the back you can clearly see that the Shift is different - there are no external connections!
Here at the top of you case you can see where all of those connections have moved to, thanks to the 90 degree rotation that the Shift chassis uses.
The power supply is bottom mounted but recessed a bit inside the case which does a good job of hiding it from view. The total result is a case design that is big but looks self-contained and clean.
The back side of the case is clean with the MAINGEAR logo on the rear door.
On the top of the case you find a pop up section that includes memory card readers, audio output and input, Firewire and two USB 2.0 ports.
Inside the door you'll find the optical drive as well as a unique feature called MAINGEAR EPIC Audio. This feature is a new audio processing engine that improves audio quality in a completely passive fashion. The front panel header actually connects to the EPIC Audio device and then outputs to the top output headphones port - the feature is not in use when you connect speakers to the back of the system.
While the judging of this audio improvement is completely subjective, my time with the EPIC Audio add-on was very pleasant and turning on the device lowered lows and raised highs and just in general sounds "better". From MAINGEAR's site:
By leveraging Aphex’s studio-grade processing technology in a custom designed solution intended for PCs, headphone audio output and microphone input will be unmatched by any solution in the industry. This unique technology harmonically brings audio to life without adding gain to deliver audio that’s more balanced, more articulated, and simply put, better sounding.
The Shift case is raised off the floor by more than an inch to allow for better airflow in at the power supply intake fan and should help keep dust from getting in your new rig.
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