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MAINGEAR Shift System Review - Triple HD 7970s and Sandy Bridge-E

Author:
Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: MAINGEAR

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.  

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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.

Continue reading our review of the MAINGEAR Shift Triple HD 7970 Gaming Rig!!

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When you look at the back you can clearly see that the Shift is different - there are no external connections! 

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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. 

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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. 

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The back side of the case is clean with the MAINGEAR logo on the rear door.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

April 12, 2012 | 05:17 PM - Posted by Humanitarian

Wow, that's a lot of kit... And a lot of money...

April 12, 2012 | 05:22 PM - Posted by D1RTYD1Z619 (not verified)

Ah yes but can it make toast? That sir is the real question.

April 12, 2012 | 05:52 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Maybe on the back of the HD 7970...

April 17, 2012 | 03:56 PM - Posted by greg.j (not verified)

I think he really meant to ask... "But will it blend?"

April 12, 2012 | 06:04 PM - Posted by Mr_Hyde (not verified)

Did you have to use a 90 degree adapter on the dvi/hdmi out's? Is there enough room up there?

April 12, 2012 | 06:11 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The truth is those pricey systems represent 10% of the niche PC companies out there on sales. AKA AVA-Origin-Falcon-Pre Alienware and so on. The bulk of the sales for these companies are in the sub 2k range. Would be nice to see a review on this where most people are able to afford.

April 12, 2012 | 08:33 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I personally come here to poo and ahh over the the cutting edge hardware/equipment. I fear no matter how much they tried to spice us reviews of that 90% range of PCs would be rather bland reading as there would not be much differentiating them.

April 12, 2012 | 08:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

sorry for typo *blush*

ooo and ahh

April 12, 2012 | 08:30 PM - Posted by Chris Morley (not verified)

Hi, I'm MAINGEAR's CTO, and Mr. Anonymous above is absolutely wrong. Our ASPs are well above $2K. And direct discounters like AVA or Tier 1 OEMs like Alienware have distinctly different clients than MAINGEAR and Falcon.

April 13, 2012 | 01:49 AM - Posted by Nilbog

I think its nice to dream. I'm sure couldn't build a system that looked that nice, even if i did have the same parts. All the cables are nicely put away, you can actually tell that they cared while putting it together. Even if it is overpriced in my eyes.

April 13, 2012 | 02:55 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

There is no justification on this planet that would make me spend 6k on that machine when a company like yoyotech can build you the same thing which looks as pretty and as well put together and provide the same support for half that.
You would have to be a fool to pay for that.

April 13, 2012 | 12:01 PM - Posted by Chris Morley (not verified)

Hmmm, London-based yoyotech can't get the chassis, the cooler, or the audio engine, and they can't even build anything similar for $3K, so in what way is your post true again?

April 15, 2012 | 12:44 PM - Posted by James S. Conway (not verified)

Just curious. What is an honest break down of all the components included. Such as how much you charge for your custom chassis, cooler, and audio engine etc. (Which I gather does not work for external speakers-only for a microphone and headphones.) And, how much did it cost you to make it. Honestly. Including labor. I mean this with all due respect. You must forgive us for being reticent in regards to the price. It is completely understandable. Given that most of us could never justify paying more than six-thousand dollars for anything other than our cars, weddings, funerals, and children. This is just my two cents. Which doesn't amount to much, unless, you add up everyone else who pitches theirs in with mine. Meaning they all agree with me. Also. How on earth do you expect people to want to buy from you in the first place if all you do is bully them with statements such as this who were simply giving their honest opinion: "Hmmm, London-based yoyotech can't get the chassis, the cooler, or the audio engine, and they can't even build anything similar for $3K, so in what way is your post true again?" Take away your custom chassis, cooler, and audio engine. And yes. Anyone could build a system with the exact same specifications for nearly half as much. That is the honest truth. And do not even attempt to badger or berate me. It will not work except to further prove that "we" are right.

Sincerely,
James S. Conway

PS. No. I am not "Mr. Anonymous" I am simply someone who does not appreciate bullies of any kind. Rich or poor.

April 15, 2012 | 09:16 PM - Posted by Chris Morley (not verified)

I can't stand bullying either, especially those people who would denigrate the honest work of our staff who are keeping manufacturing and technical jobs here in the US instead of outsourcing. You could go to Newegg and not even come close to $3K for the exact same parts, those of which you would be able to find. And how would you like me to break out the tooling cost of our chassis, or NRE for the Audio Engine? Or MOQ for the 180MM cooler? How would you like me to amortize that? Over the lifespan of the product? Over 100, 200, 300 pcs? What about the marketing it takes to advertise the product to even sell that many? The overhead to produce it? The salaries, the insurance, the utilities, etc to pump these out every day? I'm not going to put exact numbers out there for our competition to read, but you quite clearly are not looking at the whole picture.

April 16, 2012 | 09:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I am most interested in purchasing the case only. Options for 90 degree shifted mainboard cases are lacking currently.

April 16, 2012 | 12:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'd like to see a comparison on PCPER site without bias on a sub 2k system. That's where you will see the competitors scream. At high end systems we all know what's out there without reinventing the wheel or having cooler master or creative labs try and rebrand a product to have your company logo on it. But a lower end system that's where margins are real real slim. All of the niche markets out there have sub system.

April 17, 2012 | 04:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

You must be out of your fucking mind if you think this is in any way a high end system. Air Cooling on 3x 7970s that are in adjacent slots? Really? Wow.... Ghetto fabulous, if that's what 6 grand gets you at Maingear these days.

April 17, 2012 | 04:47 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Oh hey, a troll! Hello, troll!

April 20, 2012 | 12:24 AM - Posted by ThorAxe

Sure I could build one for a fair bit cheaper but it wouldn't look nearly as cool on the inside.

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