One of the advantages to owning a custom PC from a boutique builder is the meticulous attention to detail. Tight cable management is not just a perk, it is an expectation when paying a premium for a boutique shop to assemble your rig with off-the-shelf components, and having to wait a bit longer compared to buying from a bulk OEM is an inherent trade off. Or is it? Maingear
, a stalwart in the boutique space, would argue otherwise.
Maingear Vybe At PAX East 2019 - AMD Ryzen Edition
Earlier this month at PAX East, Maingear announced what it is calling the Vybe Enthusiast Platform
. You might already be familiar with the Vybe name -- it is the least expensive line of desktop PCs in Maingear's stable, with prices starting at an affordable $699, albeit for a setup with integrated graphics. Higher-end configurations are available too, with discrete GPU options starting at $1,049. That's still a sane price to pay for gaming PC.
So what's with the Vybe Enthusiast Platform? Well, the Vybe has morphed from a singular line of custom PCs to wider array of purchasing options. As with before, buyers can hop onto Maingear's website and pick out a set of components, and if going that route, prices start at $899. New to the Vybe (and Maingear as a whole), however, is a second option -- pre-configured systems that are already built and ready to ship within 2 business days of ordering.
There's also a third option called Vybe DIY, which is a fancy way of saying you can buy the custom case Maingear uses for its Vybe PCs, sans components. There are two versions, one with an acrylic side window for $75, and one with a tempered side glass window for $119. Buyers can also add one of Maingear's liquid cooling loops when buying just the case.
What we have in for review is one of the ready-to-ship Vybe PCs. This is the highest end "Stage 4" configuration, priced at $2,499. It comes loaded with Intel's
9th generation Core i9-9900K
processor nestled into an MSI Z390 A-Pro motherboard, paired with 16GB of DDR4 memory, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080
graphics card, and a 512GB Intel 660p M.2 NVMe SSD
+ 2TB Seagate Barracuda HDD.
Before we go any further, let's have a look at the full spec sheet...
|Maingear Vybe Stage 4 - 2019 Model
Specifications & Features
||Windows 10 Home 64-Bit
||Intel Core i9-9900K (8-Cores/16-Threads, 16MB Cache, 3.6GHz to 5.0GHz)
||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 w/ 8GB GDDR6
||16GB HyperX Fury DDR4-3466 MHz (2x8GB)
||512GB Intel 660p M.2 NVMe SSD
2TB Seagate Barracuda HDD (256MB Cache, 7,200 RPM)
||Maingear Epic 240 Supercooler (240mm All-In-One Liquid Cooler)
802.11n TP-Link USB Wi-Fi Adapter
|Front Panel Ports
||3 x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1 x USB-C, 3.5mm Microphone, 3.5mm Headphone
|Rear Panel Ports
||2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x Gigabyte LAN (Intel I219-V), Onboard Audio, Various Display Outputs
||750W EVGA B3 80 Plus Bronze
||18.6 x 8.7 x 17.9 inches (HxWxD)
||45 lbs (Average)
||1 Y Hardware Warranty, Lifetime Labor and Phone Support
||$2,499 as Configured (Stage 4), Starts at $699 (Stage 1)
Since these systems are assembled and ready to ship, there is not much flexibility in the component selection. For example, on the Stage 4 configuration, there is a $249 "Boost" option that doubles the RAM to 32GB and bumps the SSD storage drive to a 1TB model. Beyond those core upgrades, the only additions available are external accessories. That's to say there is no option to upgrade or downgrade the graphics card or go with a different CPU. To change the core makeup of the Vybe, a buyer would either have to select a different "Stage" configuration, or utilize the completely custom option (i.e., not already assembled and ready to ship).
That is a totally fair way of approaching this, because the ready-to-ship PCs are not replacing the customizable configuration option, they are supplementing
it. From our vantage point, it's smart timing on Maingear's part too -- PC gaming is not only alive and well, it is thriving with a growing esports category. Streaming has taken off as well, to the point where a 14-year-old can pull in $200,000 per year on YouTube
by playing Fortnite. That sure beats having a newspaper route!
Our question is (and probably yours as well), can a ready-to-ship system maintain the high quality standards that we have come to expect from the boutique category, and for which Maingear has spent over a decade-and-a-half building a reputation in? Let's have a look...