MAINGEAR VYBE Gaming PC Review: Prebuilt Powerhouse
A Prebuilt With a High-Performance VYBE
You probably know MAINGEAR already, but if you don’t they are what is known as a system integrator, and they cater to the gaming market. A visit to the “about” page reveals that MAINGEAR was founded in 2002, and they remain a private, self-funded company with a focus on high-performance custom PCs.
If you follow the company on social media you’ll be used to incredible custom build photos like the one below, but don’t expect fancy hardline liquid cooling in this review as the VYBE systems are the most affordable option in the product stack (with the flagship RUSH systems at the top).
Believe it or not, affordable is the key word when looking at the VYBE systems. Even if you are a die-hard DIY enthusiast, if you look at this lineup I think you’ll agree that these are perfectly reasonable prices for systems in the 2021 component landscape:
A visit to MAINGEAR’s VYBE product page offers an overview of pre-configured systems starting at $1699, and custom builds starting at $1710. And the basic build is quite good, with the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition card paired with an AMD Ryzen 5 5600X, 16GB of 3600MHz DDR4 memory, a 512GB Intel 660p NVMe SSD, and a 1TB HDD. That is a fantastic $1699 system in this market.
And before leaving a comment about how DIY is still cheaper just consider that you cannot actually BUY a 3060 Ti outside of a system right now (eBay scalpers notwithstanding). I’m writing this in early July, and here in the USA there are zero listings on Amazon or Newegg for any RTX 3060 Ti outside of inflated third-party sellers. But you already knew that if you’ve been considering an upgrade.
The MAINGEAR VYBE
Having established that MAINGEAR is not taking advantage of the component situation and is actually pricing these pre-built VYBE systems competitively given the configurations available, we will move up the product stack to explore our review loaner – a powerful custom configuration that packs some very impressive specs.
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X
- Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Hero (Wi-Fi)
- Memory: 32GB (8GBx4) HyperX Fury RGB DDR4-3600
- 1TB Seagate Firecuda 520 PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD
- 4TB Seagate Barracuda Desktop HDD
- Power Supply: EVGA 850W SuperNOVA P2
There is no doubt that a system powered by this Ryzen 9 5950X / RTX 3080 duo is going to handle anything you throw at it, and quality components like the ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Hero motherboard and EVGA SuperNova P2 power supply place this into premium build territory. I also appreciate that this system is configured with DDR4-3600 memory, giving the Ryzen processor a faster 1800 MHz FCLK (not to mention the potential advantages of rank interleaving from the 4x8GB DIMMs).
System Tour: Exterior
Looking at the exterior first, the VYBE arrives in a rather subdued mid-tower enclosure. The main points of interest are the RGB-lighted MAINGEAR logo on the solid front panel, and of course the tempered glass side panel to show off the build within.
Case I/O is actually on the side, and if you don’t like top-mounted I/O this should make you happy (I’m talking to you, cat owners). The top of the case features a large vent for the CPU cooler’s radiator, and we also have the usual bottom PSU intake and rear exhaust fan locations. The enclosure incorporates vents on one side of the otherwise solid front panel to feed the two intake fans.
I would love to see a larger front intake (or for the industry to move away from these solid front panels entirely), but maybe the system won’t be so dependent on this front intake for good cooling with this mix of components.
System Tour: Interior
Now we get to the “good stuff”. Those top-shelf retail components, skillfully installed so that you don’t have to.
Nothing much to say about this build, other than to point out that clearly attention has been paid to the cable management to keep this as clean as possible.
I think the interior would “pop” more with RGB case fans, but the AiO does have lighted fans so the interior is partially illuminated. I would like to see a “MAINGEAR” logo on the AiO pump, rather than the Cooler Master name being so prominent, but these are aesthetic preferences that you may not agree with.
Overall the build is very, very tidy. Cables are tightly bundled and zip-tied, and everything was in place when I took the system out of the box and removed the packing materials (the use of extra shipping foam inside the system chamber clearly worked as intended).
As I write this, when configuring this system on the MAINGEAR site I have a total cost of $4330, substituting a Samsung 980 PRO for the FireCuda 520 (not currently an option). I don’t want to make this entire review about cost, and very few people have over $4000 to spend on a PC, but this isn’t a bad price for a “boutique” system right now.
My only other experience with a system integrator has been Falcon Northwest, specifically with the Talon I reviewed last year. I as write this a Talon with as close a build to this as possible runs $4687 – though this higher price includes (among other things) ARGB case fans; something that adds a whopping $200 to the price of the VYBE. (Seriously, why are the RGB fans so expensive?) There is also a $125 premium for MAINGEAR’s ARGB AIO, but this is a significantly larger 360 mm cooler that should offer better performance, too.
In fact, the RGB fan upgrade pushes the VYBE quite close in cost to a Talon with these components; after configuring a VYBE with the RGB fan upgrade, bumping up the warranty to 3 years, and moving up to Windows 10 Pro to match a Falcon Northwest Talon config, the VYBE is $4439. This still ends up being $248 less than the Talon at the $4687 quoted above, but VYBE systems are probably more appealing as we move closer to the “entry-level” options further down the stack (MAINGEAR has significantly higher-end product lines than VYBE, after all).
Since the components within the VYBE are “off-the-shelf” parts rather than OEM-specific models, we shouldn’t see different stock performance compared to a DIY build beyond sample-to-sample variance. Thus, the enclosure’s airflow and choice of CPU cooler will be the biggest determining factor in the VYBE’s performance.
With this thermally-minded approach, we first look at a couple of results with the fans at their default settings – which favor low noise – and all panels in place. Here’s what I was able to achieve:
- Cinebench R20 (all-core): 9523
- 3DMark Time Spy Extreme
- Graphics Score: 8564
- CPU Score: 8567
I will stop here, since the above results seem low for a system with these specs. In fairness, I hadn’t been able to test out the monstrous 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X until this point, so I relied on reviews from other outlets to see what I could expect going in. Not everyone tests with the same configuration, naturally, and Ryzen CPUs are quite sensitive to memory speeds and timings, so these results will just have to stand on their own.
Here are the same tests, performed with the same settings, but with the front panel of the VYBE removed:
- Cinebench R20 (all-core): 9598
- 3DMark Time Spy Extreme
- Graphics Score: 8551
- CPU Score: 8673
First we see that Cinebench goes up by 75 points with no other changes made, and while the Time Spy Extreme graphics score does not improve the CPU score is more than 100 points higher.
Removing the front panel clearly has an impact on airflow with any solid-front case, and I suspected that the system’s 240 mm AiO cooler might not be getting enough intake air. A top-mounted cooler like this also becomes an integral part of the enclosure’s cooling system as it ends up exhausting warm air from the RTX 3080 FE’s upward facing rear fan, as well.
I won’t belabor this, but here are a couple of graphs to quickly illustrate the difference in CPU performance with the front panel off vs. on (enlarged to show detail):
The difference is pretty subtle (hence the need to alter the scale so much), but it’s there. I have to say, this CPU is really sensitive about thermals! (Feel free to tell me I wasn’t optimizing it correctly in the comments.)
As I mentioned above, MAINGEAR offers a 360 mm cooler as a $125 upgrade, and here I think it would be required to get the most from these components. To test if thermals were holding back performance beyond the fairly small gains I saw from the front panel tests, I removed the glass side panel and upper mesh panel as well, and cranked all fans to 100%.
Here are the first two results, repeating the above and with the exact same settings (other than fan speeds):
- Cinebench R20 (all-core): 9840
- 3DMark Time Spy Extreme
- Graphics Score: 8630
- CPU Score: 8957
This is a huge improvement for the Ryzen 9 5950X, which now sees a Cinebench R20 score of 9840 – a gain of some 242 points. Additionally, the 16-core Ryzen 9 performed much better in the 3DMark CPU test, jumping up from 8673 to 8957 – a gain of 284 points.
I ended up re-testing everything with the side panels removed and the fans at 100%, particularly as I had never been able to benchmark a Ryzen 9 5950X before now. During that process I noted that performance is (obviously) great from this VYBE system’s components. The apparently thermally-limited CPU performance with the default configuration was my only complaint.
Some additional numbers, just for the heck of it:
- Blender 2.82a – Classroom (CPU cycles render): 4 min, 28 sec
- 3DMark CPU Profile:
- Max threads: 11921
- 1-thread: 966
- Geekbench 5.1
- Single Core Score: 1647
- Multi-Core Score: 16282
- 7-zip 19.00 64-bit
- Compression: 132853 MIPS
- Decompression: 207007 MIPS
Special mention here to the OS drive – a Seagate FireCuda 520. I was able to test a pair of these in RAID-0 in the Talon review last year, but even a single drive is no slouch, either, with sequential (QD8) reads hitting over 5000 MB/s, writes of nearly 4300 MB/s, and 4K random (QD32) speeds of 442 MB/s read, 293 MB/s write at CrystalDiskMark defaults.
We are well into the second year of PC component shortages, and, while some are optimistic, there is no immediate relief in sight. And, outside of occasional in-person sales for those lucky enough to be in the right Microcenter or Best Buy at the right time (or after standing in line all night), it’s impossible to buy a high-end graphics card. Thus, you pretty much HAVE to buy a prebuilt system if you need a GPU.
This review was written with the DIY segment in mind, but this doesn’t mean your back has to be against the wall to order from MAINGEAR. The VYBE is a well-built system using all retail components, so you don’t have to feel like you compromised at all. No green PCBs or OEM-specific part numbers here.
The only thing I didn’t love about this build was the cooling, and here I have to think that opting for MAINGEAR’s custom 360 mm liquid cooler may have taken care of it – though with better airflow the Cooler Master 240 mm AiO in this system is adequate. I’ll be honest here: if I had purchased this system, the first thing I’d do is put it into another case. Yes, context matters, and I get that VYBE is MAINGEAR’s entry-level system, but when you upgrade it this far airflow becomes a lot more important than it would with less demanding components.
My case-centric comments aside, I still think MAINGEAR’s VYBE line can offer an outstanding experience for a competitive price, particularly down closer to the base $1699 range, where it is one of the better deals going for a prebuilt system with a midrange CPU/GPU combo. And yes, again, I get it if you always build your own or DIY tryin’, but there is no denyin’ that you just don’t have much of a choice as a builder right now. (I think I just wrote part of a country song.)
The MAINGEAR VYBE we received is a configuration that is probably a bit unrealistic, if for no other reason than the build cost exceeds the starting cost of a MAINGEAR system like the F131 with open-loop cooling ($4092 and up). My point is, if you have $4300+ to spend on a PC, spend $5000 and get one with the fancy custom cooling. You’d probably regret it if you didn’t. I would, anyway.
This is what we consider the responsible disclosure of our review policies and procedures.
How Product Was Obtained
The product was on loan from MAINGEAR for the purpose of this review.
What Happens To Product After Review
The product is being returned to MAINGEAR.
MAINGEAR had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.
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