Battle Of The Boutique Behemoths: iBuyPower Vs. Maingear PC

Maingear PC EPHEX

Maingear selected the Silverstone TJ10 ATX tower to represent its brand, with a more refined look that typically suits mature aesthetic tastes. Maingear offers fewer case styles than its competitor, all of which are semi-monolithic, but adds a wider variety of custom finish options. Windowed enclosures are also offered as a $99 option that includes internal lighting.

Behind the TJ10 case’s extruded aluminum door are a single DVD burner and a multi-format flash card drive. Spring-loaded hinge pins allow the door to swing from either side.

Inside we find a somewhat surprising selection of components, beginning with an Asus P6T motherboard that supports 3-way SLI (but with only four PCI Express (PCIe) 2.0 pathways on the third x16 slot). Maingear configures the system with a 3-way configuration of GeForce GTX 285 graphics cards, despite the reduced-bandwidth slot.

Another unusual choice is Silverstone’s DA1000 modular power supply, which is a unit we’ve been avoiding for supposed problems with its shared-connector PCIe leads. The GeForce GTX 285 is far more efficient than the card we’d previously considered for use with the DA1000, so Maingear's choice could be one we’ve simply overlooked.

Maingear's maintenance-free CPU cooler is custom produced by CoolIT Systems and shares several similar components with its Domino ALC (but has a larger radiator and no fancy LCD-equipped pump cover).

If Maingear is guilty of anything, it’s borderline overly-aggressive cable management. The DA1000 power supply’s spare cables are zipped together tightly (not a bad thing). And inside the case, the company used higher-quality latching SATA cables, even though the motherboard connectors don’t support the latches. Thus, the higher-quality cables don’t snap into the sockets as well as those supplied with the motherboard. Cable management putting form before function results in the optical drive cable getting pulled out of its socket during shipping, and the use of latching cables in an unlatched socket increases the likelihood of it popping out again.

Maingear supplies all its software and documentation in a custom-printed file folder. The EVGA graphics cards did not include free games, but at least we weren’t left wondering what happened to any second or third copies of those games.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • tacoslave
    what the hell Halo 2?
  • johnsmithvag
    What a stupid and pointless article. Thanks again for wasting my time. Really, i mean, if i wanted to see an add i'd just look slightly to the right.
  • sepuko
    Why do the systems have different video driver packages? You call that a fair comparison ?
  • jonbach
    Bravo for the editor's note on page 9. I'm downright excited to see CNET and Tom's Hardware giving attention to keeping system builders honest when it comes to system reviews. In addition, I do think that in the end, most consumers value a problem free process and fast, reliable support even more than they value a few percentage points performance gain (Or am I off base here? Please comment!).

    Yet that aspect of system builders is missed by the current review process. I'd love to see even more about the ordering and support process, but you're right that would require a "secret shopper" method.

    I can't speak for all boutique builders, but I bet you would find many of us extremely receptive to any ideas you may have on how we can help mitigate the costs of a secret shopper program in a way that preserves the fairness and anonymity of the review process.

    Jon Bach
    President - Puget Systems
  • speedone
    Halo 2 with Vista. i did not get Halo 2 when I bought Vista.
  • Crashman
    sepukoWhy do the systems have different video driver packages? You call that a fair comparison ?
    That's the way they shipped them, so it's the ONLY way to run a fair comparison: NO MODIFICATIONS.

    Also notice that the system with the newest drivers lost. We tried ripping out the newer drivers and putting in the older ones: a few benchmarks lost around 0.1-1.0 FPS with the "matching" drivers, but it really wasn't worth the time to finish retesting since it only made the worst-performing system perform slightly worse than it had when it first lost. An increased loss of less than 1% (average) is still a loss and the difference isn't noteworthy.
  • hustler539
    Wheres 1920 x 1200?
    Who buys a $4k+ system to game at 1024 x 768?
  • Crashman
    hustler539Wheres 1920 x 1200?Who buys a $4k+ system to game at 1024 x 768?
    Who buys a $4k system to game at 1920? The 2560 results are there.
  • ta152h
    They're ugly systems, as usual.

    If they are going to put in premium parts, why do they buy ugly cases to stick them in? When are PC makers going to put more attention into more attractive cases?

    $4,000 for an ugly brick. Whatever.
  • neiroatopelcc
    I like seeing a silverstone chassis in there. Nice to know they ain't just tossing all the nice stuff into an average garbage bin from antec or something (like we cost concious people do).