Many enthusiasts generally prefer to roll their own rigs, but when it comes to notebooks, the notion of building a system from scratch becomes less practical and appealing. Things tend to get expensive, your build options aren't as robust as they are with desktops, and working in tight quarters will test your patience. That's where system builders come in, and you have three primary types to choose from: large OEMs like Dell and HP, smaller integrators and resellers that specialize in bang-for-buck setups, and custom gaming boutiques like Maingear, that prefer to push the pedal to the metal in order to differentiate.
We recently had a chance to meet with Maingear in person and tour the company's build facility (video below), and one thing was immediately apparent: these guys are enthusiasts just like us. So, when Maingear offered to send us what they claim is the fastest 15-inch notebook on the planet, we rounded up our gauntlet of benchmarks and told them to "bring it on."
Maingear sent us their revamped eX-L 15. This particular model was actually reintroduced back in late January of this year, but like every other OEM, was caught off guard by a early flaw in Intel's 6-series chipset. Now sporting a revised board with errata-free silicon, the upgraded eX-L 15 arrived at our doorstep equipped with an Intel Sandy Bridge processor and the fastest mobile graphics chip Nvidia currently offers, the GeForce GTX 485M. Let's see if MainGear can make good their claims of the fastest 15-inch notebook we've ever tested.
HotHardware's Maingear Factory Tour with CEO Wallace Santos
One glance at the spec sheet reveals that this isn't your roommate's Walmart special, not unless they fancy themselves a fragger more interested in DirectX 11 gaming, rather than looking up recipes and firing off emails. We already mentioned the eX-L 15's CPU and GPU foundation, but on top of that, this portable replacement for your gaming desktop features a generous 8GB of fast DDR3-1333 memory, a hybrid hard drive with 32MB of cache and 4GB of solid state SLC NAND flash storage for faster access times and all the connectivity options you could hope for.
On the following pages, we'll review this system as it came configured, though note that you can customize the eX-L 15 based on your own budget and performance requirements.