Paradigm SHIFT: MainGear's Unique Gaming Rig Tested - HotHardware

Paradigm SHIFT: MainGear's Unique Gaming Rig Tested

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When it comes to the business of building PCs, true innovation is hard to find. There are exceptions—HP had the Blackbird 002, Alienware designs its own enclosures, and there's always the Thermaltake Level 10—but most companies aren't willing to take the financial risk that's part and parcel of designing new and different products.

Fortunately, MainGear is. While they've not been around as long as Alienware or Falcon-Northwest, the company has six solid years of experience in building custom PCs. MainGear recently sent us a high-end system built around its unique SHIFT chassis. When it designed the SHIFT, with their chassis partner Silverstone, Maingear took a standard ATX configuration and literally turned it 90º. Add a hybrid aluminum/steel frame, custom detailing, and a cable mount system that turns what might've been a ghettoish kludge into a gorgeous surface, and you've got the SHIFT. It's a unique blend of style and practicality that manages to improve system thermals and look good doing it. Curious? So were we. Case dive after the specifications.

MainGear SHIFT Gaming PC
System Specifications

  • Core i7-980 X 6-Core Processor - 3.33GHz @ 4.2GHz
  • Asetek Liquid Cooling System
  • Asus P6X58D Premium
  • 6GB DDR3-1 System Memory
  • 1 x Crucial C300 128GB SSD
  • 1 x Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB HDD w/ 64MB cache
  • 2 x 1.5GB GeForce GTX 480 in SLI
  • 10X Dual Layer Blu-ray Disc  Burner (BD-RE, DVD±RW, CD-RW)
  • Silverstone 1200 Watt, multi-GPU Power Supply
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Base Price $2,399 - $5740 - as tested

The SHIFT's subdued styling and sleek brushed aluminum finish are similar to Corsair's 700/800D chassis, but the resemblance is only skin-deep. Both the interior and exterior of the SHIFT are uniquely designed to cut system noise and improve thermals in ways that other cases on the market can't.

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I really like the up flow heat pattern, but with silence thrown in the picture it complicates it. The CPU cooling is good, but if your going for silence, and your charging top dollar I am pretty sure liquid cooling on a mass scale (relative to how many PC's they build) would not add to much to there build cost. I would love to have a setup like this which was all liquid cooled (CPU/NB/SB/GPU) with memory as an option! Especially with the heat up flow (which heat does automatically as well) I am positive the results would be much better. I particularly like the GPU's exhausting up into the large top exhaust as all heat output automatically rises to an open out portal. This would seem to cool the whole system to a degree. With Liquid cooling thrown in you would have a very cool running stable set up all the way around! I like it, but feel it could be improved most definitely, but for the price that should be automatic I think!

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Sorry about the graph screwup--our CMS doesn't always like to actually update graphics images, even when new versions have been uploaded. Correct image is now shown.


You say: "when this is in fact a Silverstone FT02 with a different faceplate and an added compartment for the PSU." That's emphatically untrue, for a variety of reasons. The two cases are two different sizes and two different shapes. The front ports are different, the internal case layout is very different, the airflow design (and the location of the fan mounts / types of fans meant to be installed) are also different. The FT02 looks to reverse the standard ATX entry system (components are accessed through the right-side panel (facing the system) rather than the left), and in the FT02, the video cards lay near to the CD-ROM bays.

So yes, sure, they're just alike--except, of course, for being completely different. I've never seen an FT02, got nothing against the case (or Silverstone), but MainGear isn't selling rebadged FT02's or anything of the sort.



The CPU is water-cooled, albeit via a small all-in-one unit. I agree that it would be nice to see water-cooled GPUs. As for flowing water over the northbridge and southbridge, the southbridge is a flat waste--it never generates enough heat to need watercooling--and you probably only need to do the NB on boards meant for serious, serious overclocking.


The cheapest Shift starts at $1899. I'm not saying this is cheap by any means, nor am I implying you couldn't build something more powerful for the money, but MainGear does sell systems far below the $5800 price point. Also, if you check the "Test Setup" page, I discuss how the system's cost can be drastically cut from that $5800 point with a few simple substitutions--swapping for a quad-core Nehalem alone can save you $1000.

Rapid1 (Again):

You got an unpainted Xaser? Sounds like you got the deluxe version. ;) That case was.....yark. "Hideous" comes to mind.

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You are correct in saying that this is a radically redesigned chassis, I never disputed the fact that Maingear put in a lot of work into it's own interpretation, but it IS based on the Silverstone FT02. That's why I thought it's somewhat misleading to say that it was Maingear's idea to rotate the motherboard during their design phase and at the same time not mention the FT02 anywhere. If you look at the picture I attached, you can see that even the 5.25" bay locking mechanisms in the SHIFT still have Silverstone's logo on them.


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The thermal issues would keep me from buying one of these, if I was in the market for one. PC's do get dusty and it happens quickly too. This computer with some dust thrown into the mix may be useful as the grown-up version of the Betty Crocker Oven.

Quiet doesn't mean that much to me being almost deaf without my hearing aids, so If I had this box at hand, (I don't see it ever happening though) I would take steps to make it cooler with higher CFM rated fans to start with. (all of the system's fans) I would probably take the CPU cooler off and clean the surfaces, reapplying my own paste between the cooler and CPU. (just to ensure that it is done properly) And I would put higher rated CFM fans on the cooler's radiator too.

I really like my CoolerMaster Storm Sniper case's design and I wonder how it would change the dynamics of this reviews results.

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We don't have thermal issues with the SHIFT, period.  We've sold a ton of these since November and not one has had overheating issues.  None.

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The thermal issues would keep me from buying one of these...Quiet doesn't mean that much to me being almost deaf without my hearing aids...

If you could still hear normally (no disrespect intended) I think you'd come away with a different opinion. Under full load for long periods, the Origin Genesis sounds like a steam engine--or a bunch of belligerent drunken monkeys being thrown unwillingly into a trash compactor. It's CPU cores *still* get up to about 82'C if memory serves.

As Chris' post makes clear, he and I have different definitions of what constitutes a potential thermal issue. That said, the Shift we tested has no thermal issues (by my definition) when tested at stock speed *or* when tested at shipped speed with lower voltages. When you say "The thermal issues would keep me from buying one of these," I think you're honestly taking a single case and improperly generalizing it across a product line.


1) Peak power is a very synthetic test.

2)  In that test (at stock speeds, and with *two* Fermis), the CPU hit 81'C. We saw problems beginning at 95'C, Intel's own engineers confirmed that operation--even sustained operation--at 90-91'C is fine.

Since you can buy a Shift at stock speeds, with cooler-running GPUs, or with slower, cheaper, chips, there's no reason to believe the Shift (as a product series) has any sort of thermal issues.

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I think it's a bit unfair to say that

"When it designed the Shift, Maingear took a standard ATX configuration and literally turned it 90'"

when this is in fact a Silverstone FT02 with a different faceplate and an added compartment for the PSU. God knows I love Maingear's interpretation, but give credit where credit is due :)

Also, you say that there is six decibels of difference between SHIFT and Genesis, but the graph clearly shows 3 decibels difference (66 vs. 63)

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Kosta, we've edited the intro slightly to call out the fact that MainGear partnered with Silverstone to develop the case. Obviously MainGear isn't a chassis manufacturer but if we're splitting hairs, we might as well be accurate.

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Great review.

Sweet system, but OMG I would never pay that for a desktop PC. It seems like they gave you a showcar, but their real plan is to sell us the 4-cylinders that look the same. Which makes them pretty smart salesmen, I would say.

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Ouch - that's a pretty serious accusation.  We build and ship systems like this everyday.  Heck, this is tame.  We sell a lot of 3-way Fermi systems loaded down with a lot more hardware than this.


Chris Morley



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