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

Paradigm SHIFT: MainGear's Unique Gaming Rig Tested

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We've used high-resolution stock photos for the exterior shots on this page; MainGear's own images capture the SHIFT's visual appeal quite well. For component shots and authentic HotHardware photos shot by yours truly, skip ahead to the next page.
 
     
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If you're a fan of minimalism, you'll like the SHIFT—with the top grate installed the enclosure has a futuristic, relatively seamless look. The various air intakes and the PSU's vent space are all beveled and integrated into the chassis, without the need for screws, slides, or bolts to hold the grates in place.

   
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Here we've got the system from the rear and a shot of the "top" ports with a motherboard installed. Visually, the top of the SHIFT looks more-or-less like the back of any other ATX system you've ever used. MainGear didn't cut any corners when they rotated the motherboard 90'; all of the standard back plates and card slots are available. A metal grate normally covers this section of the case; we'll discuss it (and a few caveats to be aware of) on the next page.

The power supply is virtually invisible when fully installed—while there are obviously a few cables that run from the top of the machine when peripherals are installed, the rear of the case is marred by just one power cable; it might even be possible for an enterprising enthusiast to run the power cable underneath the machine, up through a self-cut port, and into the back of the system with no one the wiser.* Add a wireless keyboard, mouse, and 802.11n card, and the monitor cable would be the only visible cord.

 

Here's a close-up on the power supply and top (front) ports. Beyond the front ports and somewhat out-of-focus is the top grate that covers the various peripheral connects and DVI ports. The top panel can be closed when not in use, supports all of the major memory card standards, and sports two USB 2 ports, a FireWire 400 (1394a) port, and three audio jacks, all of which are configurable in software. Personally, we would've preferred to see at least one more front USB connection over the FireWire or one of the audio jacks. That said, having all the motherboard plugs at the top of the system should make it easier to reach back and insert a device as opposed to crawling under the desk or pulling the system out.

The SHIFT doesn't have any idiot lights to speak of—there's a green light (power) and a yellow light (data access) to the left of the memory card slots, but the system is dark otherwise. After 5-6 years of PCs that could double as landing strip beacons, the lack of cerulean fire pouring out of a thrice-damned side panel is a relief.

*Note: Don't try this at home. We're not even trying it at work. We suggest a conversation with MainGear and/or quite a bit of experience in case modding before carving holes in a custom-built enclosure.

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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.

Kosta,

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.

 

Rapid,

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.

3vi1,


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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Joel,

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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@realneil-

 

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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RealNeil,

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.

Remember:

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

CTO

MAINGEAR

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