|Introduction and Specifications|
|Although the market for them is relatively small, we love to check out elaborate, no-holds-barred gaming PCs from time to time--you know, the kind of system that costs about the same amount as a serviceable used car. As fun as it is to check out an ultra high-end gaming rig, we also do it to gauge the user experience and to see just how much better it is (or isn't) versus a mainstream PC. But how great is the experience, really? The answer needs to be darn near perfection, because – let’s face it – a midrange gaming desktop is going to give you a pretty solid gaming experience (and look good doing it) without inflicting nearly the same damage to your wallet. Though the phrase “experience” has been driven to an industry cliché by PR types, it’s an apt description of what you’re looking for when you size up a top shelf, custom rig. It should be the computer you remember when you’re geeking out with your buddies years from now. With its $6k price tag, Maingear’s EPIC RUSH series is meant to do just that.
The EPIC RUSH oozes style and we’ll cover that on the next page, but for now, let’s take a look at the guts. You know what they say: no guts, no… high-end gaming performance.
Intel’s Core i7-4770K is a popular processor for system builders these days. We’ve already seen the Haswell chip in systems from CyberPower, Digital Storm, and Falcon Northwest since it landed in June. The chip is cooled by an EK Supremacy water block that bears Maingear’s logo.
The liquid cooling system also handles the EPIC RUSH’s two AMD Radeon R9 290X video cards, which are some serious graphics beasts. As you’ll see, that CPU/GPU combo made for noteworthy performance in our benchmarks and really crushed recently-reviewed systems in a few of them.
Maingear opted for 16GB of Corsair Dominator Platinum memory in the form of four 4GB DIMMS, which max out the slots (though not the capacity) of the Asus Maximus VI Gene motherboard. On the storage side of things, the EPIC RUSH has as much capacity as you’re likely to need and then some: a striped array of two 250GB Samsung 840 EVO SSDs for keeping Windows 8.1 64-bit snappy, and a 4TB Seagate hard drive to store your games and whatnot. Interestingly, you could double your SSD space for another $442, which isn’t likely to be a deal-breaker if you’re shopping in this overall price range.
Powering this beast is a 1200-watt Corsair AX1200i power supply certified at 80 Plus Platinum (the second-highest 80 Plus rating). Our test system also included a Mad Catz Cyborg V5 keyboard and Logitech Gaming Mouse G500 that match the system’s paint job. That’s right: the keyboard and mouse are painted too.
Systems in this price range typically have solid warranties, and the EPIC RUSH certainly does: a two year comprehensive warranty is backed up by lifetime labor and phone support. Maingear is also running a deal right now in which it tacks an extra year onto the warranty for free. What makes Maingear’s tech support stand out is that the tech who built your system is usually the person to help you with troubleshooting, so he or she is very familiar with your particular PC.
|Design and Layout|
|The Maingear EPIC RUSH isn’t a particularly large system – in fact, it’s just under 18 inches tall, nearly 10 inches shorter than Maingear’s other EPIC PC – but its size doesn't stop it from being an intimidating rig. Maingear used Glasurit automotive paint to give the Corsair Obsidion 350D chassis a shiny, bright white coat, and then applied the same paint job to the keyboard and mouse, making for an eye-catching, classy system.
The large side-panel window provides a clear look at the EPIC RUSH’s interior, which is full, but not cramped. The liquid cooling system includes front and back radiators, complete with Maingear’s logo and name. The radiator fans provide airflow for the system, as do a couple large fans at the top. It’s a good setup, airflow-wise, but it can be even better: just pop the front panel off and your front fans are unobstructed.
Maingear has a long history of clever cable routing and those skills are on display in the EPIC RUSH. The Obsidion 350D chassis has some room behind the motherboard (by the non-window side panel) and so most of the cables are safely out of sight; those that do appear in the system are custom-sleeved and bound with multiple ties.
One of the things we like about Maingear systems is that they are generally fairly easy to upgrade. That’s mostly true of the EPIC RUSH. Obviously, the liquid cooling system means you can’t swap graphics cards as easily as you would in an air-cooled rig, but the memory isn’t difficult to reach. The SSDs are close to the side panel, too, and removing the power supply would be a straightforward process. The only complaint you’re likely to have about the system’s upgradability is space for adding additional hard drives – the reservoir and radiators eat up most of the front of the system.
The EPIC RUSH sports three USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port on the front panel, along with mic and headphone jacks. A Blu-ray burner and the liquid reservoir take up the system’s only front external drive spots. In back, there are loads of USB ports and plenty of DVI, HDMI, and Display Ports for you multi-monitor types.
When it comes to extras, the system is free of unnecessary junk – both in Windows and in the box. Maingear makes a point of sending systems without bloatware, so cleaning up your system on arrival isn’t an issue. As far as physical extras, the system has just the right stuff: a sturdy binder with setup and troubleshooting info, related graphics port adapters, and a branded mouse pad. And although the first time you see the EPIC RUSH’s box will likely be the last, it’s worth noting that the packaging is built to be reusable. If you need to ship the system again, you should be able to pack it up for as safe a trip as it had on its way to your door.
|SiSoft SANDRA and Cinebench|
|Next, we ran the EPIC Rush through SiSoft SANDRA and Cinebench. The SiSoft suite offers as a range of diagnostic and system utilities, including several benchmarks. These tests are designed to test particular components, including the processor, memory, graphics card, and the computer's main storage device.
Not surprisingly, the Maingear EPIC RUSH produced the strongest score in the Multimedia test we’ve seen so far. In fact, all of the scores in these tests were strong – particularly the storage score, which showed off the speed of that RAID-0 SSD configuration.
Cinebench gave us a chance to compare the performance of the Core i7-4770K in the EPIC RUSH against identical processors in competing systems. It handled the test well, providing slightly better scores of 2.1 in the single-threaded test and 10.31 in the multi-threaded test.
|PCMark and 3DMark Tests|
|Futuremark is one of the best-known benchmark providers around. We use the PCMark line to give us a sense of a computer’s overall capabilities and we’ve found the 3DMark line to be a good indicator of gaming performance. The new 3DMark FireStrike test is designed to challenge even high-end systems like the Maingear EPIC RUSH.
Futuremark PCMark 8 Results
Futuremark PCMark 8 Results
Futuremark PCMark 8 Results
Graphics aren’t the focus of the PCMark tests, so the Radeon R9 290Xs don’t give the EPIC RUSH the same kind of edge they provide in other benchmarks. Nonetheless, the system scored well here.
Unsurprisingly, the EPIC RUSH took the top spot in the 3DMark 11 test. Given the rig’s high-end components, it’s likely to stay at the top of the pack in most of our benchmarks.
Futuremark recently updated this 3DMark test, so we’re showing the system’s performance for reference only, without comparing it to the scores from previous system reviews, as those are based on the older benchmark version.
|Unigine Heaven and Valley Benchmarks|
|Based on the Unigine game engine, the Unigine Heaven and Valley benchmarks take users through dramatic 3D tours of exotic environments, complete with dynamic skies, tessellation, and SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion).
Things got exciting fast when we fired up Unigine Heaven. The EPIC RUSH finished the test with a whopping 119.5 average frames per second at 1920 x 1080. Previous review system were well under 85fps, giving the EPIC RUSH a huge lead. And the Valley benchmark confirmed what we saw in the Heaven test: the EPIC RUSH has some real guts when it comes to games.
|Gaming Benchmarks: Far Cry 2 and Lost Planet 2|
|With the synthetic benchmarks completed, we dove into some real-world in-game testing. We started with Far Cry 2, which won’t strain a modern system, but will give us a look at the rig’s DX10 capabilities. Then we took a look at Lost Planet 2, which boasts DX11 support, tessellation, and some stunning water effects.
You’re not too likely to fire up a DX10 relic on your $6,000, state-of-the-art gaming PC, but we always like to see how systems handle this classic. The Maingear EPIC RUSH started off with strong frames per second in Far Cry 2, particularly at higher resolutions.
The Maingear EPIC RUSH again offered solid – but not stunning – scores in Lost Planet 2. In fact, it came in slightly behind the Maingear SHIFT, but as it turned out, the EPIC RUSH was just about to break free and blow past the competition. Let’s take a look at how it handled Metro 2033.
|Gaming Benchmarks: Metro 2033 and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.|
At 1920 x 1080 (the most popular resolution among Steam gamers, according to Valve’s monthly survey), the RUSH was averaging 23 frames per second more than its closest competitor in this benchmark, the CyberPower Gamer Xtreme 5200.
Here again, the EPIC RUSH won the day. It’s not unusual for new systems to take the top spot in our benchmark charts, as they often have the latest technology, but the EPIC RUSH is developing an unusually strong lead here.
|Gaming Benchmarks: Batman: Arkham City and Hitman: Absolution|
|Few games do dark and moody like the Batman series. We ran both Batman: Arkham City and Hitman: Absolution with graphics settings at or near the max, including tessellation.
By now, you know what to expect from a system armed with two R9 290X cards: the Maingear EPIC RUSH blew the roof off this benchmark. At 1920 x 1080, it averaged 247 frames per second.
The EPIC RUSH nearly broke 100 frames per second at 1920 x 1080, putting it well out of reach of the systems we’ve recently reviewed. There’s no doubt the RUSH is a performance beast.
|Power Consumption and Noise|
|When you’re working with a gaming system, high power consumption is to be expected. But there are major differences in the amount of power different systems draw, even (and maybe most importantly) at idle. So, it doesn’t hurt to know how your potential rig would stack up to other, similarly configured PCs on the market.
The Maingear EPIC RUSH pulls about as much power when idle as we expected it would, but the system surprised us when we fired up Prime95 and FurMark, two heavy-duty benchmarks. Where the iBuypower Chimera (which included an AMD FX-9590 processor and two AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics cards) pulled 637 watts under the same load, the EPIC RUSH pulled only 594 watts. Intrigued, we replaced Furmark with 3DMark 11 and the power draw kicked up to 762W.
Noise is probably more important to most gamers than power consumption. We’ve experienced more than our fair share of loud systems, but many of the rigs we’ve reviewed lately are surprisingly quiet. With its liquid cooling and large case fans, the EPIC RUSH is one of the quieter gaming rigs we've come across. At idle, the sound is negligible. Under load, the system just whispers.
|Performance Summary and Conclusion|
|When you're paying this kind of money for a PC, the price for performance balancing act goes out the window. Of course, you can pay less and get a system that has similar components. What you're paying for is a rig that complements that power with really stunning looks and every luxury feature the PC builder can dream up. There should be nothing about a system like this that isn't top shelf.
When it comes to looks, the EPIC RUSH is one of the cleanest, classiest systems around. The Glasurit paint shines and the system’s sharp lines give it a broad-shouldered, no-nonsense look wherever it sits in your home or office. Up close, the beveled panel window gives you a really nice view of the interior. For geeks (like us) who like to admire a PC’s components, the interior of the EPIC RUSH borders on artwork. The lighting is just right. The liquid cooling tubing is front and center, and the fittings have slick decals. The heatsinks on the Corsair Dominator memory look sharp gleaming brightly inside the chassis.
The EPIC RUSH looks like a system that will kick butt and take names – and it does. It absolutely crushed the systems we’ve recently tested with the Unigine Heaven and Valley benchmarks, and it carried that performance into most of our other tests – particularly ones that focus on the GPU. The Radeon R9 290X Crossfire setup is a clear powerhouse, and 16GB of high speed memory, along with an SSD RAID 0 array certainly don't hurt, either.
Price plays an important role in any system review, but especially when the system in question is a luxury PC with a stratospheric price tag. In a situation like this, any complaints are magnified by sheer cost of the system. As it happens, though, we couldn’t find much to complain about. Yes, the external drive bays are full, so you’d need to swap parts rather than expand. But that’s a non-issue for most users. In virtually all ways that matter, the EPIC RUSH lives up to its luxury PC status.