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.