Maingear 13.3" Clutch 13 Ultraportable Notebook

Introduction and Specifications

Maingear is a custom PC builder that's been making some noise lately, and for good reason. The competition is intense in this space, with a number of companies (CyberPower, Maingear, Falcon Northwest, Digital Storm, Origin, etc.) elbowing each other in order to grab the hard-earned dollars of those in need of a new machine. Maingear, like the others mentioned here, has done an excellent job staying on the cutting edge, and making sure that their lineup is full of new components just as soon as they hit the market. 

Back in October, Maingear revealed two notebooks in a new series: Clutch. Today, we're taking a closer look at the smaller of the two, the 13.3" Clutch 13. This machine is competing with numerous other laptops in the ultraportable sector. There are loads and loads of 13" machines available, including the 13" MacBook Air that we took on earlier in the year. In fact, the Clutch 13 has something that we longed for in Apple's 13" ultraportable: a Core i3 processor. Maingear is positioning this machine as both a mobile workhouse and a unit that may catch the eye of bargain hunters.

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The Clutch 13 is a very refreshing ultraportable. It has an interesting mix of hardware components, and we think it's a build sheet that many will like. For years, we have wondered why PC makers didn't offer more high-end machines without discrete graphics. It seems that a high-powered CPU, hard drive, etc. is always tied to a discrete GPU -- costly both financially as well as in regard to battery life. The Clutch 13 is just what the doctor ordered: a robust machine, albeit one with integrated Intel graphics. Let's take a closer look at the internal specifications of our review unit in particular:

Maingear Clutch 13: 13.3" Notebook
Specifications and Features (as tested)
  • Intel Core i3-330UM Ultra Mobile CPU (1.2GHz; dual-core with HyperThreading)
  • 8GB of DDR3-1066 RAM 
  • 13.3" LCD (1366x768 resolution)
  • Intel HD integrated GPU
  • 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300 SATA III
  • 802.11g/n Wi-Fi
  • No optical drive
  • 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • VGA and HDMI Outputs
  • USB 2.0 x 2
  • eSATA port
  • RJ-45 (Ethernet 10/100)
  • Headphone / Mic Input Jacks
  • SD / MMC / SDHC Multimedia Card Reader
  • Stereo Speakers
  • Full-size standard Keyboard
  • Gesture-Enabled Trackpad
  • 3.3 Pounds (with 4-cell battery installed)
  • Removable 4-Cell Li-ion Battery
  • 13.26" (W) x 8.5" (D) x 0.96" (H) (Dimensions)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • 1-Year Warranty
  • Price (base): $1091
  • Price (as tested): $1470

The base price of the Clutch starts at around $1100, but we received a machine with twice the usual RAM (8GB versus 4GB in the base build) and an SSD rather than an HDD (the 128GB Crucial SSD is a $305 upgrade over the stock 250GB 5400RPM HDD). No doubt, these two upgrades will improve scores dramatically as we push ahead through the benchmarks, particularly in the system level tests. At $1470, our review unit far exceeds the base price of the 13" MacBook Air, which also has 128GB of Flash storage, but only has 4GB of RAM and a slower, older Core 2 Duo CPU. Asking nearly $1500 for a 13.3" ultraportable is a bold move: did Maingear nail the execution? Let's find out in the pages ahead.

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