Maingear eX-L 15 Gaming Notebook Review

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Overall Design & Layout

Apparently, someone on Maingear's design team paid attention in sex-ed class, because the sleek and sexy eX-L 15 brings lots of rubber protection to the party. Glossy finishes are all the rage, or at least they were in 2010, but this is the second high-end gaming notebook in a row we've reviewed to sport a rubberized coating inside and out. The upshot is you don't have to worry about fingerprints, and the rubber designs feel very sturdy. Our only complaint is that when it does get dirty, the added friction makes it tougher to clean than glossy and/or carbon fiber lids.



Maingear's understated logo adorns the rubber-coated lid, and that's it. Lacking any flashing LEDs or other pieces of bling, the somewhat conservative appearance means you can lug this thing around to the office, board room, or any other environment where a glowing logo might not be appropriate.

 

Flipping it around the back gives you a better view of the cooling setup. Two sizable vents whisk hot air out and away from the system. There is a noticeable 'whir' during heavy loads, though it's not noticeable above the sounds of your game, music, video, or anything else you might have piping through the system's speakers.

In between the vents you'll find a combo USB 2.0/eSATA port, HDMI-out port, DVI-I port, and power connector.



Maingear's eX-L 15 sports a full-sized plank with media controls and other options integrated into the Function keys. As is becoming the standard, Maingear went with chiclet style keys. It's fairly quiet and comfortable, and lest anyone forget that this is a gaming notebook, the WSAD keys come marked with arrows. There's also a numpad squished on the right, but curiously missing is a backlight option. Given that gamers are the target audience, a backlit keyboard can come in handy when you find yourself fragging in the wee hours of the morning long after the sun as set.

The rubberized coating we mentioned above extends over the wrist wrest and trackpad, and feels as comfortable as the cool side of a pillow. In between the two mouse buttons is a fingerprint reader, a nice security feature if you're paranoid about your roommate firing up your notebook when you're not around, only to discover flirtatious emails from his girlfriend. That sort of thing has a tendency to end friendships real fast but Maingear has your back on this one.

 
 

If you can think of a port, there's a good chance you'll find it on the eX-L 15. As we mentioned, the back holds a combo USB 2.0/eSATA port, HDMI-out port, and DVI-I port, but we've only scratched the surface. On the left side is a Gigabit Ethernet port, two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports (hooray!), a USB 2.0 port, IEEE 1394a FireWire jack, and a multi-purpose media card reader.

Head over to the opposite side and you'll discover Kinsington Lock, headphone jack, microphone jack, line-in jack, S/PDIF output jack, yet another USB (2.0) port, and the optical drive, which in this case is an 8X DVD burner (Blu-ray drive is optional).  What you won't find is an ExpressCard slot, which isn't a huge deal considering how many ports are already provided, but an observed omission nonetheless.


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