Maingear Pulse 15 3K Gaming Laptop Review

Design and Layout

The Pulse 15 ships in a brushed black aluminum chassis, and if that's what you stick with, you'll end up with a fine looking laptop. However, Maingear will give your Pulse 15 an automotive quality paint job, for a fee -- it runs $149 and you can choose from several color options.

Maingear Pulse 15 Lid

That's not a bad price for a paint job of this caliber. Ours shipped in Sapphire Blue (Matte) with both the top lid and underbelly receiving the painted makeover. If you want to stack another $50 on top of that, Maingear will let you choose a custom color or go with a glossy finish. We've seen the glossy coat applied to Maingear's Torq desktop and both look fantastic. If you want your laptop to stand out, the paint option is well worth the cost.

Bear in mind this is completely optional. The Pulse 15 will run the same with or without a custom automotive paint finish. And either way, it will come with Maingear's distinct logo that sits dead center on the lid.

Maingear Pulse 15 Open

There's quite a bit going on when you pop open the Pulse 15. To start with, you get a glimpse of the gorgeous 15.6-inch IPS panel. Fire it up and within seconds you'll see how much on-screen real-estate that translates into when running a 3K (2880x1620) resolution. It's more than what you'll get on a most 17-inch class laptops, which typically top out at Full HD 1080p (1920x1080).

Be aware that there can be scaling issues to cope with at this resolution. Some programs might have trouble displaying certain elements correctly, and you may need to adjust the font and icon sizes in Windows to suit your eyeballs -- follow these instructions, if necessary. Even surfing the web may require some tinkering -- we found that zooming into websites 150 percent was far more comfortable than viewing them at 100 percent on the laptop's native resolution.

Situated below the display and above the keyboard is an illuminated power button. The LED ring isn't just there for added bling, it's also an indicator of whether you're tapped into the integrated Intel HD 4600 graphics or discrete NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M GPU. A blue LED indicates that the integrated graphics are running the show, while an amber LED represents the discrete GPU. This is a subtle, albeit useful effect that can help you determine if you're set for gaming or just some office productivity work.

Maingear Pulse 15 Keyboard

The Pulse 15 boasts a full-size keyboard with dual-purpose Function keys and dedicated numpad. Typing on the keyboard is pleasant enough and it's certainly capable of serving as a daily workhorse, though it's not an exceptional plank in any particular way. It doesn't compete with top-shelf notebook keyboards from Lenovo, for example, nor does it feature any fancy amenities like curved keycaps. That's not to say that the Pulse 15's keyboard is sub-par.  It's actually pretty solid. There just isn't any standout trait that would make us prefer it over any other acceptable plank.

Below the keyboard is a generously sized trackpad pushed slightly to the left side. It's a sleek looking design with hidden left and right mouse buttons, and though there's a small learning curve associated with memorizing where the points of contact begin and end, it only takes a few extended sessions to master.

Maingear Pulse 15 Ports Left Side
Maingear Pulse 15 Ports Right Side
Maingear Pulse 15 Front

On the left side of the Pulse 15 sit the Kensington Lock, power cord connector, two color-coded SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, microphone jack, and headphone jack. Over on the right is another USB 3.0 port (this one is also a charging port), SD card reader, HDMI 1.4 output, mini DisplayPort, and a Gigabit LAN port. And on the front of the laptop is a series of blue LEDs setup as a battery indicator. This is something we wish all laptop makers incorporated into their design, at least in terms of its overall visibility to the user.  Apple, Dell and others have done this but in much smaller, less visible designs.

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