Maingear Pulse 15 3K Gaming Laptop Review

Article Index

Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The heart and soul of the Maingear Pulse 15 is its gorgeous 3K resolution display, though the brains and brawn of this machine is its Intel Core i7 4710HQ processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M GPU, which are supplemented with 16GB of DDR3L-1600 memory and a pair of 128GB SSDs in RAID 0. That's a sturdy foundation, and as expected, the Pulse 15 scored well in benchmark runs. It approached 6,000 points in Futuremark's PCMark 7 test and pulled well ahead of previous generation gaming laptops in both 3DMark 11 and the newer 3DMark Cloud Gate benchmarks. It wasn't always at the front of the class -- it trailed the better equipped MSI GT60 Dominator Pro in every game benchmark -- but given what we know about the GPU, we didn't see any outliers during our evaluation.

Maingear Pulse 15 Keyboard

Maingear's Pulse 15 is an overall successful demonstration that you can pack a higher end gaming experience into an ultra thin form factor, though it doesn't come without caveats. The biggest issues are heat and noise. Under load, the Pulse 15 gets plenty hot -- this is not a laptop you'll want to rest on your lap, especially if you value your fertility. The fans do their best to blow hot air out the vents, and to their credit, we didn't experience any lockups, random reboots, or other heat related errors, though the fans do get loud.

We like Maingear's decision to offer a 3K resolution on the Pulse 15, as it affords more screen real estate in a slim and light body that's easy to tote around. The alternative is to go with a 4K display, but those are more expensive, require higher end hardware, and further exaggerate current Windows scaling issues that creep up even on a 3K panel. With a little bit of tweaking, you can mitigate scaling issues on the Desktop and when surfing the web, though some programs may look a little funky until software developers take higher resolution displays into account. For the most part, however, the 3K panel was a high point of the Pulse 15 rather than a hindrance.

As a gaming laptop, the Pulse 15 is a mixed affair. Simply put, NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 870M doesn't haven't enough horsepower to comfortably drive a 3K resolution gaming experience. Of course, that's a blanket observation -- some older, less demanding games will run fine at 3K on this laptop, and even newer titles can be coaxed to deliver playable framerates by dialing back a few of the visual quality settings. But as we saw in games like Hitman: Absolution and Metrol Last Light, turning up the eye candy at 3K is just too much for the 870M to handle.

If you're willing to game at 1920x1080, the 870M is a fine GPU for the task. It produced nearly 54 frames per second in BioShock Infinite with Ultra settings and it has the legs to run most games out there with the settings turned up a bit. In terms of a desktop equivalent, the 870M is roughly on par with a GeForce GTX 670 graphics card, but with a higher GPU clockspeed and lower memory bandwidth due to its 192-bit bus (versus 256-bit).

So, where does that leave us? Well, Maingear's Pulse 15 lives up to its billing as a thin and light gaming laptop, and it looks fantastic to boot. From the classy paint job to the pulsating keyboard, this a notebook that will turn heads. It will also make you more productive, provided you can take advantage of the additional desktop space a 3K resolution affords. If you can live with the tradeoffs like heat and noise when gaming, the Pulse 15 is worth adding to your list of candidates.  The flip side perspective may also be that the Pulse 15 is an excellent thin and light machine that also has a bit of gaming prowess going on under its sleek, stylish exterior.
  HH Approved

  • Awesome paint job
  • 3K rscreen real estate
  • Ultra thin and light chassis
  • Illuminated, customizable keyboard
  • Powerful speakers
  • Great performance
  • Expensive for a 15-inch laptop (as configured)
  • 870M isn't quite enough to game at 3K HQ
  • Limited upgrade options
  • Runs a little hot and loud when stressed

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