Maingear Vybe 2019: Design And Build Quality
One of the questions that inevitably comes up when reviewing a boutique build that uses a custom chassis is whether the case can be purchased as a standalone product. More often than not, the answer is no. However, you can nab the Vybe case by itself, either direct from Maingear or at Micro Center. While we are not taking a deep dive into the Vybe's chassis as a standalone option, we can say it's a solid mid-tower that is capable of housing a high-end build, as Maingear demonstrates with our Stage 4 setup.
Fully assembled, the Vybe weighs around 45 pounds, with the tempered glass side panel. That's not bad for a mid-tower. Or put another way, we didn't develop a hernia unboxing this thing. The frame of the chassis is made of steel, with some plastic bits in places. Namely, the frame surrounding the front panel, the feet on the bottom, and the top ventilation section are all made of plastic.
Everything is shipping with RGB lighting these days, and the Vybe is no exception. Maingear's logo on the front panel lights up, while the inside of the system looks like a 1980s disco, minus the music. That is the out-of-box theme, anyway. If you find the cascading light show to be a bit much, you can change things up with the included remote, or turn the LEDs off altogether. Don't lose the remote, though—unlike Alienware, Maingear does not preload a custom utility to control the lighting.
Most of the lighting effects come from a pair of LED strips, one that runs stealthily along the front of the case and another at the top. None of the fans in our build have LEDs. However, the EVGA-brand GeForce RTX 2080 FTW3 Ultra Gaming graphics card provides some additional illumination inside the Vybe.
The mesh cover on the top of the Vybe allows the case to breath. It runs the length of the case and attaches magnetically, making it easy to lift off for cleaning. There is a metal brace that sits underneath it to attach case fans or, in this instance, Maingear's Epic 240 Supercooler (an all-in-one liquid cooler with a 240mm radiator). The magnets are quite strong, preventing the mesh cover from jostling about.
In addition to the AIO cooler, Maingear installed a pair of 140mm fans in the front the case to pull cool air in, which is drawn in from ventilated cutouts on the right side of the front panel, and another 140mm in the back for the exhaust. It is a serviceable design that provides adequate airflow, though yanking the front panel off so you can clean out debris on occasion is a bit of a hassle. Perhaps the next iteration will have an easily accessible (and removable) dust filter in the front.
The front I/O panel is positioned towards the bottom on the left of the case, rather than up top. Whether the location is convenient or not depends on where you put your system. As a mid-tower, the Vybe's footprint is small enough that it could sit on a desk next to your monitor, in which case accessing the ports would be easy. However, if you place the PC on the floor, reaching down to plug in a USB flash drive or other peripherals would be a reach even for Inspector Gadget.
As for the port selection on the front, there is a USB-C port, three USB 3.0 Type-A ports, and separate 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks. Around back, the Vybe serves up a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports (5Gbps), two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (Type-A and Type-C, 10Gbps), four USB 2.0 ports, an Intel I219-V gigabit LAN port, onboard audio ports, and various display outputs (on the motherboard and graphics card).
One of the USB 2.0 ports is occupied by a TP-Link 802.11n Wi-Fi USB adapter. It's a bit of a bummer to not see 802.11ac connectivity here, especially since the Wi-Fi on this system requires sacrificing a USB port. We suppose 802.11n connectivity is better than no Wi-Fi at all.
Outside of the actual lighting, where this build really shines is in the assembly. Maingear's cable management skills are on point, which we are delighted to see in a ready-to-ship system. The power cables and front panel wires snake through the case's cable cutouts where they slither out of view. All of the cables are black, so they blend in with the system.
EVGA's GeForce RTX 2080 FT3W is a chunky graphics card. Officially, it's a 2.5-slot card, though that really translates into three slots. This rules out being able to install it vertically, as the Vybe's chassis allows when installing up to a 2-slot card. However, in this instance, it arguably looks better in a traditional orientation anyway because of the LED lighting on the top of the card.
There is room for a pair of 2.5-inch solid state drives on the bottom of the chamber cover, underneath which sits the EVGA 750W B3 80 Plus Bronze power supply. Those spots are unoccupied in this build. Instead, Maingear installed a 512GB Intel 660p NVMe SSD onto the motherboard, which is both faster than a 2.5-inch SSD, and affords a cleaner build since it does not require a power or SATA cable. There's also a 2TB-capacity 2.5-inch Seagate Barracuda hard drive, but you can't see it. That's because it's hidden underneath the bottom chamber as well.
Cable management behind the motherboard tray is pretty impressive as well. While obviously not as clean looking as the front of the system, Maingear put some effort into bundling the excess cables and wires, utilizing plastic zip ties and Velcro holders. Maingear also did a good job of keeping the two additional 2.5-inch drive caddies in the back of the motherboard tray free from cables. That makes adding another drive relatively easy. It would take a some light finagling to add another hard drive to the open slot in the bottom, but it's certainly doable.
Now let's have a look at the BIOS and software...