Paradigm SHIFT: MainGear's Unique Gaming Rig Tested

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Performance Summary:  The SHIFT's overclocked CPU and additional cores push it well ahead of even overclocked quad-core 45nm Nehalem systems and put it on equal footing with the Alienware Area-51 we recently tested. The GTX 480s at the heart of the machine may not always outperform the dual-core pair of Radeon 5970s we tested alongside them, but they hold their own, particularly if we compare them in terms of their price/performance ratio. Factor in PhysX and handy utilities like Badaboom and there's an argument to be made for a set of Fermis cards as opposed to a brace of  four Radeon GPUs.  That said, there is definitely a sweeter spot in terms of value, and it's found in a pair of ATI Radeon HD 5870 cards. And of course, if you prefer Radeon HD 5870 cards, MainGear will happily sell you some. Regardless, the SHIFT's performance is sexy from any angle, particularly if you're looking for a workstation-class machine or have software that can readily put the system's six CPU cores to good use.

We really like the SHIFT. MainGear deserves top honors for taking the risk of building a non-standard chassis and for delivering real benefits as opposed to slick marketing drivel. The case is fully compatible with all standard PC peripherals with just a scant handful of exceptions and the improved airflow gives the system the best acoustics of any system we've tested to date. We'd like to see a future version of the chassis without the temperature delta we observed between having the rear grate attached vs. removing it, but that's a minor point. If you're in the market for a truly different sort of system, MainGear might have precisely what you're looking for.

We'd definitely recommend the SHIFT to any of our enthusiast readers looking for a top-notch system, though we'd opt for one at default clock speeds. At stock speeds, the SHIFT is a fantastic blend of speed, low temperatures, and quieter-than-normal operation (particularly if you were to opt for video cards other than the loudish GTX 480s). While we readily acknowledge that the SHIFT was stable in every benchmark except our peak power consumption test, the CPU temperatures we saw while running Prime95 were too high for our taste. Our chat with Intel confirmed that the CPU should have no problem, even at 89-90'C, but the fact that we're seeing those temperatures in a best-case scenario leads us to believe that the margin of error is too thin for sustained real world operation. While this is a significant concern, it's also a simple one that MainGear should have no problem solving. The SHIFT is quiet, it performs with the speed and grace of a fat kid hunting cake, and it's something new and unique in a market that sees far too many retreads of last year's designs in this year's colors. We very much hope MainGear keeps on doing things differently, and we look forward to seeing the fruits of their labor.


  • Innovative, Unique Design
  • Could Make Steve Jobs Jealous
  • Near-silent operation (relative to competitors)
  • Excellent Performance
  • Asetek 550LC Cooler
  • Overclocked Temperatures
  • Easier On The Eyes Than The Wallet
  • Was Not Delivered By Complimentary Sherpa

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