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Innovation

Maingear unleashes Shift desktop, child-sized 'personal supercomputer' for $2,199 (or $13,394)

Boutique computer maker Maingear on Monday unleashed its Shift desktop PC, a child-sized "everyday supercomputer" that marries extreme performance and upgradeability to industrial design for a barnburning rig that can handle the highest-definition media.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

Boutique computer maker Maingear on Monday unleashed its Shift desktop PC, a child-sized "everyday supercomputer" that marries extreme performance and upgradeability to industrial design for a barnburning rig that can handle the highest-definition media.

Or, as the company's written in its marketing materials, "There's a fine line between genius and insanity. We've just erased it."

In a market crowded by players who use the same parts, Maingear's trying to differentiate itself with style, case engineering and quality technical support.

On the style front, the company's doing away with the blinking-lights-and-neon look of geeky gaming computers and ushering in an industrial look with straight lines and black-on-black aluminum attitude. In person, the Shift is a massive, steel-framed desktop tower -- almost the size of a seated small child, from my visual guesstimate -- and impressive in its footprint.

(It's actually 24 inches tall, 8.6 inches wide and 21.5 inches deep.)

The folks at Maingear are quite fervent about case engineering, and the Shift continues that tradition with bottom to top airflow, aggressive liquid cooling and a 90-degree rotation of the motherboard. Further, the system is fairly future-proof, and offers user-accessible expansion slots, full eATX motherboard support, full sized 5.25” optical drives, multiple SATA hard drive configurations and up to two 2.5” HDDs in each 3.5” HDD drive bay.

Finally, as CTO Chris Morley mentioned in a ZDNet interview back in June, customer support is the way his company is differentiating itself from other boutique shops. Maingear says each Shift owner will be able to talk directly to the builder that assembled their system. They'll also have virtual, private on-site support through an internal remote-desktop setup, as well as traditional on-site support when necessary.

Inside, it's full-on extreme computing. The $2,199 Shift P55 sports the following:

  • 750W Silverstone Strider Modular Industrial Power Supply
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250 512MB GDDR3 w/ PhysX (upgradeable to 13 other options, including dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 1792MB GDDR3 w/ PhysX in SLI)
  • Intel P55 Extreme Series CrossFire and SLI Ready DP55KG motherboard
  • Intel Core i7-860 2.8GHz Quad-core CPU (2.93 GHz available)
  • 4GB Kingston HyperX Dual-Channel DDR3-1333MHz Low Latency memory (8GB available)
  • 750GB Western Digital Caviar Black SATA 7200rpm 32MB Cache (upgradeable to dual 160GB Intel X25-M Gen2 SSDs in each of the first two drive bays and single X25s in the third and fourth)
  • All-in-One Integrated USB 2.0 Flash Card Reader & Writer
  • 22X Dual Layer DVD RW Drive w/ LightScribe Technology (upgradeable to 8X Lite-On SuperMulti Blu-ray/DVD Burner with Software)
  • 7.1+2 Channel High Definition Surround Sound Supporting S/DIF Optical In and Out
  • Bluetooth
  • Gigabit Ethernet

A Shift X58 model, which starts at $2,599, offers up to 12GB of DDR3 2,000MHz memory, another optional optical drive, two more drive bays (for a total of six) and the potential to easily blow several paychecks. In a test run, I was able to configure a Shift X58 to a breathtaking $13,394 without tangential software or accessories.

Here's the breakdown between the two models:

The company says a Shift system geared specifically toward creative professionals -- that's video production, audio editing, and CAD -- is coming before the end of the year.

The Shift series starts at $2,199 and is available from the company's website.

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