The Maingear Vybe Super Stock is an encouraging sign, representative of the changes we've seen on our performance desktop chart. Though it's relatively small, it packs an impressive amount of power into its frame, without making compromises.
Equipped nearly identically to the rest of the Sandy Bridge-based performance desktops that have passed through the Labs, the Maingear Vybe Super Stock has been fitted with the second generation Core i7-2600K processor, overclocked to 4.8GHz. That CPU, coupled with 8GB of RAM and a speedy 60GB SSD (with an additional 1TB drive for storage), helped the Vybe earn a score of 207 on our WorldBench 6 benchmark suite.
A bit of perspective: Maingear's last entry, the Shift Super Stock, achieved a mark of 203 on WorldBench 6, and cost $8000. Granted, that machine carried the first-generation Core technology. Among Sandy Bridge competition, the latest Origin Genesis Midtower reached a score of 184 in WorldBench 6.
The Vybe Super Stock and the Genesis Midtower are similarly equipped, but slight differences in their layout make a world of difference at the user level (more on that in a bit).
Gaming performance on the Vybe (and the Genesis Midtower) comes courtesy of an Nvidia GTX 570 card. It's a powerful graphics board, and the results speak for themselves. On our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark, the Vybe generated 130 frames per second. Origin's Genesis Midtower achieved 141 fps.
In Call of Duty 4, we saw 79 fps on the Vybe and 81 fps on the Genesis Midtower. S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat is a bit more strenuous: In that game, the Vybe hit 31 fps, while the Genesis Midtower reached 32 fps.
Of the two systems, the Vybe Super Stock boasts the stronger WorldBench 6 score (thanks to its solid-state drive and its extra helping of RAM), gaming performance is close. This match-up ultimately boils down to the chassis, but picking a "winner" is largely dependent on taste.
The Vybe Super Stock is small, disarmingly so, at first blush. But Maingear has a habit of doing things a bit differently. The Shift's vertically mounted GPUs and motherboard are one example, and the Vybe offers another. Pull off the case side (thumbscrews hold it on), and you'll find a rather confusing arrangement: The power supply is up front, sitting beneath the hard-drive bays. And the motherboard? It's upside down.
But it's just crazy enough to work. Thanks to the atypical arrangement, the full ATX motherboard can fit into the small chassis, with plenty of room for the liquid-cooled CPU's massive radiator. Air flows from the rear out to the front, grilles on the side of the face expel any heat. The Super Stock variant also slaps a 140mm fan right on the top, for additional cool-air intake. Everything runs silently, too.
Despite the smaller chassis, the system still has a fair bit of room for expansion. You'll find one free PCIe x16 slot, and SLI with a pair of GTX 570 cards shouldn't really be a problem here. The reverse orientation of the motherboard does mean that the GTX 570 competes for space with the optical drives. The cabling juts out the side of this particular card, so snaking it out of the way is fairly easy.
It's a tight fit though, if the cabling weren't tied down so well, getting anything else into the tight space would be a lot harder. That said, the interior has plenty of airflow, even with the relatively small size of the chassis. Nothing is tool-free, alas, the aforementioned thumbscrews keep the case doors on, but screws abound once you're inside.
You'll find ports aplenty on the Vybe Super Stock's rear, including eight USB ports, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, 7.1-channel analogue and optical audio, an eSATA port, a FireWire port and the gigabit ethernet port. The machine also offers Bluetooth connectivity. The GTX 570 provides a pair of DVI connectors and a mini-HDMI connector. The front of the system sports a multiformat card reader, a USB port, and the DVD burner. Another pair of USB ports and the headphone and microphone jacks sit under a flap on top of the computer.
In comparison, Origin's Genesis Midtower offers a larger, traditional design. You'll find a bit more room to work inside, with additional space for 5.25-inch drives. It's also saddled with a DVD burner, but offers a pair of USB 3.0 ports and an eSATA port right up front.
Maingear has crafted a fine machine in the Vybe, but it has plenty of competition. While the price tag is a bit higher at $2500, the V3 Convoy serves up superior gaming performance, as well as a slick (albeit larger) case. And the Origin Genesis remains the juggernaut to beat. If you're looking for the best bang for your buck, however, the Maingear Vybe Super Stock offers plenty of muscle at a great price.