Gaming laptops aren’t exactly renowned for their subtlety, and Maingear’s Pulse 17 is so brazen it feels like it should arrive with a Brian Blessed announcement and a big bunch of Michael Bay-directed explosions. Its red paint job is so bold it makes fire engines blush, and its colossal 17-inch size squashes puny ultrabooks into oblivion. But has it got the cohones to back up that bravado?
While it’s not really close to Ultrabook levels of skinniness the Pulse 17 is quite svelte for a gaming laptop, with a height of 2.2 centimetres. It’s comparatively light, too, at just under 3 kilos, which means portability is more of an option than with rivals such as Alienware’s epic 17, but you’ll still need a roomy and robust bag to get it about safely. Its design inspires a feeling of deja vu, though: both MSI and XMG use almost exactly the same chassis for their 17-inch gaming laptops.
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Maingear’s biggest selling point, aesthetically at least, is its bright red paint job. It employs the same hard-wearing Glasurit paints used on cars and trucks, and it feels robust and almost enamel-like in its shiny hardness. If lipstick red’s not your thing then it’s available in a range of other similarly garish colours such as ‘Furious Fuchsia’ or ‘Speed Yellow’. You can even get it in boring black and subtract $299 from the price.
Lighting the Way
We like the layout of the keyboard and nice big trackpad, and the keyboard’s backlight colours can be altered with an (MSI-branded) app. We’re particularly fond of the gaming mode, which turns all the keys off apart from the all-important WASD area to the left. The spacebar doeshaveahabitofnotresponding, though, and that's not ideal.
Under the Hood
Given the price and you're entitled to expect flashy components under the hood, and you get them - a fourth-gen Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX765M graphics card lurk beneath the keyboard.
For storage there are two 128GB SSDs in a RAID array, as well as a 1TB conventional drive. Maingear offers a little customisation, so you can add in two 256GB SSDs or AC networking for an extra $533 or $49 respectively.
Operating system - Windows 8
Screen - 17in, 1920x1080
CPU - Intel Core i7 4700HQ 2.4GHz
GPU - NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
RAM - 16GB
Storage - Dual 128GB SSDs + 1TB HDD
Connectivity - 802.11n + Bluetooth Wireless Accelerator, SD card reader, USB 3.0 (x4), HDMI 1.4, mDP (x2), Optical
Dimensions/weight - 286 x 418 x 21mm / 2.72kg
Stealing our Hearts
Looting extravaganza Thief ticks along at a respectable 25 to 30 frames per second at its highest settings, which is perfectly playable and pretty impressive for a laptop. Drop the less important details and you unsuprisingly get a properly smooth framerate. The more taxing Metro: Last Light plays fantastically, too - it may be getting on a bit, but it’s still an absolute beauty and a real test for gaming PCs.
Although the screen is 'only' 1080p it looks great, and the Sound Blaster speakers give a full and expansive sound. In terms of gaming it’s something of a winner.
Despite its American locale Maingear is attempting to target the UK market with its laptops, but it has made a few omissions. Our sample has a US keyboard, so the “ and @ symbols are in the wrong places. We also had to fish out an adapter to charge it.
These are minor annoyances, but the problem is that both MSI and XMG’s mightily similar laptops come with UK-specific components, and if you’re going to be dropping £1,600 on a laptop you're entitled to expect everything to be just right.
Check its Pulse
We’d love to see a gaming laptop with all-day battery life, but the power draw of the various high-end components means it’s unlikely unless you’re willing to lug a diesel generator around with you. We got four hours of gaming, movies and web browsing out of the Pulse 17, which is only average.
Maingear Pulse 17 verdict
The Pulse 17’s eye-catching hue and robust finish are likely to turn heads, and the choice of components makes it a formidable games machine that will keep up with the demands of the big PC games for longer than most.
But Maingear hasn’t localised it for the UK – it might not sound like a big deal but those little Americanisms rankle, especially when you’re spending this much. Add a star to the verdict if Maingear fixes that, but unless the keyboard is replaced by one that’s more responsive it’s still destined to fall short of the full five stars.
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