Boutique PC builders: When you want the very best


30-day money-back guarantee; restocking fee for special-order items

About a year ago, I Maingear's then-new computer. Nearly 70 lbs. of case and components, the then-$7,100 Shift bettered every benchmark result I'd seen to date. Even a year later, with the overall level of technology raised and component costs lowered, I haven't found any machines that have surpassed those scores.

The Shift is still available. The base unit, at $2,318, includes a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7 930 processor, 6GB of memory, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 graphics card and a 750GB hard drive, but it can be pumped up to near supercomputer status for a tad more than $9,000 -- which includes a custom exterior paint job and a matching interior finish for $599 and $349, respectively.

One of the smaller (15 x 19.2 x 8.2 in.) models Maingear Offers is called the ; at a base price of $775, this minitower is inexpensive for a boutique PC.