Boutique PC builders: When you want the very best


Although the base version -- with an AMD Athlon II X3, 4GB of memory, integrated graphics and a 640GB hard drive -- represents a capable PC for most mainstream productivity tasks, you can build it up to premium levels. I configured a Vybe with a Core i7 875K CPU, 8GB of memory, two 256MB SSDs, a GeForce GTX 470 graphics card, a 23-in. monitor, DVD and Blu-ray burners, a Razer keyboard and mouse, and a few software amenities. In less than three minutes, I had an almost $3,800 minicomputer in a desktop form factor.

Like the other boutique builders, Maingear has branched out into the . It has two offerings, the EX-L15 and EX-L17, both geared toward the gaming market and expandable from their $1,899 base models.

Maingear calls its support system "." That may seem like hyperbole, but what it amounts to is a return to the service and support principles of an earlier day, before PC pricing became cutthroat and support was sacrificed on the altar of margins. Among its provisions: You'll be able to talk to the person building your computer; phone support and labor (should you return your PC to Maingear for service) are free for the lifetime of the product; and virtual on-site support is available via an internal remote-desktop setup program. (Maingear swears that your privacy is preserved.)

This mix of old-fashioned values and extreme configurations -- as well as being able to speak with your own personal geek -- are definite assets and can make the difference between purchasing at Maingear and another site.