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Maingear Pulse 15 3K Gaming Laptop Review

by Hot HardwareSeptember 15, 2014
We think it’s fitting for Maingear to bring 3K resolution gaming to its Pulse line of laptops. Consider that playing games at full HD 1080p (1920×1080) on the desktop is nothing special these days, which is why we’re seeing more and more players jump to higher resolution displays, from 2560×1440 (most 27-inch class monitors) on up to the emerging 4K (3840×2160) format. We’re finally seeing some innovation again in the monitor market, yet laptop displays were stuck in a state of comatose for a while. Not anymore.

Maingear has given its Pulse 15 — and the gaming laptop segment in general — some much needed CPR by introducing a 3K IPS (In-Plane Switching) wide-view screen display into the mix. Why stop short of 4K? Well, it takes quite a bit of pixel-pushing horsepower to game at 4K, both now and into the future, the technology isn’t yet mature, and it’s all around expensive. By going with a 3K display, which translates into 2880×1620, Maingear is able to avoid some of the pitfalls that exist in 4K territory while still giving gamers more screen real-estate and something higher resolution than 1920×1080 to play games on.

Maingear Pulse 15 Stock

Of course, there’s more to the Pulse 15 than a higher resolution panel. At 15.25 inches (W) by 0.75 inches (H) by 10.5 inches (D) and weighing a mere 3.75 pounds, this is not only the thinnest 15-inch gaming laptop Maingear has ever offered, but it’s one of the most portable we’ve come across. If it weren’t for the ‘look-at-me’ paint job and pulsating LED keyboard, it’d be easy to mistake the Pulse 15 for yet another ultrabook. In fact, Maingear isn’t positioning the product solely at gamers here — business users and content creators in need of a high-end laptop with graphics horsepower are also targets.

On paper, the Pulse 15 is a potent machine armed with an Intel Core i7 4710HQ mobile processor, 16GB of DDR3-1600 memory, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M graphics with Optimus technology, and a 128GB mSATA solid state drive, all of which come standard. That’s a tantalizing foundation, especially when you take into account the system’s slim waistline and relatively lightweight design.

The configuration we received is slightly different (and a bit more expensive), and since we know you’re eager to see if this Pulse 15 has an enthusiast heartbeat, let’s jump right into things.

Maingear Pulse 15
Specifications & Features
Processor Intel Core i7-4710HQ (6MB cache, 2.5GHz to 3.5GHz)
Operating System Windows 8.1 64-bit
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M 3GB GDDR5 w/ Optimus Technology
Memory 16GB DDR3L 1600MHz DRAM (2x8GB, 1.355V)
Display 15.6-inch Ultra HD 3K 2880×1620 IPS Wide View Glossy Display
Storage 256GB Super RAID (2x128GB M.2 SATA Express SSD w/ Trim; RAID 0); 1TB HDD (7200 RPM)
Optical 8X Asus DVD Burner External USB 2.0
Ethernet Qualcomm Killer E2200, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller
Wireless Connectivity Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 + Bluetooth 4.0
Interface 3 x USB 3.0 (one is charging port)
SD card reader (XC/HC)
1 x mini DisplayPort
1 x HDMI 1.4
1 x headphone
1 x microphone
Kensington Lock
Webcam Full HD 1080p @ 30fps
Battery 60Whr (6-cell) non-replaceable
Dimensions 15.25 (W) x 10.5 (D) x 0.75 (H)  inches
Weight 3.75 pounds
Manufacturer Warranty 1-year
Pricing: $2,474 (as configured)

You may notice that our spec sheet doesn’t always align with what Maingear has listed on its Tech Specs page for the Pulse 15. For example, Maingear lists the Pulse 15 as having four USB 3.0 ports when there are actually three. There are a few other mistakes on Maingear’s page, though you can reference ours above or look at the Pulse 15’s photo gallery on Maingear’s site. There’s nothing malicious going on here — Maingear lists the webcam as being 720p when in fact it’s 1080p — it just appears there were some minor late-stage changes to the design as the system launched to the public.

Pricing for the Pulse 15 starts at $2,199 and includes most of what’s listed above. Our configuration is a little higher-end because it’s also rocking a “Sapphire Blue” matte automotive paint finish and an upgrade from a single 128GB mSATA SSD to dual SSDs in RAID 0.

Overall, the upgrade options are fairly limited on the Pulse 15. You can’t change the processor, RAM, or graphics, and there are only a few storage choices to browse. This is probably because Maingear wants to stick with a core set of components that it knows will work reliably in such a thin and light chassis. We can’t fault Maingear for that train of thought, however it’d be nice to have the option of selecting 32GB of RAM with that 3K display in tow. Content creation pros, for example, might appreciate having more memory.

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