Scores in depth
Maingear Pulse 14 review
Maingear Pulse 14 review
Maingear Pulse 14 review
Maingear Pulse 14 review
Maingear Pulse 14 review

Now that Nvidia has updated its mobile graphics chip offerings, the vendors are predictably scrambling to refresh their gaming laptops with the latest and greatest. And Kenilworth, N.J.-based boutique gaming PC builder Maingear isn't about to be left in the dust.

This is the Maingear Pulse 14 for 2014, updated with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 850M and a 1920 x 1080 screen – and that's about it. This is the same laptop introduced in 2013, only with better innards. For some, that might be just fine, but I'm not so sure.

Design

The Pulse 14 uses the same case provided by MSI as it did last year, specifically the MSI GE40 frame. That means a glossy black plastic lid with a shiny, silver plastic logo, all attached to a firm dual hinge on the base. The keyboard deck is comprised of the same shiny plastic, with distinctly metallic palm rests.

Maingear Pulse 14 review

The touchpad, beset by chrome accents, sits just above a row of deep blue indicator LEDs. Beneath the hinge is an inconspicuous speaker grill and a power button in the same hue, though it shines a bright orange while charging.

Otherwise, the frame is rather uninspiring, with a plastic underside and empty optical drive bay that just looks like a vestigial limb without what's normally found there. That said, MSI made use of every last inch, jam-packing it with ports from USB 3.0 to Ethernet, HDMI and more.

Not without nonsense

Maingear promises to provide a no-nonsense mobile gaming PC – unlike some global computer corporations, it says – keeping their products free of bloatware and offering customer service that goes far beyond what most companies offer. And that's all true.

Maingear Pulse 14 review

But perhaps, with its laptops at least, the company takes that modus operandi a bit too far? There might not be any of the bloatware or unnecessary lighting in the Pulse 14 that you find in competing products, but sometimes those additions are welcome.

For instance, where's the backlit keyboard? Both the Alienware 14 and Gigabyte P34G have one of those. And what about some performance-boosting software? These competitors both offer ways to improve your games' frame rates through apps.

While a noble stance to take on Maingear's part, what does that leave the Pulse 14 to stand out with? Award-winning custom paint jobs (and complimentary laptop stand) are a start, but also expensive. At any rate, it's what's on the inside that counts, right?