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Maingear Pulse 14 review

A barebones gaming laptop without the barebones price

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The Maingear Pulse 14 has all the trappings of a budget-friendly gaming laptop – just not the wallet-conscious price. Sure, this 14-inch gaming notebook offers fantastic 3D performance and lasting power. But for $40 less or $150 more, you can score machines touting far better builds or superior components, respectively.

We liked

The endurance I recorded on the Pulse 14 is a rarity in the gaming laptop world, and Maingear should be commended for tuning it as such. This laptop stepped up to the plate on several occasions when my 2011, MacBook Pro 15-inch just wouldn't hang.

As you would expect from the latest Nvidia and Intel mobile chips, this laptop chewed up just about any task or game I threw at it. (Save for Metro, that sadist of a benchmark.) The GTX 850M should get you through 2015's PC releases at medium settings and full resolution, based on how well it played Titanfall at high settings.

We disliked

While a third-party case, the build quality here is just not on par with the competition in this price range. While the Gigabyte P34G isn't all the much of a looker, at least it's super thin and light by gaming laptop standards. It also offers a backlit keyboard – something missing from this rig. And while the Alienware 14 is chunky, it's one of the best gaming laptop builds around, without question.

Generally speaking, there isn't anything premium about the Pulse 14, given its price tag. It's as if you're paying just for the components inside, only to prop it on a stand, hook up a (backlit) mechanical keyboard and mouse, and go to town. While absolutely functional, this machine is simply not the complete package you expect at this price.

Final verdict

For a considerable chunk of most folks' salary, they expect a premium device and experience. And while Maingear offers excellent paint jobs and incredibly dedicated customer service, the Pulse 14 simply doesn't stack up against competitors in its price range.

Pick up this laptop and it will play almost any game you throw at it with gusto. That much is for certain. But the Pulse 14 doesn't exist in a vacuum, and for the same cash or a little bit more, you'll find superior offerings with ease.