The tech industry's battle for the living room hasn't turned into the white-hot race we once thought it would be, but rather a slowly-escalating cold war. Apple, Google, Valve and Microsoft have laid attempts to claim this space, but so far no one superpower has emerged with a must-own box.
Instead there's plenty of room for smaller players, like Maingear, to test the tides of war by fielding devices like the Spark, its micro gaming PC. And while the Spark has some points in its favor, it's also a good thing for Maingear that it doesn't have much competition.
A high point, for instance, is that it's adorably tiny. You won't have any trouble finding space for it on your shelf. But with that small form factor comes compromise – the Spark is not the gaming behemoth that you're looking for.
The Spark is basically the opposite of one of its competitor in the living room PC space, the Digital Storm Bolt II. Both are meant to be uncomplicated additions to your entertainment set-up that will sit beneath your TV, around the cable box and maybe a game console or two.
But the Spark is much smaller, with less than five inches on its largest side, and much less expensive – the version I tested out runs around $899 (about £550, AU$1,030). And that's without extras, like controllers, keyboard and mouse, optical drive and more.
As far as the Spark's aesthetics go, you'll likely either love them or hate them. While many of its specs are customizable, there's currently only one chassis, and it's covered in jarring red plastic highlights. These might look cheap to some, but to others this adds a welcome flair of personality. The Spark's also plastered with logos and symbols which, again, might or might not bother you.
Luckily, all of its ports, including the four USB 3.0 inputs (two on the front, two on the back) and a front-mounted 3.5mm headphone jack, are easy to access. It'd be surprising if they weren't, considering how small this little red cube is. But they're properly spaced apart, which is all you can ask for.