Touring Maingear: the hypercar auto shop of gaming PC builders

(Image credit: Future)

Walking into the headquarters of Maingear, a boutique gaming PC builder based in New Jersey, the building looks like a few that surround it (albeit a bit cleaner): a custom auto body shop.

The front desk and lobby are adorned with countless awards and magazine clippings – with TechRadar’s friends Maximum PC featured among them – resting on shelves and hanging on stark red and white walls.

While showing off a set of sick-looking chassis painted custom by DC Comics artist Tommy Castillo, co-founder and CEO Wallace Santos recalls Maingear’s humble beginnings.

Newly certified as a networking systems professional, Santos became an independent consultant in 2002. Not long after, a custom gaming PC order gone wrong inspired Santos to try his hand at building computers, already a passion, professionally. 

A lucky break at a CES in Las Vegas and a plug from famed tech pundit Leo LaPorte launched the Maingear rocket, but not without some refinements to its process over the past 15-plus years.

Most of you couldn't do this at home

You see, Santos is also pretty hot on automobiles, so as a means of spicing up Maingear’s systems, the founder incorporated auto-grade paint jobs to its suite of services – among the first to do so in the US. (Wait until you see how that’s done.)

So, to accommodate Santos’s love for both PC gaming and automobiles, the CEO created a working environment that looks a lot like the custom car shops seen on shows like Pimp My Ride, only with 100% less Xzibit. 

Beyond embodying Santos’s love for custom cars, the attention to detail and tailored service that scene is known for is what the founder and his team care about capturing.

What that looks like is a large garage stands behind Maingear’s office building.The shop buzzes with the sounds of whirring hand drills and snapping cable cutters. 

The first sight upon walking inside are PC builders putting elaborate desktop rigs together, but not at record speed. They’re moving quite quickly, but with precision. They know these chassis in and out, taking one gray bin of PC parts off the shelves at a time and fitting them perfectly inside a variety of chassis, some original designs. Those perfect-looking fits grow challenging when the customer orders hardline liquid cooling, much less choosing which pipe fittings to use.

(Seriously, sometimes the leadership team and system builders deliberate for hours on which pipe fittings to order – the attention to detail is fierce.)

When the PCs are finally built – which sometimes involves customizing components to work in specific scenarios, like the above Nvidia Quadro GPUs going into what will be a silent graphics rendering machine – they’re taken to these Matrix-looking monitor rigs for imaging.

It’s here that Maingear custom images each ordered machine, whether it be a laptop or desktop, according to his or her requests and only those requests. This means only the drivers that the customer needs or wants. And, yes, this includes the HP Omen and Razer R1 machines that Maingear builds and sells in tandem with those brands.

The images are delivered by an OPK server that can fully install a built PC’s BIOS and operating system – drivers and all – in just seven minutes. Now, that’s fast.

When you’re building PCs with this kind of care, time can’t be wasted on imaging systems.

See that small, black bottle to the right of the counter? We weren't kidding

When a PC is ready to ship, Maingear offers several different boxing options, from straight-up (albeit reinforced) cardboard to plastic crates and luggage-style, plastic shipping crates. But, no Maingear shipping container is closed without getting a spritzing of some new car smell.

It’s at this point that we’re taken out of the building and across the driveway to another garage, but this one is outfitted to be an automobile-grade painting operation. 

Looking just like the spray booths at auto body shops, Maingear has hired ex-auto painters to apply their skills to its line of PC chassis.

Save for what’s actually being painted, nothing about the process is different from that of painting an automobile, we’re told. The result being, of course, is a PC worthy of a photo studio, where all of Maingear’s opulent videos are shot.

Maingear's auto-inspired approach to building PCs seems to pay off in the results

Take this gorgeous gaming rig custom built for famed DJ and producer deadmau5, for instance.

So, when you order a gaming PC from Maingear, this is where and how your PC is built, egregious chrome pipe fittings and all.

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First published April 2017

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.