Maingear Spark review

With plenty of pizazz, this gaming PC is aimed at your living room

Maingear Spark review

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Much of this review has been focused on gaming, and the Maingear Spark – as a living room PC – is capable of more than that. Besides its gaming capabilities, it's great to have a Windows machine hooked up to your huge, wall-mounted TV and piped into your nice speakers, for playing Spotify, watching media, showing relatives your Facebook albums, and just browsing the web.

Naturally, the Spark has no trouble with these simple tasks. And, in addition to that, Windows 8.1 – if you opt for it, Windows 7 is available as well – actually makes for a decent big-screen operating system.

The big-tile layout looks great and performs well on a huge screen that's not directly in front of your face, though normal text can sometimes appear too small. Whatever you do, though, take a pass on the chintzy Logitech G105 keyboard that Maingear offers along with the Spark.

We liked

The Spark's tiny form factor is a huge point in its favor. And its shiny, slashed red finish, though garish, gives it a certain edge. As it stands, it's a straightforward gaming PC, with few frills and little bloatware.

When it came time to perform, most of the games I tested ran just fine – even if I had to turn the settings down first. And at just under $1,000, Maingear nailed the pricing of this product.

We disliked

The Spark slowed to a crawl when faced with intense games like Metro: Last Light and, to a lesser extent, other games like Gauntlet and Lifeless Planet. Annoyingly, it also tends to get pretty loud. And, because it's packed into an insanely small form factor, it's not exactly future-proof either.

For the design snobs out there, if you don't want a flashy red box sitting among all your matte black living room appliances then you're going to have a problem with the Spark. I'll just say that the Spark is loud in more ways than one.

Final verdict

If you don't always need to play the latest blockbuster releases with the settings cranked up high, then the Maingear Spark could very well fill your set-top PC needs. But, for this machine's PC gamer audience, that scenario is probably a rare one.

The future of this product, however, is bleak. Deciding to invest is essentially signing up for future disappointment, as more and more games outpace the Spark's power.

If a potent living room gaming PC is what you seek, you'll have to spend more or build something yourself. Otherwise, stick with a set-top box for media streaming, or an Xbox One for an affordable cross between the Windows experience and a capable gaming box.