The Bottom Line
Mar 13 2014 - The Maingear Pulse 17 is essentially a rebadged MSI GS70 laptop but that isn't necessarily a bad thin as it is extremely thin and light for a 17-inch laptop and still quite capable for PC gaming. It does carry a higher price tag but those that either want to customize their laptop with a little color or extra SSD space have that option albeit at a price. The Maingear name also carries with it a higher level of support than that provided by MSI for their own laptops.
- Very Thin And Light
- Above Average Display
- Solid Gaming Performance
- More Expensive Than MSI System It's Based On
- Trackpad Has Issues
- Gets Very Warm Under Heavy Loads
- Intel Core i7-4700HQ Quad Core Mobile Processor
- 16GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- Two 128GB Solid State Drives and 1TB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- External USB 3.0 Dual-Layer DVD Burner
- 17.3" WUXGA (1920x1080) Display With 720p Webcam
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M 2GB GDDR5 Graphics
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Four USB 3.0, HDMI, Two Mini-DisplayPort, 7-in-1 Card Reader
- 16.5" x 11.3" x .85" @ 6 lbs.
- Windows 8.1
Review - Maingear Pulse 17
Mar 13 2014 - Maingear's Pulse 17 laptop is based upon the MSI GS70 laptop chassis that makes it one of the thinnest and lightest 17-inch laptops on the market. It weighs just under six pounds and is only .85-inches thick. The base design features that standard black aluminum with plastic trim and the Maingear logo instead of MSI branding. One of the ways that Maingear customizes their laptops to be different though is the ability to order it in a number of different colors for the exterior but at a fairly steep $299. The keyboard deck and bezel still remain the traditional black and it does feature the customizable keyboard back lighting just like the MSI GS70.
Powering the Maingear Pulse 17 is the Intel Core i7-4700HQ quad core processor. This is essentially the same for performance as the i7-4700MQ found in many competing laptops but it includes Intel's Virtualization support that can be useful for running multiple operating systems. It provides more than enough performance for PC gaming as well as demanding computing tasks such as desktop video editing. The processor is matched up with 16GB of DDR3 memory to provide a smooth experience with Windows and will never likely need to be upgraded.
The main area that the Pulse 17 differs from the MS GS70 is in the storage. It still uses a combination of solid sate drives and traditional hard drive. The difference is that it uses two 128GB SSD drives in a RAID 0 array to provide it with a larger 256GB capacity and faster setup than the single 128GB drive of the GS70. It also features a larger one terabyte hard drive for more space for data and media files although this does spin at a slower 5400rpm rate compared to the 7200rpm rate of the MSI hard drive. If you do need even more space, there is an option to upgrade to a 512GB (two 256GB) SSD configuration at addition cost of course. There are still four USB 3.0 ports for use with high speed external drives. Another difference with the Maingear Pulse 17 is that while it does not have an internal DVD drive, they do supply users with a USB external drive for playback and recording of CD or DVD media.
The display for the Maingear Pulse 17 is actually quite good when compared to many other 17-inch gaming laptops. It still uses the same 1920x1080 resolution typical to laptops in this size but it offers better than average color and brightness levels. This is especially good for those that might want to play the system outside as the brightness combined with the anti-glare coating makes it easier to see than most. Viewing angles can still be narrow at times but it is a tradeoff for the faster response times of the TN technology panels. The graphics are handled by the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M processor. This is a solid mid-range graphics processor that can provide smooth frame rates in many PC games at the panel's full resolution. There are still some demanding games that will require that the detail levels or resolutions be turned down in order to keep the frame rates up.
The keyboard layout for the Pulse 17 uses the same island style layout as the MSI GS70. It offers a decent overall experience but it neither the best or worst keyboard on the market. The numeric keypad is a bit slimmer than a few but there is no Windows key on the left hand side which is nice for gamers who might get interrupted if they pressed it in the traditional WASD game controls layout. It does feature the same customized color back light for the keyboard but it shines around the keys rather than through them. The trackpad sadly has the same issues as the ones in the MSI where the sensitivity is either too extreme one way or the other making it very difficult to use. Of course gamers often use an external mouse so this probably won't be a bit concern for them.
The battery capacity and estimated running time are not listed for the Maingear Pulse 17 or the MSI GS70. In digital video playback testing, the system was able to run for just under four hours before going into standby. This is surprisingly good for such as small gaming laptop but this is not a very demanding load like gaming with will reduce the running time by over half. Now the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 Touch offers a longer running time of six hours in the same video playback test but it does not have high end gaming performance.
Pricing for the Maingear Pulse 17 starts at $2099 which puts it roughly $500 more than the base MSI GS70 but only $100 more than the list price of a similarly configured GS70. This does mean that buyer's are essentially paying a bit more for the Maingear name but it also comes with a different level of support that is generally considered above average. It also offers a greater level of customization that can't be found in the MSI. It is still more affordable than the Razer Blade Pro that does offer a slightly higher level of build quality and its unique LED display trackpad instead of a number pad. There are of course larger and heavier laptops that offer a greater level of performance but they lack the portability which is the driving feature of these systems. The closest in terms of portability would be the Acer Aspire V3 772G that offers a close but still slightly slower experience but it is much more affordable. The big downside is that it offers much less running time and is of course larger to fit in a DVD burner.