Maingear calls its Shift Super Stock Z87 the Mean Green Machine and it’s hard not to agree with that moniker.
Is there any other way to describe a gaming rig with not one GeForce GTX Titan, or even two—but freakin’ three of them? Yes, three of the world’s fastest single-GPU cards all singing harmoniously together against the tyranny of slow frame rates.
For a tri-SLI rig, the Shift is actually fairly compact.
The Shift isn’t just about new GPUs, though—Maingear splashes out on other gourmet goodies. There’s none of that freeze-dried, last month’s Ivy Bridge in this box. It’s all Haswell. If you read our coverage on Haswell, you know we’re a little melancholy about the chip because, well, we want more! Perhaps we’re being too negative. Months of dour news about the PC world can do that to a nerd. But you know what makes it all better? Speed. And the Haswell-sporting Shift has that.
But, back to the tri-SLI. There have been concerns that, like Ivy Bridge and Z77, the Haswell/Z87 doesn’t have the available PCIe 3.0 bandwidth to serve tri-SLI. If that’s true, we can’t find evidence of it here in the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 board. The three Titans easily belted out the highest score we’ve ever seen in, well, all of our graphics tests. In 3DMark 11, for example, it spit out just under 14,000. How fast is that? Last year’s Dream Machine with quad-SLI (two GTX 690s) mustered a mere 10,906. The Geekbox Ego Maniacal mustered but 12,090, with a liquid-cooled quad-SLI setup. The Shift’s score in Batman: Arkham City is similarly impressive. The Geekbox Ego Maniacal has held the record with 134fps but the Shift pushes the bar to 184fps. Again, we’re not talking about a pair of busted up GeForce GTX 460 cards here—that’s a liquid-cooled quad-SLI setup that the Shift easily outpaces.
Like we said, the Shift can deliver on the CPU front, as well. The Core i7-4770K at 4.7GHz snaps the needle in Stitch.Efx 2.0 and ProShow Producer with new benchmark records. We have to point out one obvious thing, though: The Falcon Northwest FragBox 3 ain’t that far behind the Shift in the CPU tests. Neither quad-core box, however, can touch the Geekbox’s scores in the multithreaded tests such as Premiere Pro CS6 and x264.
One thing we wish Maingear had lifted from Geekbox is its GPU liquid cooling. The Shift’s CPU is kept chilly using what the company calls its Epic 300 Open-loop Super Cooler, which doesn’t cool just the CPU but also the voltage regulation circuits on the board. That’s fine, but the three Titans, when pushed hard for long periods of time, tend to get a little audible, even with a massive fan pushing air straight through them. That’s because Maingear overclocks the hell out of the three Titans and picked a very loud fan profile. Apparently, Maingear anticipates people using the Shift in the sweltering summers on Venus. The good news is that you can easily trim the fans back to reasonable levels in the nifty EVGA utility that comes pre-installed.
An even better solution is liquid cooling, but it’s very, very hard to argue with graphics performance that crushes even quad-SLI systems. That’s no small accomplishment and demands respect.
Our current desktop test bed consists of a hexa-core 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K 3.8GHz, 8GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, on an Asus Sabertooth X79 motherboard. We are running a GeForce GTX 690, an OCZ Vertex 3 SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.
Intel Core i7-4770K@4.7GHz
Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5
3x GeForce GTX Titan
256GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD, Seagate Barracuda 4TB HDD