When boutique PC maker Maingear contacted me about sending out a loaner F131 system for review, I had no idea that I would soon be face-to-face with the most attractive machine ever to grace my computer desk.
Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder — not everyone is as big a fan of the pink and yellow as I am — but there's no denying the technical proficiency that went into making the F131 case look this good. Maingear's painting process involves powerful technology, top-of-the-line materials and decades of experience, resulting in a unique luxury car quality finish (that doesn't have to be pink with a Kotaku logo on it).
The extravagance that goes into making the exterior of the F131 so striking isn't just a flashy gimmick to draw the eye; it's an extension of the philosophy that makes Maingear's machines some of the more powerful PC gaming machines on the market.
It's funny, because my initial introduction to Maingear several years ago was nowhere near as spectacular. I've been using one of the company's incredibly compact X-Cube systems for three years now, and though it has served me well I obviously haven't been too concerned about how it looks.
The F131, on the other hand, regularly receives wipe-downs with a soft cloth. I treat it like a luxury car because that's how Maingear painted it. Their painting team has more than 30 combined years of experience. They use a down draft paint booth — the same sort used for vehicle work — which draws paint vapors through the floor to ensure an even coat with no settling. They use Glasurit paint, the same paint you'd find on a Porsche.
I know the outside of a gaming PC means little in the grand scheme of things, but just look at it.
Okay, enough about the candy coating, let's break this baby open.
The beauty of the new Maingear F131 is far from skin deep. The vertical exhaust chassis employed by the unit is the model of efficiency and utility. Stripping the sides reveals a deft use of the minimal space available. The 2TB Seagate Barracuda drive and its 60GB Corsair caching SSD companion are strapped to one side like plastic explosives. A plug-and-play SATA drive bay accessed through the top of the system gave my 1TB external media drive a convenient place to hide while the system is in my possession.
The Maingear Super Stock F131
•Chassis: F131 with VRTX Cooling Technology
•Motherboard: Asus Maximus V Gene
•Processor: Intel Core i7 3770K 3.5GHz/3.9GHz Turbo 8MB L3 Cache HD 4000
•Processor Cooling: Maingear Epic 120 Supercooler
•Memory: 8GB Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR3-1600
•Graphics: 2x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti 4GB Total
•Power Supply: 660 Watt Seasonic®X-660 80+
•SSD Caching: 60GB Corsair Accelerator SSD Caching Drive
•Hard Drive: 2TB Seagate Barracuda 7200rpm
•Optical Drive: 8X Dual Layer DVD RW
•Audio: Asus SupremeFX III X-Fi THX TrueStudio Pro Premium Audio
•Ethernet Adapter: On-board Gigabit Ethernet
•Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
•Warranty: Lifetime Angelic Service labour and Phone Support with 3 Year Hardware Warranty
Available at Maingear
The opposite side gives us a lovely view of the two PCI slots, a cramped fit for a pair of full-length 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti cards (I was trying out a GTX 690 when I took these shots). There's the Maingear Epic 120 Supercooler — my first experience with liquid cooling (I know, right?). It's keeping the Intel Core i7 3770K nice and frosty.
You'll also notice one of the common issues with a vertical exhaust chassis. Someone should have given his desk a good cleaning before hooking up the PC. Since air is drawn from the bottom of the unit and released through the top, any dust beneath the machine isn't beneath for very long. On the plus side the bit of my desk directly under the unit is pretty clean now — yeah, I'll dust more often.
A vertical exhaust chassis also means that all of the system's ports wind up on top of the system. Indentations on the back and sides of the case allow cables to pass through, while the whole affair is covered with a plastic grill. Considering how often I swap out computer accessories every day, I soon found myself setting the grill aside, reveling in the cables blossoming in graceful arcs from atop the chassis. Some people prefer neat and tidy; to mean, the more wires I see the further I move into the future.
Besides, who cares about a few dangling wires when the performance is this good? As configured this F131 is easily the most powerful PC I've had the pleasure of playing with. With a 3DMark 11 score of P13816 and FPS numbers so high I had to extend the charts I've been using since we started adding benchmarks to PC reviews.
It'll be several years before this machine needs to drop down to 720P to make a game playable, but I'm a stickler for consistency.
Looking at these numbers it might be time for me to procure a monitor that goes higher than 1080p, just to see how far I can push this baby.
And thus we come to the portion of any boutique gaming PC review that causes the comment section to fill with "I could build it cheaper". Protip — we all know you could build it cheaper.
The grand total for all this power and pretty is $US2,569. That's a large chunk of change, but at the risk of sounding cliché, you get what you pay for. This is a Super Stock model of the Maingear F131, a designation the company created for buyers that are more concerned with quality than cost. The non-Super Stock version of the F131 starts at $US1049. The Super Stock kicks in at $US1696. The price difference reflects standard watercooling, faster, lower latency memory, SSD caching for faster hard drive access, faster graphic card options, Redline overclocking and fancy chassis modification options. An F131 would be just fine without any of those things — with them it's just better.
Like the sports car it shares paint with, the Maingear Super Stock F131 is a machine crafted for consumers that aren't afraid to spend a premium on power and luxury. You probably don't need a system this robust; this gorgeous (pink and yellow for life!), but it would sure be nice to have one, wouldn't it?
The F131 is available now at Maingear.com.