The Maingear F131 Super Stock (GTX Titan) showcases what you can do with the latest Nvidia gaming powerhouse graphics card. With a pair of Nvidia GeForce GTX Titans in SLI configuration, you can smoothly play virtually any game in full 1080p or better resolution. It can do this with all the eye candy turned on, including tessellation, antialiasing, anisotropic filtering, and the like. If those terms didn’t mean anything to you, they’ll certainly thrill a hardcore gamer. While it doesn’t quite reach the overall performance high of the Falcon Northwest Mach V (Triple Titan), which is our Editors’ Choice for high-end gaming rigs, the F131 SS (GTX Titan) comes close. It can more than hold its own on the gaming grid, and then some.
Design and Features
The new F131 comes in a new chassis, inspired by the design of the Maingear Potenza Super Stock ($1,999 4.5 stars) we looked at last year. It’s still a mid-tower chassis, but it now shares the Potenza’s rectangular shape with rounded corners and vertical orientation. The chassis measures 19 by 9.25 by 11.25 inches (HWD). The F131 we received was painted in a yellow shade of automotive paint that would look at home on a Porsche 911 GT3 sports car.
You can’t miss the family resemblance to the Potenza, but the F131 has much more space inside the chassis, and is consequently larger. The Potenza is a small form factor desktop, capable of holding one high-end graphics card, while the F131, while still compact compared with a larger tower, is designed to accommodate a dual-card setup. The F131′s chassis holds a pair of Samsung 840 Pro 256GB SSDs in a RAID 0 array (512GB) for the C: drive as well as a 2TB Seagate Barracuda hard drive for data storage. A DVD burner loads via a slot cut into the F131′s front panel, in case you want to play older offline titles.
And those two graphics cards are the focus of this system, since they account for almost 40 percent of the system cost.. While a high-end gaming rig like the former high-end Editors’ Choice gaming desktop Maingear Shift Super Stock (Core i7-3930K) does its thing with a top-of-the-line six-core Intel Core i7-3930K CPU and three AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics cards, the F131 as configured here garners similar or better performance with a less powerful quad-core Intel Core i7-3770K processor and two Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan cards. The GTX Titan is a $999 supercomputer-class graphics card that sits alongside the Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 card at the top of Nvidia’s gaming card line. The single-GPU equipped GTX Titan is much more power efficient than the Nvidia GTX 690 dual-GPU card and Nvidia GTX 680 single GPU cards that preceded it. Suffice to say that if you’re using a single-monitor setup, the GTX Titan in SLI configuration will serve you well.
As mentioned above, the system comes with an Intel Core i7-3770K processor. If this setup seems familiar, you’ve probably read our review of the Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7-3770K), which also had an overclocked i7-3770K, though the Mach V used a pair of GTX 690 cards to handle the 3D gaming performance. Maingear overclocked the i7 in the F131 up to 4.6 GHz (from the 3.5 GHz stock setting), while Falcon bumped the CPU in the Falcon Mach V (Core i7-3770K) up to 4.8 GHz. The processor is liquid cooled, allowing Maingear to ramp up the pain to these levels.
Speaking of cooling, the new F131 case is laid out to improve cooling. The graphics cards have their own pair of fans sucking air from under the chassis, and since the graphics cards are situated vertically, the hot air is ejected out of the top of the system. Another separate fan in the chassis pushes air over the system’s memory and through to the liquid cooler’s radiator and exhaust fan. Air moves in one direction: from the cooler bottom of the system up and out through the top. While this means that your display’s cables will have to be connected to the top of the PC instead of the back, it also means more efficient temperature management overall. A plastic mesh lid covers the unsightly cabling and protects fingers from coming into contact with potentially hot graphics cards.
Speaking of connectors, the F131 has a pair of exposed USB 3.0 ports and audio ports next to the power and reset buttons on the top panel (unencumbered by the mesh lid). On the system’s backplane proper are a good selection of ports, including four more USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports (including one for BIOS recovery), a powered eSATA/USB 2.0 port, Ethernet, audio, and SPDIF audio out. On the two graphics cards, you’ll find four DVI ports, two HDMI ports, and two DisplayPorts. The system we reviewed also came with a Killer Wireless-N 1202 card so you can connect to 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. We tested and reviewed the system with a 30-inch 2,560 by 1,600 resolution panel connected via DVI.
The F131 comes with no bloatware pre-installed. There are simply two shortcuts on the desktop, one to get to an installer for OpenOffice, and the other to get to an installer for Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s up to you to use them; hardcore gamers will likely leave them both alone. The system comes with a three-year comprehensive warranty with lifetime tech support and labor. If you want to upgrade components in the future, all you have to do is call Maingear to get pricing for the parts and ship the system back. You’ll have to upgrade and replace components, because the F131 simply has no additional upgrade room for components, aside from an externally accessible hard drive bay that can swallow a 3.5-inch desktop hard drive.
The F131 SS (GTX Titan) took a look at our benchmark tests, ran through them, laughed, and kept going. It matched or surpassed previous gaming systems on our benchmark tests, only “falling short” of rivals on the CineBench test. The CineBench test rewards six-core processors, so that’s no surprise. On the strenuous 3D gaming tests, the F131 returned smooth playable numbers at our highest 1080p settings (Heaven 155 fps, Aliens vs. Predator 182 fps). In fact, the F131 was even able to return playable numbers on the 2,560 by 1,600 screen with all the settings set to max (Heaven 83 fps, AvP 100 fps).
For old times’ sake, we brought out the Crysis and Lost Planet 2 tests, and the F131 was able to play both smoothly at 1080p (Crysis 84 fps, LP2 209 fps) and likewise at 2,560 by 1,600 with maxxed out settings (Crysis 75, LP2 145). PCMark 7, 3DMark 11, Handbrake, and Photoshop CS6 results were likewise off the charts. Essentially, the overclocked processor and two GPUs in the F131 performed as well as or better than the three GPUs in the Maingear Shift Super Stock (Core i7-3930K) and the four GPUs in the Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7-3770K). The F131 SS also outperformed the three GTX 680 GPUs in the AVADirect X79 Gaming PC.
The Maingear F131 Super Stock (GTX Titan) proves its mettle by running through all of our benchmark tests and passing them with flying colors. It even runs through the tests at higher settings (all the eye candy turned on) and doesn’t break a sweat. While a 3-way GTX Titan SLI like in our Editors’ Choice Falcon Northwest Mach V (Triple Titan), could bring even more performance, you’ll need to be an upper strata gamer with the wherewithal to run three 30-inch panels simultaneously to take advantage of the extra horsepower (and the $2,100 higher price tag). On a single-monitor setup, dual GTX Titan cards are more than enough for today’s games and those coming in the near future, saving you the expense of an extra card and the related infrastructure. The F131 surpasses the capabilities of most high-end gaming rigs we’ve seen. If you have the need for smooth gameplay on a 1080p or better in a single-monitor setup, then the Maingear F131 SS (GTX Titan) should definitely be on your short list.
More Desktop Reviews:
|Primary Optical Drive||Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW|
|Processor Family||Intel Core i7|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia GeForce Titan SLI|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||2512 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc