capsule review

Maingear F131 Gaming Desktop

At a Glance
  • Maingear F131

    PCWorld Rating

    The F131 gaming PC uses AMD's latest technology and provides room for tweaks and upgrades as your needs increase.

Few PCs can match the expandability--or the fit and finish--of Maingear's F131 midsize-tower gaming desktop. It has so many drive bays (five 5.25-inch externals and seven internal 3.5-inchers) that they outstrip the six available SATA ports. (Two of those are rear-panel eSATA connections suitable for internal use, but they're perfect for connecting external hard drives.) Not only are the bays plentiful, but installing drives in them is a breeze too. The 5.25-inch bays each have a rocker button on the side that, when pressed at the top, releases the drive; when you press it on the bottom, it locks the drive down. The 3.5-inch bays use slide-out trays that lock down via a large lever, hot-swap style.

Powering this $2499 (as of 4/27/09) system are several components featured in the recent AMD Dragon platform refresh, namely dual 1GB ATI 4890 graphics boards and an AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition CPU sitting in an Asus M4A79T Deluxe socket AM3 motherboard. A 7200-rpm Western Digital 1TB hard drive, 4GB of DDR3-1333 memory, and a Pioneer BDC-202 Blu-ray reader/DVD burner round out the configuration. The machine runs Windows Vista Home Premium, with Ulead Video Studio, BurnNow, and Intervideo's WinDVD supporting the optical drive.

Maingear has taken advantage of the Black Edition CPU's unlocked clock multiplier and the liquid cooling system to produce a rig overclocked to 3.71GHz (from the 955's standard 3.2GHz). With the CPU frequency bumped up, the F131 managed a respectable WorldBench 6 score of 130--a result that's 30 points short of the marks from the best gaming PCs we've seen but not bad for a well-configured, dual-graphics-card machine that costs $2499. If you're up for it, AMD's OverDrive 3.0 software makes further tweaks to the processor, to HyperTransport, and to memory speed and voltages as simple as moving a slider.

Gaming frame rates were more than respectable. The dual 1GB ATI 4890 graphics boards helped the F131 achieve 109 frames per second in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars at 1920 by 1200 resolution (with antialiasing), and 106 fps in Unreal Tournament 3 at the same resolution (at high settings).

The F131 boasts an immaculately cabled interior complete with a classy CoolIT Domino A.L.C. liquid cooling unit that includes a blue LCD screen for showing the current CPU temperature and fan speeds. The 750-watt power supply is mounted at the bottom of the case to make way for the liquid cooling and to lower the case's center of gravity. Two monster exhaust fans sit on the top of the unit near the CPU and on the lower front of the case to draw hot air off from the aforementioned seven-bay drive cage.

My only complaint about the Maingear F131 is that it had only a single USB port that I could spot on the front; I often have more than one peripheral plugged into the front of my PC. I had no complaints about the high-precision Razer DeathAdder mouse or the backlit Razer Lacosa keyboard (it offers nice tactile feedback for a short-travel keystroke model). That input-device combination, targeted squarely at gamers, rounds out a highly expandable--and tweakable--gaming package.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The F131 gaming PC uses AMD's latest technology and provides room for tweaks and upgrades as your needs increase.

    Pros

    • Super expandable
    • Liquid-cooled

    Cons

    • Only one front USB port
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