Maingear F131 Super Stock: Real Power in a Quiet Package
By Alex Cocilova
PCWorldApr 21, 2011 4:35 pm PDT
At a Glance
Acoustic-dampening panels keep things quiet
Readily accessible internal bays
Plain, boring case
Maingear’s F131 Super Stock clambers to the top of our mainstream chart in a hard-fought battle.
Editor’s Note: Sometimes, numbers just don’t seem quite right. We took another look at our data, and after a bit of troubleshooting and testing, collected fresh gaming results. The F131 Super Stock ultimately earned 199.8 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament Benchmark (it previously earned 131.1 frames per second), right in line with our SLI expectations.
Maingear returns to the top of our mainstream-PC chart with another desktop carrying Super Stock options. Priced at $2224 (as of April 21, 2011), the Maingear F131 Super Stock manages to hang with–and even exceed–all comparable competitors.
At a glance, it’s difficult to tell the difference between this system and the previous Maingear F131 we reviewed in August–aside from the absence of the giant, laser-etched skull, of course. But the differences are more than skin deep. Pull the cover off, and you can easily see where the Super Stock options come in. The updated F131 Super Stock sports a speedy second-generation Core i5-2500K CPU overclocked to a stunning 5GHz. You’ll find 8GB of RAM, as well, with two empty DIMM slots to fill later. A 7200-rpm 1TB drive accompanies a 250GB solid-state drive, allowing for both maximum storage and speed. (Unfortunately, although Maingear certainly didn’t hold back with the hardware, the case is admittedly a bit dull.)
Thanks to two Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics cards arranged in SLI, you get a solid gaming machine without having to splurge on a high-end graphics card. The cards offer four DVI and two mini-HDMI outputs. In our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark (2560-by-1600-pixel resolution, highest settings), the system earbed 199.8 frames per second. This out paces the Maingear Vybe Super Stock (129.9 fps) running a single, slightly stronger card (the Nvidia Geforce GTX 570). The similarly equipped Origin Genesis Midtower earned 193 frames per second — a negligible difference. Confused about the benefits of running two cards versus one higher-end board? Check out Alex Wawro’s guide to SLI and CrossFire for a rundown of the pros and cons.
In our WorldBench 6 tests the F131 Super Stock, armed with its overclocked processor and solid-state drive, annihilated the competition with an astonishing score of 215. For comparison, the mainstream variant of the Origin Genesis Midtower received a mark of 206 in the same tests. The runner-up Maingear Vybe got a score of 207. Not to point out the obvious, but that is quite a notable difference.
Although the chassis is a bit of a bore on the outside, it supplies some great features and plenty of ports to keep all your accessories connected. The black brushed-aluminum case sports the Super Stock logo on the side. Regrettably, the machine has no side fan. I find that side fans greatly help to keep graphics cards cool; it can be an important factor in maintaining a stable PC, especially when running two cards at once. The front offers a readily accessible multiformat card reader, the DVD burner, and a single USB port. On top is a small indented area for holding various electronic devices (or a cup, if you’re brave enough). This tray has another pair of USB ports, a FireWire port, and the headphone and microphone jacks.
In the rear are a plethora of USB ports–eight, to be exact–and a pair of lightning-fast USB 3.0 ports. The F131 Super Stock also includes an eSATA port, PS/2 ports, a FireWire port, and 7.1-channel analog and optical audio options.
As for connectivity, the F131 Super Stock covers all the bases and then some, supplying you with a gigabit ethernet port as well as an 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth adapter. They are integrated right into the case, leaving more space on the motherboard for whatever else you may need to install in the PCI slots.
Maingear designed the F131 Super Stock with PC enthusiasts in mind, making interior access easy and (mostly) tool-free. A couple of thumb screws and a small latch release the case’s side panel. The first thing you may notice is the soft, plush material on the inside of the panels; this acoustic dampening keeps noise inside the case, making the system near silent. The drive bays are also user friendly, needing nothing more than a simple screwdriver. The system has six 3.5-inch internal bays with racks that slide in and securely lock into place for easy installation, as well as four 5.25-inch bays that use a similar, tool-free implementation. The wires are all neat and organized, meticulously hidden when possible to give the interior an open, clean look. The arrangement gives you plenty of room to tinker around if necessary, and it’s great for airflow.
The Maingear F131 Super Stock is a fast, powerful PC, but it does sit at the higher end of the mainstream class. For raw processing power, this machine sets some new standards in the mainstream category. In gaming performance it’s right in line with the $2254 Origin Genesis Midtower. Although the two computers’ builds and prices are similar, the Genesis Midtower offers twice as much RAM, with a pair of standard hard drives (in RAID 0) to keep the cost competitive. If you’d rather have another option, you can save about $400 with the Maingear Vybe Super Stock.