Maingear Potenza Super Stock review: Phenomenal gaming power, itty-bitty upgrade space

The Maingear turns in stellar application performance thanks to the combination of its overclocked Core i7 chip, its caching SSD, and even, as with Photoshop, from its graphics card. It does not tear away entirely from its competition, but owners of this PC can walk tall knowing that it's the most affordable in the group. You can build a faster computer if you go down a more specialized road, with a $1,000 Core i7 Extreme Edition chip, 16GB of RAM, or even an entirely SSD-driven configuration. You will pay significantly more for most of those components, though, and their benefits would arguably not justify the cost, especially for gamers.

Crysis (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (high, 4x aa)  

Far Cry 2 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  

Metro 2033 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,560x1,600 (DirectX 11, very high)  
1,920x1,080 (DirectX 11, very high)  

3DMark 11 Combined test (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Extreme (1,920x1080)  
Performance (1,920x1,080, 16x AF)  
Entry level (1,680x1,050)  
Maingear Potenza Super Stock (Core i7-3770K, December 2012)
26 
39 
45 

First, forgive our gaming benchmarks. A modern automated test is hard to find these days. We're looking into alternatives, but for now we have to go with what we have.

The good news about our gaming tests is that they still scale pretty well, and if they don't demonstrate comparative performance in current titles, they do provide you with an absolute performance curve.

As to that, the Potenza scores well on good old original Crysis in DirectX 9 mode. That likely has a lot to do with the single GeForce GTX 680 card in the Potenza, as well as the fact that we kept the resolution down to a reasonable 1,600x1,200 pixels. I'd expect a higher-resolution test would tip the charts toward the dual-card PCs like the F131, the Edge Z55, and the Ode V2.

To back that assertion, I'll point you to our Far Cry 2 and Metro 2033 results. Those games apparently scale infinitely to total GPU horsepower, and on each test, the Potenza falls to more larger, more robustly equipped competitors. Granted, the fall is not fatal. The only question mark comes with Metro 2033 at an ambitious 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution. If you have a 30-inch display, you might dial the settings down a tick.

I found the same ultrahigh-resolution limitation when I anecdotally tested The Witcher 2 at maximum image quality. Far Cry 3, though, played beautifully on its highest settings. The bottom line is that you can expect the Potenza Super Stock to handle every current game at full image quality at at least 1,920x1,080 with a reasonably smooth frame rate. That might not be true this time next year, but for now, most PC gamers can buy this system with few reservations.

For the remainder of the Potenza, you'll find a standard array of inputs, including USB 3.0, 5.1 analog audio, and an optical audio output. The graphics card provides two DVI jacks, as well as an HDMI output and a DisplayPort out.

The only significant configuration concern comes with the 450-watt power supply. It's enough to power this build, but I would be sure to weigh power consumption carefully in any future graphics card update.

Conclusion
Maingear has visually appealing little PC in the Potenza Super Stock. You can put this system pretty much anywhere. You'll pay a small premium for that privilege, and you'll lose some upgradability along the way. Neither criticism is significant enough to prevent a recommendation. As long as you know what you're giving up for the small size, the Maingear Potenza Super Stock will make an outstanding gaming desktop.

Performance testing was conducted by Joseph Kaminski. Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Digital Storm Ode V2 Level 4 (Intel Core i7-3770K, June 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-3770K; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 graphics card; 128GB Corsair SSD, 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Falcon Northwest Tiki (Intel Core i7-3770K, June 2012)
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit; 4.3GHz Intel Core i7-377K (overclocked); 8GB 1,866MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 graphics cards; 256GB SSD; 2TB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive

Maingear F131 (Intel Core i7-3770K, May 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-3770K (overclocked); 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 graphics cards; 60GB Corsair Accelera SSD; 2TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Maingear Potenza Super Stock (Intel Core i7-3770K, December 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-3770K (overclocked); 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 graphics card; 30GB solid-state caching drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Velocity Micro Edge Z55 (Intel Core i7-2700K, February 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.9GHz Intel Core i7-2700K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti graphics cards; (2) 60GB Intel SSD; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive

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Maingear Potenza Super Stock (Core i5 3.1 GHz)

Part Number: idproduct=1250entrylevel
MSRP: $1,443.00 Low Price: $1,443.00 See all prices
About The Author

Rich Brown is an executive editor for CNET Reviews. He has worked as a technology journalist since 1994.