X

Maingear F131 review: Maingear F131

Maingear F131

img-1204
Rich Brown
img-1204

Rich Brown

Executive Editor / Reviews - Home and Wellness

Rich moved his family from Brooklyn to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013 to start CNET's Appliances and Smart Home review team, which includes the CNET Smart Home, the CNET Smart Apartment, and the Appliances Review lab. Before moving to Louisville, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D-printed guns to Z-Wave smart locks.

See full bio
7 min read

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Although we liked the PCs we saw with Intel's new unlocked Core i7 875K CPU well enough, with its $2,499 F131 gaming desktop, Maingear has shown you can still build (and buy) an even faster computer with technology that's just a bit more seasoned for the same price. Maingear overclocked a Core i7 950 chip to 4.2GHz, and included a pair of Nvidia graphics cards in this review build, and the result is performance on par with a PC from just six months ago that costs twice as much. Don't let the silly (and thankfully optional) artwork on the side of this system fool you. We'd recommend the Maingear F131 to any serious PC gamer.

Maingear F131
8.7

Maingear F131

The Good

Better application performance than PCs that cost twice as much; strong gaming performance should play almost any game on the market smoothly and with high image quality; room to expand memory and hard-drive storage; USB 3.0 jacks prepare you for future external devices.

The Bad

Garish (but fortunately optional) side panel art.

The Bottom Line

Ignore the side panel. Maingear has an outstanding deal in this high-end F131 gaming desktop, which is one of the fastest PCs we've seen all year. We recommend this system without hesitation to serious PC gamers and those interested in a high-performance, high-value computer.

We've given this system a high design rating, but the laser-etched Mafia II-themed side panel bears some scrutiny. Our hunch is that this design represents Maingear's effort to support Nvidia's Mafia II promotional push, which in turn is designed to sell Nvidia's 3D Vision gaming technology, which the game supports.

Though this system does indeed come with 3D Vision-capable graphics cards, it doesn't include the $350 or so 120Hz LCD monitor, nor the roughly $200 3D Vision glasses and receiver kit. If helping Nvidia doesn't explain the Mafia II side panel, we'd love to know why, of all the games out there, Maingear would elect to submit this PC with an image from an only average game (Mafia II currently enjoys a 74 Metacritic rating). The good news is that the side panel laser-etching is optional, and you can easily replace it with a blank, or submit your own art, which Maingear will inscribe for no extra charge.

Weird product placement aside, the design of the F131 is in line with what we expect from a higher-end gaming desktop. The interior in particular is perfectly designed, with all internal cables wrapped and bound as neatly as can be. We dinged Maingear's flagship Shift desktop for lacking the power and data connections from the back of the open hard-drive bays, and Maingear has corrected that issue here. And though this F131 build doesn't have the front-panel hard-drive access we've come to appreciate from a variety of vendors, we're glad to see Maingear offers the option for an additional $99.


Maingear F131Falcon Northwest Talon
Price$2,499$2,499
Motherboard chipsetIntel X58Intel P55
CPU4.2GHz Intel Core i7 950 (overclocked)4GHz Intel Core i7 875K (overclocked)
Memory6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics(2) 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 4601.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 480
Hard drives64GB Corsair solid-state drive, 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital Caviar Black1TB Western Digital Caviar Black 7,200rpm SATA 3.0
Optical drivedual-layer DVD burnerdual-layer DVD burner
Operating systemWindows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

If we're happy with the design of the F131, we're ecstatic about the features Maingear offers for its price. From the aggressive and, more importantly, stable overclocked Intel Core i7 950 CPU, to the pair of GeForce GTX 460 graphics cards, to the solid-state boot drive, Maingear has outdone a competing Talon from Falcon Northwest to a dramatic degree. Falcon Northwest doesn't even offer a Talon with Intel's X58 chipset; instead it relies on the P55 chipset, which has reduced card expansion capacity and lower memory bandwidth. For other competing systems from vendors like Velocity Micro, Origin, and Alienware, you'll find they either ask more money for the same components, or they don't offer the same parts.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Maingear F131
89

AVADirect Custom Gaming PC

90

Origin Genesis

91

Falcon Northwest Talon

94

Velocity Micro Edge Z55

94

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Maingear F131
55

Origin Genesis

56

Velocity Micro Edge Z55

58

AVADirect Custom Gaming PC

60

Falcon Northwest Talon

62

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Maingear F131
239

Origin Genesis

247

Velocity Micro Edge Z55

252

Falcon Northwest Talon

257

AVADirect Custom Gaming PC

310Cinebench

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


Rendering multiple CPUs  

Rendering single CPU  

Maingear F131
24,4976,149

Origin Genesis

23,6775,969

Velocity Micro Edge Z55

23,4355,835

Falcon Northwest Talon

23,0035,900

AVADirect Custom Gaming PC

22,3155,481

Our application performance tests let the Maingear F131 shine, as it posts an across-the-board victory. As expected, the Maingear outperforms the Falcon Northwest Talon and its Core i7 875K CPU. The F131's performance against the Origin Genesis, a $5,000 gaming desktop, was a bigger surprise. That the Maingear is even in the same conversation as a system that costs twice as much is an impressive feat. That the F131 outperforms that same PC speaks to the phenomenal value Maingear is offering. We expect anyone looking for a high-performance desktop for general productivity, or editing, converting, or otherwise manipulating media files would be very satisfied with this desktop.

Crysis (in frames per second)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)  

1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  

Maingear F131
7681

Origin Genesis

7477

Velocity Micro Edge Z55

7379

AVADirect Custom Gaming PC

6283

Falcon Northwest Talon

5892

Far Cry 2 (in frames per second)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  

1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  

Velocity Micro Edge Z55
192200

Origin Genesis

188222

Maingear F131

174201

Falcon Northwest Talon

118163

AVADirect Custom Gaming PC

98113

The F131's gaming performance is not quite as dramatic, but it's still very competitive. Crysis still remains a relevant gaming benchmark, and not only does the Maingear exceed the 60-frames-per-second threshold, it does so better than its competition on the most demanding resolution. And even though it's slower than some competing systems on our Far Cry 2 test, we can't exactly cast the Maingear as slow given its 174-plus frame rates.

We haven't adopted a DirectX 11 game test yet, but we were curious to see how the Maingear would handle Metro 2033, one of the more demanding DirectX 11 games. We don't use that game formally as Nvidia had a lot to do with its development (as AMD and ATI have done with Tom Clancy's HAWX), and we'd prefer a more neutral title. As this is an Nvidia-based system, the F131 is primed to succeed on Metro 2033. We had a good experience during regular gameplay, but when we dialed up all of the image quality and physics settings, the Maingear hit its limit in the Metro 2033 benchmark program, managing only about 25 frames per second. That's certainly playable, but it's not enough of a cushion to guarantee you won't see the occasional slowdown.

The take away for the Maingear F131 as a gaming system is that you will find very few games that will challenge this PC. For the few that will, you should be able to dial down a few settings here and there, and still enjoy a smooth, good-looking gaming experience.

Thanks to its Intel X58 motherboard and its three PCI Express graphics card slots, you could conceivably add a third graphics card to this PC if you want to boost its gaming performance. We would suggest upgrading the 750-watt power supply if that's your plan, which you can do easily enough thanks to the PSU's modular design.

With two double-wide cards already in residence in this PC, you only get the additional PCI Express graphics slot for card upgrades. You get more flexibility with the memory, as three slots come unoccupied. And this system also has seemingly infinite capacity for hard-drive upgrades, with five free bays available.

The external connectivity options have some nice surprises as well. You get the standard assortment of USB 2.0, analog and S/PDIF audio, and FireWire jacks around the front and back of the case. The Asus motherboard also includes two eSATA inputs, one powered and one unpowered, as well as a pair of USB 3.0 jacks. Maingear has been particularly aggressive in bringing USB 3.0 to its systems, and with the addition of those jacks, you have no less than four different kinds of external data inputs. That's some impressive flexibility, even for a sub-$3,000 desktop.

Juice box
Maingear F131Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent)2.84
Sleep (10 percent)173.16
Idle (25 percent)196.66
Load (5 percent)446.4
Raw kWh997.4
Energystar compliant No
Annual power consumption cost$113.20

Annual power consumption cost

Falcon Northwest Talon

$77.25

Maingear F131

$123.45

Velocity Micro Edge Z55

$160.8

Origin Genesis

$167.75

Our power tests aren't designed to isolate certain components in a system, so we can't say conclusively whether it's the graphics cards or the overclocked CPU that contribute more to a gaming PC's overall power draw. Thus we can only say it's interesting that the Maingear consumes less power than the PCs it outperforms on our application tests, but shows more traditional scaling if we refer to the results of our Far Cry 2 benchmark. From that latter perspective, our power charts would seem to say that the pair of faster graphics cards in both the Velocity Micro Edge Z55 and the Origin Genesis demands considerably more power than the pair of GeForce GTX 460s in the Maingear. It wouldn't be surprising if that is indeed what is going on here, but if it is, it looks as if that extra power has some very real ramifications to your annual power bill. For the Maingear overall, it seems to be a relatively efficient high-performance gaming PC, but you'll still pay an extra $9 or so monthly to keep it running.

Maingear's default service plan gets you a yearlong hardware warranty, and lifetime labor and phone coverage. It also offers discretionary onsite service from a third-party provider, as well as free, two-way repair shipping for the first 30 days of ownership. You'll find a variety of support options on Maingear's Web site as well, including remote desktop support. In all Maingear's support is on par or better than many vendors out there, boutiques included.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
AVADirect Custom Gaming PC
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.88GHz Intel Core i7-920 (overclocked); 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM (underclocked to 1,480MHz); 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 (overclocked); 1.5TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive; 147GB 15,000rpm Fujistu hard drive

Falcon Northwest Talon
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 4.0GHz (overclocked) Intel Core i7 875K; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 480; 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black 7,200rpm SATA 3.0 hard drive

Maingear F131
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit; 3.87GHz (overclocked) Intel Core i7 960; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards; 80GB Intel X25-M solid-state hard drive; 1.5TB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive

Origin Genesis
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 4.0GHz (overclocked) Intel Core i7 920; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 2GB ATI Radeon HD 5970; (2) 80GB Intel X25-M solid-state hard drive; 1.5TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Velocity Micro Edge Z55
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 4.0GHz (overclocked) Intel Core i7 930; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 480; 64GB Patriot Torqx solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive

Maingear F131
8.7

Maingear F131

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 9Support 8