Maingear Potenza Super Stock SFF System Review - HotHardware

Maingear Potenza Super Stock SFF System Review

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Maingear markets the Potenza as "the world's first mini-ITX gaming system designed for overclocking," and the Super Stock version is built around Intel's Z77 chipset by way of an Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard. You can also order a Potenza based on Intel's H77 chipset, or if your brand preference swings AMD, there's also an entry-level configuration built around the Sunnyvale chip designer's FM1 platform starting at $899.



The Potenza is short in stature yet stout in features. To give you a sense of scale, we plopped an Xbox 360 console next to the Potenza. Maingear's rig is a little taller and obviously wider in the gut, but it's actually less deep than the Xbox 360. As previously mentioned, it's about the size of a bookshelf speaker, giving end users more flexible placement options than a mid-tower or full-tower desktop. It's not quite as svelte as Alienware's X51, but it's far more powerful and still nimble enough to find a place in a home theater setup, if that's where you want to place it.

As configured, the Potenza weighs 18.1 pounds, and you'll feel every bit of it if you manage to drop the system on your foot, as this editor did. The Potenza sports a four main panel design constructed from 2.5mm slabs of sand-blasted and anodized aluminum (Silverstone, which builds the case, tells us "the surface treatment is similar to what Apple does now with their aluminum bodied computers, but with an extra step of black dye application"), three of which snap into place. You have to take extra care when picking up or unboxing the system, as it doesn't take a ton of pressure to remove any of the panels, sending the Potenza on a crash course with the ground courtesy of Mr. Gravity. It's a bit awkward to transport in that respect, but manageable if you scoop your hands underneath any two of the four feet that surround the bottom of each panel.

Aesthetically, the Potenza adopts an unassuming design that could easily be mistaken for a small subwoofer, at least from a distance. Maingear says the system is 76 percent smaller than its mighty SHIFT, which we reviewed in March, and a full 46 percent smaller than Maingear's redesigned F131. Maingear's assessment that "the Potenza looks great from any angle" is spot on.

   

Like Maingear's 46 percent larger F131, the Potenza employs "VRTX Cooling Technology" to take advantage of hot air's natural tendency to rise. Cool air is sucked in from the bottom of the chassis, travels up and over the motherboard, and is expelled from the top of the case. Heat producers like the power supply and graphics card are positioned towards the top, the latter of which sits vertically. Both belch hot air directly out the top panel, never having a chance to travel over any of the other hardware, like the CPU, RAM, and motherboard.

This vertical orientation means that the rear I/O panel now sits at the top as well. A plastic cover pops off to reveal the motherboard's assortment of USB and eSATA ports, and it doesn't require any tools to remove it like the SHIFT does; it snaps right off with a little tug. On either side are narrow pathways that slide cables in and out of (like your mouse, keyboard, and power cord), along with a smaller groove in the front.

For quick access to things like USB thumb drives or to remove pictures from a tablet or digital camera, the Potenza offers access to a pair of USB 3.0 ports on top without having to ever remove the plastic panel. There are also head and microphone jacks on top, and a physical power and reset buttons.



A slit in the front panel affords access to the slot-loading optical drive. The configuration Maingear sent us included an 8X dual-layer DVD burner, though you can also opt for a 6X Blu-ray reader. Unfortunately, the only way to get a Blu-ray burner is by forking over $179 for an external optical drive built by Asus.



Here you can see the tight confines Maingear has to work with. Building a full fledged PC, let alone a gaming system capable of being overclocked, in a form factor that's as tight and vertical as the Potenza is no easy task, and things are bound to get cramped. Remarkably, Maingear is able to fit a high-end graphics card, water cooling, HDD and SSD storage, and an optical drive into the Potenza. Technically, it's also possible to upgrade components on your own -- these are off-the-shelf parts, after all -- but you're best served by ponying up for the fastest hardware you can afford from the get-go and staving off the upgrade bug as long as possible.
 

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Eventually everything gets smaller and slimmer. I wasn't too long ago that flat screen monitors were replaced CRT monitors. Perhaps gaming rigs much farther in the future will shrink down to the size of a Mac Mini or even further, a Raspberry Pi.

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The problem that I find with a lot of mini itx cases is usually their depth, If you want to build a system with a decent graphics card then it can get too deep to fit inside a media cabinet. By mounting the graphic card vertically Maingear solved this problem but I guess ran into another problem of having the back I/O in an awkward position. Either way this is a powerful and small system.

Can this be the prize for the next contest?? That would be AWESOME!!

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Why does Maingear KEEP releasing stuff as if they designed and manufactured it themselves, when they are really just re-badging great designs/products from others?

The case is from Silverstone (FT03-mini).

http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=333

I built an i5 based HTPC with one several months ago, and it IS a brilliant case and will fit dual-slot video cards unlike a lot of mini-ITX solutions. The 140mm fan blowing air from the bottom of the case up through the chassis and out the top grill works brilliantly.

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MCaddick:

Why does Maingear KEEP releasing stuff as if they designed and manufactured it themselves, when they are really just re-badging great designs/products from others?

The case is from Silverstone (FT03-mini)

I'm so glad someone said this.

I like Maingear, the computers they build are relatively well priced for prebuilt machines, and are always nice eye-candy.

But this is not their case. Neither is their flagship case either; that's a SilverStone too. They should at least credit SIlverStone when describing the case on the build page. It's not a Maingear i5/i7, it's intel. so why can't they call it the Maingear Potenza, that uses the FT03 Mini?

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@MCaddick you are absolutely right, I saw a video review for that case a while back and realized my mistake once I read your post. As for the other builds from Maingear they are usually parts that anybody can throw together (I don't know why I thought they made a case out of no where). it's mainly the Maingear laptops that impress me. 

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Maingear astounds once again. Definitely one of the tops when it comes to high performance builds. I certainly wouldn't mind one of these for a portable gaming system.

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The only thing I like about this is the case, build quality, and pre-built. What I don't like THE PRICE for what you get, I'd prefer to build my own if that meant that I would save a few bucks to get the same results.

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It performs well. I think I would prefer not to have the Maingear name brightly painted on it. The case looks good without that flash on it.

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