Maingear F131 Review: A High Performance Gaming PC Masterpiece

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Maingear F131 Design, Build Quality And Apex ICS Cooling

As soon as you extract the Maingear F131 from its box you begin to realize the labor of love that was put in to produce it. Its chassis is comprised of machined and polished steel, with custom logo stamp cutouts and a unique look all its own. The design is efficient in form factor with what amounts to a smaller than mid-sized ATX chassis design, but not quite SFF (Small Form Factor) either. A quick study will tell you that quite literally, every square inch of this machine has be carefully planned out. 
 
Maingear F131 Top Lights
Maingear F131 Side Panel Off

And of course, almost every square inch is custom RGB lit. Here, the lighting system is set to white, however, you can control it with a bundled remote which we'll get to in a bit. Coursing though its large Apex ICS block is white, distilled, deionized, non-conductive EK liquid coolant. Backlit with white light, it makes this design and paint pattern really come alive. The APEX ICS cooling system is comprised of an extra large reservoir block of acrylic that Maingear claims is virtually "maintenance-free," though there is a pressure release valve and fill tube at the top of the unit, as well as a drain spigot at the bottom should the need arise. The entire assembly was designed in partnership with Bitspower, but is a full-custom design specifically for the Maingear F131 system and case. The system has a built in flow meter (the little pinwheel at the bottom), a liquid temp senor, and is pressure regulated.

Maingear F131 CPU Block Memory Fans
Maingear F131 Front Panel Ports
Its dual pumps (residing behind the APEX block) ensure consistent flow and redundancy. Although it is a parallel loop system (CPU and GPUs are both in the same loop for cooling), both the CPU and GPU complexes have their own cool liquid feed from the APEX block, as well as a dedicated return to the top of the system, where a huge 420mm radiator resides, with three 140mm fans pumping air through it and out of the top of the system.

Maingear F131 GPU Blocks
Maingear F131 GPU Slot Cables

Our F131's dual GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPUs are fed with a single ingress feed and egress pipe for both cards. The GPU blocks are custom EK cooling blocks built for the F131 and as you can see, the cards themselves plug into what is essentially a bottom mounted riser. That card then feeds a pair of PCIe X16 cables with card-edge connectors into the two PEG slots on the MSI motherboard. To say the whole setup is elaborate would be an understatement. Maingear's APEX Integrated Cooling System (ICS) and the hardline liquid tubing setup of our F131 is a well-engineered and elegant cooling solution that, as you'll see shortly, performs as good as it looks.

Maingear F131 Cabling and MSI Board
Maingear F131 Backside View
Maingear F131 Rear IO

All of that is connected and cinched-up with some of the neatest braided cabling and cable management you'll see in any custom built system today. Also, it's a bit deceiving, but the power supply is located in the top left corner of the rear side of the case, along with the hard drive. Removing the rear panel is actually one of our few small gripes with the F131 design. You need to remove 6 standard screws from the backside panel to get access. Finally, as you can see, backside IO access is fairly standard with the graphics cards lower and at the bottom of the case. However, there are copious IO options on the front, left edge of the chassis so reaching back here after initial setup will likely be an infrequent necessity.

Let's take a quick look at accessories and then we'll fire up the F131 and get a look at its software setup... 

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