Performance Summary & Conclusion
Performance Summary: Maingear's Potenza proved without a shadow of a doubt that you can build a luxury game system in a compact case and still enjoy high end luxuries, like gaming at 2560x1600 and overclocking. Small form factor (SFF) systems are first and foremost about saving space. While the Potenza is small in stature, it's big on performance. Time and again, it pushed playable framerates on our 30-inch monitor, including DirectX 11 titles like Aliens vs Predator and Batman: Arkham City. It's a perfect example of shrinking the desktop without compromising performance.Just because you have a couple grand to spare on a gaming PC doesn't mean you want a machine with a size that's as large as your budget. Maingear's Potenza is pricey as configured, no doubt, but it's also stout and muscular, able to play games on high resolution displays while sitting tucked underneath your desk, in the corner of your home theater, or anywhere else you choose to stick a system that's barely larger than a bookshelf speaker.
Maingear's system is also unique in how it handles airflow. Like the company's F131 system, the Potenza turns the typical desktop form factor on its head and utilizes vertical space to great success. The power supply situated near the top of the case, expels hot air up and directly out of the case before it has a chance to tamper with the motherboard or CPU, and the same is true of the GeForce GTX 670 graphics card, which is mounted vertically. It's precisely this design that allows Maingear to pack so much performance into a small system, and then overclock it.
The design also has its tradeoffs. For one, getting at the motherboard's assortment of USB ports isn't all that convenient. Maingear provides just two USB 3.0 ports at the top (along with mic and headphone inputs), and if you need to access more than that (or plug in an Ethernet cable), you have to pop the plastic cover off the top. That's easy enough to do -- it pops right off -- but it's not quite as convenient as reaching around the back of a system and plugging things in.
We're also not completely sold on the removable panels. We absolutely love Maingear's thought process, but we wish the three removable panels were secured a little better. The panels snap into place, and if you're not extra careful, you could end up dropping the system, like we did. If Maingear could somehow implement a carrying handle on the top, it would go a long way towards alleviating any potential mishaps. At the same time, we don't want to make a mountain out of a mole hill, as it's easy enough to carry from place to place by scooping your hands underneath and lifting.
So, what do we think overall? In a way, Maingear's Potenza is a technology metaphor, offering more performance than yesterday's systems while leaving a smaller footprint. As technology marches on to smaller, more powerful pastures, Maingear made sure the desktop didn't get left behind.