Maingear Potenza SS: A Cool, Quiet, SFF Gaming PC

Introduction and Specifications

There’s a lot to love about a mini-ITX gaming PC. Portability is a big draw, of course: carrying your computer through the parking lot to a LAN party is much easier if it happens to be an SFF system. Reclaiming desk space is another reason to go small. And some of us just take a lot of pleasure in knowing that our tiny, unassuming PC will drop a few jaws when it’s game time.

With an Intel Core i7 3770 and an MSI GeForce GTX 660 at its heart, Maingear’s mini-ITX Potenza only looks mild-mannered. In fact, Maingear offers the system with up to a Core i7-3770K and a GTX Titan, but Maingear sent us a slightly tamer unit to show what it can do in the $1600 range. As configured, this rig is available through the Microsoft stores (both online and retail). You can also customize a Potenza at Maingear’s site.

Maingear Potenza
Specifications & Features
 Processor:  Intel Core i7-3770 Quad-Core (3.5GHz/3.9GHz Turbo)
 Memory:  16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 (2x8GB)
 Graphics:  MSI Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Twin Frozr III
 Motherboard:  Asus P8 H77-I Deluxe
 Storage: Corsair NOVA 2 SSD 30GB caching drive
Seagate Barracuda 1TB SATA HDD, 64MB Cache
 Optical:  8X Dual Layer DVD RW slot loader
 Power Supply:  SilverStone ST45SF 450W, 80 Plus Bronze
 Chassis:  Maingear Potenza
 Cooling System: Maingear EPIC 120 closed-loop liquid cooling
Silverstone AP141 Air Penetrator fan
 Operating System:  Windows 8 64-bit
 Connectivity:  Gigabit LAN, Wi-Fi b/g/n
 USB 3.0 (4), USB 2.0 (6), Audio, PS2, Gb LAN, DVI (2), HDMI
 Keyboard/Mouse:  None
 Dimensions & Weight:  7.5 x 14.75 x 9.25 inches (W x H x D); 20lbs average weight
 Warranty:  Lifetime labor and phone support, 1 year Comprehensive Warranty
 Price as configured:  $1,599, base price of $1,099

Maingear built this Windows 8 system around the Asus P8 H77-I Deluxe motherboard, which has two memory slots and supports up to 16GB of DDR3-2200 memory. For our system, Maingear chose two 8GB DIMMs of Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 RAM. The previously-mentioned Ivy Bridge quad-core CPU runs at 3.5GHz with Turbo to 3.9GHz. It has Intel HD Graphics 4000 built in, but that’s disabled in favor of the MSI Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Twin Frozr III, which has 2GB of GDDR5 memory and the output ports you’d expect from a card in this price range: two DVI, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort.

Maingear’s storage setup includes a 1TB Seagate Barracuda HDD and a 30GB Corsair Nova 2. The Nova 2 is there to improve everything from the system’s boot time to application launch times through the use of SSD caching technology. It’s a handy addition and an easy way to improve performance without pumping up the price tag of the PC too much.

The motherboard’s Intel H77 chipset allows for plenty of USB ports, and the system’s design means that they’re all be in the same spot at the top of the PC. There are four USB 3.0 ports, 6 USB 2.0 ports, and a Gigabit LAN port, as well as typical audio ports. The system also has built-in Wi-Fi.

Power is handled by a SilverStone ST45SF, an 80 Plus Bronze power supply. That’s enough to handle the equipment in the system we reviewed, but the GTX Titan, which is an option available for this system if you order it from Maingear's site, has a 600W minimum PSU requirement. Maingear tells us that it has tested the Titan extensively with its 450W PSU, however, and is confident in its ability to support the new graphics card.

For cooling, Maingear selected its EPIC 120 option, which is a closed-loop liquid cooling system, as well as a Silverstone AP141 Air Penetrator fan. Silly name aside, the fan is remarkably quiet, which is important in any system, but especially a small form factor PC, where increased noise is often a tradeoff for a compact size. If you find yourself configuring a Potenza, this is an option worth adding.

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