When I first saw the Maingear F131 with my own eyes, I knew it was not like any game desk I had built or seen on the screen. This particular configuration I've been using costs almost $ 8,000, which is outside the price range of most PC gamers, but it's primarily a showcase for that matter and the exclusive Maingear open-circuit cooling system called APEX. That system can be added to much more affordable configurations (from $ 1,920 for an Intel chipset or $ 1,699 for the AMD Ryzen) for $ 300.
These prices seem even more attractive if we take into account the fact that the popularity of the cryptocurrency has inflated the prices of the GPU, which makes it cheaper to buy a desk for games than to create your own, unfortunately.
Each F131 is assembled by hand in New Jersey and then shipped in sturdy boxes around the world, which in part inspired the unique combination of cooling that Maingear CEO Santos Wallace was not willing to fully reveal the formula. Originally, Maingear had difficulty sending liquid-cooled desktops in colder climates because the refrigerant froze inside the tank and the pipes. The custom mix found in the F131 includes antifreeze to prevent this problem.
Maingear started by creating a customized acrylic slab to contain the liquid, thus avoiding some of the annoyances of liquid cooling. It protects the non-conductive liquid from the power supply and has easy-access valves to drain and refill the liquid for maintenance. However, if the 360-mm copper core radiators and a custom liquid cooling configuration are not enough for your game or heavy processing needs, then there is what Maingear calls hard-line metal tubes: it's simply tubes of Nickel-plated metal that dissipates the extra heat of the refrigerant, therefore making it as efficient as it is aesthetic.
When hard-line tubes, APEX cooling and three box fans are used along with the Core i7 hexacore processor and GTX 1080Ti graphics SLI configuration, the result is an almost inaudible game desk, which only works lightly under pressure. It's amazing.
If you take a step back and look at the internal parts of the F131, you will notice something peculiar in all the tubes (metal or other): not only works with dual pumps as a fail-safe system, but it is regulated by pressure and runs in parallel from the deposit. In the case of this platform, APEX cooled the SLI configuration that contains two GTX 1080Ti graphics cards, independently, instead of sharing refrigerant between the two (as is the case with most other liquid cooling systems).
In addition, in case you are wondering how customizable the F131 is, you can customize the case with custom colors or graphics or order refrigerant in white, red, green, blue, yellow or customized.
Of course, it would be a mistake not to include the full specifications of this $ 8,000 F131, so here it goes: it has an Intel Core i7 8700K 6-core at 3.7GHz / 4.7GHz (Maingear overclocks at 5GHz); 32 GB of DDR4 RAM; two NVIDIA GTX 1080Ti cards; a Samsung NVMe SSD of 512 GB; Standard 4TB hard drive; MSI Z370M motherboard for games; an EVGA Supernova 1200 W power supply; and finally space left over for an optional ASUS 12x Blu-ray drive.
With specifications like that, the F131 is virtually future proof for at least the next one or two years, but Maingear tells me that the F131 is designed to be repaired every five years. Basically, the longevity is rooted in the chassis and the specifications of the F131, and it shows. The box is made of server grade metal, with a metal filter on the top of the box that can be removed for routine cleaning.
Of the many bells and whistles of the F131, the RF remote control supplied to change the lighting of the RGB LED box is my favorite. You can select static colors as well as different lighting modes that range from flashing lights to waves across the spectrum of colors. You can also close everything, so the only light that emerges from the glass window of the F131 comes from the blinking indicators of RAM.
How is the F131 to play? In addition to what you would expect, a desktop of this caliber, at 60 fps, 120 fps or 144 fps. While most new and popular PC games do not have native support for SLI graphics, a single GTX 1080Ti is more than enough to handle 1080 or 1440p screens at full resolution and the desired refresh rate of 120 / 144Hz. Playing in 4K in a single 1080Ti is possible, but this usually happens at 30-75Hz, due to the current limitations of the game monitor.
If you are in the market for a gaming computer or an editing house, APEX cooling seems like a great idea considering that the benefits are a silent, great and powerful system that rarely needs maintenance. The main deficiency of F131 is its price; APEX has an additional cost of $ 299 along with the hard-line pipes that support SLI, which is another $ 399 additional to APEX. It's a hard pill to swallow, but the results speak for themselves.
Photography by Stefan Etienne for The Verge