Maingear Quantum F1318 Jul, 2015 By: Alex Herrera
First Look Review: Deskside tower brings a unique form factor and high performance to the table.
It's worth noting that while the Quantum F131 doesn't natively support less common I/O options, such as Thunderbolt and eSATA. Maingear says it can serve those needs with add-in cards (some may require special requests). The company also indicated that, although we do not see the option on their spec sheet, a customer can arrange for a PCI Express SSD, in addition to their standard SATA SSD offering.
|Key Specifications for Maingear Quantum F131|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-4790K CPU|
|GPU||NVIDIA Quadro K5200 with 8 GB|
|Memory||16 GB of DDR3 1,600|
250-GB SATA SSD|
(3-TB SATA hard drive)
To assess overall system performance for CAD, we ran Cadalyst's tried-and-true c2015 benchmark, running AutoCAD 2016 with our in-house workround (editor's note: we are in the midst of reworking our c2015 benchmark for distribution to readers), as well as SPEC's SPECwpc and SPECviewperf tests. The c2015 and SPECwpc tests measure whole-system, real-world workloads for AutoCAD (c2015 in particular) and a range of other CAD applications (SPECwpc's Product Development and General Operations Suites), while SPECviewperf places emphasis on the machine's GPU and rendering performance.
Given its overclocked CPU matched to an ultrahigh-end Quadro K5200 GPU, we expected the Quantum F131 to outperform two other workstations we've tested recently, with price tags in the same ballpark. The $3,998 Maingear system delivered, posting scores for both c2015 and SPECwpc that were materially higher than both the $2,887 HP Z440 and $3,449 Dell Precision 5810. Most notable was its edge in tests stressing 3D rendering — therefore showcasing the K5200's prowess — like c2015's 3D Index, SPECwpc's viewsets (Catia-04, Showcase-01, Snx-02, and Sw-03), and of course, SPECviewperf. Its edge in computation-focused tests was smaller, which as we'd expected, generally correlating with the Quantum F131's overclocked CPU frequency.
The Quantum F131 trailed only in one metric, also as expected — I/O performance (as demonstrated by IOMeter in SPECwpc). Its SATA SSD is superior to a SATA hard disk drive (HDD), but can't keep up with a properly enabled PCIExpress SSD.
Maingear Quantum F131's scores on c2015 benchmark raised the bar for the rest of the workstation families.
The Maingear Quantum F131's scores on SPECwpc Product Development test suite.
The Maingear Quantum F131 with Quadro K5200: SPECviewperf 12 scores.
The raw benchmark scores are valuable, but for many on a budget, just as interesting is judging price-performance. Looking instead at scores per dollar, the Quantum F131 did not do poorly, but trailed some of its less expensive peers in several compute and I/O bound metrics. The same applies to the Quantum F131's Quadro K5200 — while this ultra-high end workhorse wins handily in raw 3D benchmark scores, it trails its less expensive siblings (e.g. Quadro K4200 or K2200) when it comes to scores per dollar.
Wrapping It Up
If you're building workstations and your name isn't HP, Dell, or Lenovo, then you should create machines that none of those three would think to build. And on that fundamental strategy, Maingear has succeeded.
There's no point in a smaller vendor trying to compete head-on with a me-too machine, because that boils the contest down to one based solely on price. And since smaller companies such as Maingear can't match the others' economy of scale, they would inevitably lose that battle. But build a machine they can't match, and you have a much more attractive market; perhaps not one just to yourself, but one with more manageable competitors (in Maingear's case, competitors such as Boxx or Digital Storm).
Maingear's Quantum F131 is unique in form and appearance, and leaning on liquid-cooled technology many OEMs would avoid (due to added cost, complexity, and possibly compromising reliability), its overclocked CPU and Quadro K5200 GPU scream performance. About the only place this configuration skimped on components was with a fairly average PSU and a SATA-based SSD, rather than one configured on PCI Express (the latter opening up more bandwidth headroom).
We found Maingear's Vertical Exhaust Technology innovative, but also found it came with tradeoffs. Cabling through the top and bottom is a bit awkward, and we wonder how many coffees or crumbs might get spilled through the top of a deskside tower that vents from the top. The panels popping off whenever we moved the system proved a bit tiresome. And left and right panels that can be mistakenly swapped would at the very least compromise cooling, if not lead to all-out failure. Still, in this market, differentiation is a good thing, and we respect Maingear's goal to create a different solution rather than simply accept the conventional.
Ultimately, considering the Quantum F131 as your go-to machine for CAD is a fairly straight-forward proposition. You want something in a modestly sized, single-socket package that can deliver top-end compute and graphics performance — with a look and style that could never be confused with any another cookie-cutter CAD machine? Then Maingear's Quantum F131 is up your alley. Your priority more in the area of best value, all-out capacity, bulletproof reliability, and ease-of-use? Then you'd be better served with more conventionally designed workstations optimized for price-performance.