Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 (Pentium 4 570) review: Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 (Pentium 4 570)

CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.1
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 7.0
  • Service and support: 5.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Beautiful, luggable case; packed with high-end hardware, including Intel's new Pentium 4 570 processor; blazing performance.

The Bad Case is hard to open and crowded inside; questionable RAID benefits; noisy; pricey.

The Bottom Line If you can afford it, the Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 will keep you fragging happily for years to come.

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Editor's note: We have changed the ratings in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Find out more here.

Many small-form-factor (SFF) PCs, such as Shuttle's XPC G2 7500m , are designed to serve as media centers, with features such as TV tuners and digital video recording (DVR) software taking precedence over fast processors and cutting-edge graphics performance. Not so with the Falcon Northwest FragBox 2, an unabashedly game-friendly system shoehorned into an SFF case. You won't find TV features or other media center trappings (save for a double-layer DVD burner), but it's blazingly fast and armed with the coveted GeForce 6800 Ultra graphics card. In other words, despite its LAN-party mobility, it requires no sacrifices of hard-core gamers. Quite the opposite: it's as well stocked as any full-size desktop, minus the interior space and the generous warranty.

We tested the $4,144 FragBox 2 without a monitor or speakers from Falcon. The company offers plenty of CRT, LCD, and surround-sound options, but it also recognizes that many users already have these components and lets you buy systems without them. Our review system came with only the system and one of our favorite wireless mouse/keyboard combos, the Logitech Cordless MX Duo .

About the size of a large toaster oven and roughly two inches wider and deeper than the original FragBox , the FragBox 2 measures on the tall side for a typical small-form-factor (SFF) system, coming in at 9.9 by 10.2 by 14.9 inches (HWD). That little bit of extra room, however, affords amenities such as a second hard drive, three full-height expansion slots (one PCI Express and two PCI), and an unusually brawny 520-watt power supply. Regrettably, the PCI Express GeForce card's mammoth fan blocks the neighboring PCI slot, leaving just one slot available for upgrades. What's more, that's one noisy fan; you'll need loud speakers to compensate.

We admire the FragBox 2 case's neon-lit interior, which is visible through side windows and a way-cool etched front bezel, and its attractively sculpted carrying handle, but we puzzle over the five screws (three in back, one on either side) that thoroughly discourage access to the interior. Even with the screws out, removing the outer shell requires a lot of pushing and jiggling. And it's tough to work inside the packed-to-the-rafters innards, which are also seriously buttoned down with screws. We accidentally broke a thin neon-lighting tube that was mounted between the power supply and the drive cage, where it's almost impossible to avoid bumping while working. (A Falcon Northwest representative told us that the company plans to encase the tube for greater protection.)

External expansion is an entirely different and much simpler matter. The FragBox 2 features six USB 2.0 ports (two in front), two FireWire ports (one in front), and convenient front-mounted headphone and microphone jacks. It also sports a 6-in-1 media reader and even a floppy drive, the latter a rarity these days.

In addition to Intel's latest Pentium 4 processor--the P4 570 clocked at 3.8GHz--and 1GB of 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM (a state-of-the-art combination, to be sure), the FragBox 2 packs a whopping amount of storage: two 300GB, 7,200rpm Maxtor Serial ATA hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration. Given RAID 0's questionable performance benefits, however, you might prefer to save money by opting for a single drive--or a non-RAID configuration.

Indeed, although the FragBox 2 performed extremely well in our benchmark tests, especially compared with other SFF systems, it couldn't outrun an almost identically configured Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX traditional desktop--despite having a faster processor and RAM bus. We suspect a 10,000rpm hard drive would give the FragBox 2 the performance edge. Still, the FragBox 2 is unquestionably a fast PC, in terms of its performance with applications and games.

At some point during shipping between our test and review labs, a problem arose that prevented the FragBox 2 from booting. The start-up screen reported a RAID failure, so we called Falcon's toll-free number for help. Unfortunately, we were asked to leave a message, and it took eight hours to receive a call back. On a positive note, the technical representative we spoke with was very friendly and knowledgeable and quickly identified the problem: loose interface cables on both hard drives.

Surprisingly, Falcon supplies no games with the system, only PowerDVD 5.1 and the Roxio Easy CD and DVD Creator suite are included by virtue of the Plextor DVD burner. The FragBox 2 is covered by a one-year parts-and-labor warranty--definitely too short for a system in this price range, but that coverage does include two-way overnight shipping for systems needing repair. Toll-free technical support is available daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  
* Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX and Alienware Area-51 ALX CPUs and graphics cards are overclocked.

To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D gaming performance (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF  
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  
* Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX and Alienware Area-51 ALX CPUs and graphics cards are overclocked.

To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 1,024x768 tests and are set to 4X and 8X, respectively, during our 1,600x1,200 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal provides an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).

Far Cry Custom Demo Rebellion (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF  
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  
* Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX and Alienware Area-51 ALX CPUs and graphics cards are overclocked.

For high-end gaming PCs, we've added UbiSoft Entertainment's Far Cry to our benchmark arsenal. Far Cry is a DirectX 9.0-based game that uses a number of advanced rendering techniques, all of which combine to produce some of the most realistic scenery and physics we've seen in a game title to date. As such, it is very demanding on a graphics subsystem and, therefore, an excellent tool for evaluating high-end PCs. In our tests, we run a custom demo on the Rebellion level and run it two times each at a 32-bit color depth and at resolutions of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are set to 4X and 8X for both resolutions during our 1,600x1,200 tests. After installing the retail game, we patch it to version 1.1.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Alienware Area-51 ALX
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.4GHz Intel P4 Extreme; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); two WDC WD360GD-00TNA0 36GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller

Dell Dimension XPS Gen3
Windows XP Home; 3.6GHz Intel P4 560; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon X800XT PE (PCIe) ; two Maxtor 6Y160M0 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller

Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.8GHz Intel P4 570; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); two Maxtor 6B300S0 300GB 7,200rpm, Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller

Polywell Poly 939VF-FX53
Windows XP Professional; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-53; VIA K8T800 Pro chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce FX 5900XT (AGP); two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; integrated Win XP Promise FastTrak 579 controller

Velocity Micro ProMagix PCX
Windows XP Professional; 3.6GHz Intel P4 560; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; Hitachi HDS724040KLSA80 400GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller

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Where to Buy

Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 (Pentium 4 570)

Part Number: CNETFACLCONFRAGBOX2 Released: Nov 15, 2004

The manufacturer sells this product directly from its Web site, where you can find configuration and pricing information.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Nov 15, 2004
  • Color Black