Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7 980X Extreme) review: Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7 980X Extreme)

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.1
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Service and support: 9.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Record-setting application performance thanks to overclocking and Intel's new six-core Core i7 chip; expert build quality (with one major exception); outstanding power efficiency for a high-end desktop.

The Bad Heavy, non-reinforced 3D card broke its card slot; gamers might opt for a different build.

The Bottom Line According to Falcon Northwest, the company is working to repair an issue with the 3D card in this Mach V build that resulted in physical damage to the motherboard. We intend to follow up. Assuming that issue is resolved, we recommend this desktop and its overclocked, six-core Core i7 CPU to anyone in search of no-compromise application performance.

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We've reviewed several variations of Falcon Northwest's flagship Mach V gaming desktop over the years, and for the most part this newest version lives up to our high expectations. At $4,999, this configuration features the high-end components we expect in such a desktop, including an ambitiously overclocked, six-core Intel Core i7 980X Extreme chip, which Intel announced today. A design flaw involving the Mach V's graphics card hurts our ability to recommend this exact build for the moment, but from a performance perspective any professional would do well to give this Mach V a look, thanks to its record-setting application scores. Gamers shopping in this price range, on the other hand, would see a bigger performance gain by putting their money into a second high-end graphics card than in springing for the overclocked six-core CPU.

The design issue we encountered had to do with this system's dual-GPU AMD Radeon HD 5970 graphics card. The long, heavy card put more weight on the PCI Express slot than the slot could bear. After shipping and then being moved around on our lab bench (with no untoward bumps or knocks on our end, at least), the slot broke. We successfully plugged the graphics card into the system's second 16x PCI Express slot, so both the card and the system are still functional, but clearly the potential for damage is real, and unacceptable in a $5,000 PC.


The Mach V's top-most 16x PCI Express slot broke under pressure from the heavy Radeon HD 5970 graphics card. According to Falcon Northwest, a fix is in the works.

Falcon representatives said this is the first Radeon HD 5970-based Mach V system the company has heard of that has suffered physical damage like we saw, but it is also taking the problem seriously. According to the company, it plans to re-manufacture its Mach V case to accept a new bracket that AMD plans to install on this (and presumably other) heavy graphics card in order to prevent future incidents. We'll take Falcon at its word, but we also intend to follow up in a month or two. For now, we wouldn't suggest ordering the Radeon HD 5970 from any desktop vendor that doesn't taken steps to reinforce the card in its case. If you're unsure based on a particular vendor's Web site, call it and ask directly.

We don't know the frequency with which that graphics card will damage a PC in shipping (we've seen other desktops with the same card that survived the journey to our lab, and all the testing in it), and while we're glad that this mishap will hopefully help contribute to a solution to the problem, it's unfortunate that the otherwise pristine Mach V's review score has to suffer for it. Aside from the damage to the system, the Mach V features all of Falcon Northwest's trademark design touches.

The case is lined with sound-dampening foam to keep the noise down, and every cable is bound and routed to minimize clutter and maximize airflow. Falcon also likes to hot glue its component connections in place to prevent them coming loose in shipping, although frequent upgraders might find the glued-down cables annoying. We've also come to appreciate a case from Origin PC (a new vendor whose employees include a few Alienware refugees) that, like the Acer Predator and a few other PCs, features front-accessible hard drive bays for easy, cable-free drive swapping. Short of a wholesale case refresh, however, (and excepting the graphics card issue) Falcon Northwest's Mach V is as well-built as we could want.

  Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7 980X Extreme) Origin Genesis (Intel Core i7 920)
Price $4,999 $4,998
Motherboard chipset Intel X58 Intel X58
CPU 4.183GHz Intel Core i7 980X Extreme (overclocked) 4.0GHz Intel Core i7 920 (overclocked)
Memory 12GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 2GB ATI Radeon HD 5970 (2) 2GB ATI Radeon HD 5970
Hard drives 80GB Intel X25-M solid-state hard drive; 1GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital (2) 80GB Intel X25-M solid-state hard drive; 1.5TB Seagate 7,200 rpm hard drive
Optical drive Blu-ray/dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray drive/dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

In order to avoid a high-end gaming arms race, we've asked PC vendors to stick to a sub-$5,000 budget for all future performance PC reviews. Within that constraint, Falcon Northwest built the fastest desktop we've ever seen in terms of application performance and raw clock speed. Our performance charts below spell out where Falcon posts its wins, but at least on some tests, its success is in large part due to its Core i7 980X Extreme CPU. Intel's newest chip design feature six physical processing cores with the capability to go to twelve threads overall via Intel's HyperThreading Technology. By limiting the six-core design to this $999 chip for now, Intel has ensured that six-core chips stay in enthusiast hands. That seems wise to us, as at the 980X's standard 3.3GHz clock speed, we're not sure mainstream users would notice an appreciable performance difference in day-to-day programs.

With this new chip, Intel has also stuck with its existing triple-memory-path X58 motherboard chipset. If you already have an X58 board, you can simply flash the BIOS and pop in the new CPU. You can expect a new motherboard to accompany the new CPU when it hits the market later this month, though, and the Gigabyte motherboard in the Mach V includes both USB 3.0 slots, and a fast new 6Gbps SATA 3.0 storage interface. Neither interface is particularly useful at the moment, because of a lack of devices to connect to them, but as both are backward compatible with older standards you don't lose anything by going with the forward-looking motherboard.

For the rest of the Mach V's features, Falcon adds most of what we'd expect to find for this price. Digital media artists in particular will appreciate the 12GB of 1,333MHz RAM, and everyone will appreciate the 80GB solid-state boot drive. The Blu-ray/DVD burner also gives you lots of versatility in terms of reading and burning optical media. We admit we find the differences between the Falcon and the Origin system interesting. Falcon's representatives told us that even if the company had opted for a simple Blu-ray player instead of a burner, and gone with half the RAM, it still couldn't have added a second Radeon HD 5970 card and kept under our $5,000 limit.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Falcon Northwest Mach V
90 

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Falcon Northwest Mach V
52 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Falcon Northwest Mach V
231 

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Where to Buy

Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7 980X Extreme)

Part Number: CNETFALCONNWMACHV980X Released: Mar 10, 2010

MSRP: $4,999.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Mar 10, 2010
  • Color Aluminum silver