Falcon Northwest Mach V
Falcon Northwest's latest Mach V gaming PC is the Noah's ark of desktops. From the CPUs and the GPUs to the hard drives and the memory channels, everything comes in twos--even the DVD burner is a double-layer drive. This Mach V also represents the first PC we've seen that combines an Intel processor (the new dual-core Extreme Edition 840, no less) with Nvidia's SLI technology. Up to this point, only AMD-based systems supported SLI (scalable link interface), which allows a system to use two graphics cards. And dual-core Intel systems such as the and the rely on the new Intel 955X Express chipset, which despite having two full-size PCI Express graphics slots, won't support two graphics cards in an SLI configuration.
Inside the Mach V there are two Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra cards paired with Intel's new dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition 840 processor that runs on Nvidia's new Nforce4 SLI Intel Edition chipset. Heavy multitaskers and creative pros will be the first to benefit most from dual-core processing power. Gamers hoping to take advantage of dual-core processing will need to wait patiently for multithreaded games.
Upside: If our preliminary tests on a (non-SLI) dual-core Intel "white box" system are any indication, you'll see immediate performance gains with the dual-core Mach V in multitasking scenarios and when running multithreaded apps, such as Adobe Photoshop and Apple iTunes. And thanks to Nvidia SLI technology, the Mach V adds two high-end GeForce 6800 Ultras to the mix, which only increases overall performance. Looking down the road, the Mach V leaves you well positioned when game developers begin to release multithreaded games. Similarly, the Pentium Extreme Edition 840 processor includes Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T), which means it'll run today's 32-bit apps and the 64-bit apps expected later this year.
PC enthusiasts comprise a large portion of Falcon Northwest's customer base, and they'll be happy to know that the 3.2GHz Pentium Extreme Edition 840 processor is the first Intel CPU in years that can be overclocked. Falcon overclocked our Mach V test system at 3.6GHz (up from the default 3.2GHz). Add the fact that the processor is dual core and overclocked, then throw in the presence of the two top-of-the-line Nvidia graphics cards, and we weren't surprised to see the Mach V excel in testing. See our story on Nvidia's new SLI-for-Intel chipset for performance results and analysis from our early tests.
Downside: For a system such as the Falcon Northwest Mach V, gaming performance is at the top of almost any would-be buyer's checklist. Unfortunately, today's games are not multithreaded, which means gaming performance doesn't necessarily get a boost from Intel's new dual-core chip. Also, if you're already sold on dual-core technology, you'll need to wait a few weeks: Falcon won't begin selling its dual-core Mach V until the end of the month. Finally, the latest and greatest technology seldom comes cheap. Falcon estimates that our Mach V test system will go for north of $6,000--and that's before you add a monitor or speakers.
Outlook: Based on our preliminary tests, when you mix an overclocked, dual-core processor with two high-end SLI graphics cards, you get results that might make you think that a $6,000 PC doesn't sound so crazy. We'll put the Falcon Northwest Mach V through the rest of its paces and give you the full report. Check back for our review soon.