Falcon Northwest Tiki (Core i7 3770K) review: Falcon Northwest Tiki (Core i7 3770K)

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.9
  • Design: 9.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 7.0
  • Service and support: 9.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Falcon Northwest Tiki innovates the slim-tower gaming PC, jamming more hardware inside than you might have thought possible.

The Bad The granite base isn't for everyone, and the limitations of the slim-tower design seem harsh given the Tiki's high price tag.

The Bottom Line We don't recommend the Falcon Northwest Tiki for general-purpose high-end gaming, but this system is your best bet if you want a luxury-priced blend of speed and space savings.

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Who remembers that Fred Armisen and Scarlett Johansson Marble Columns "Saturday Night Live" skit?

The granite base on the bottom of the Falcon Northwest Tiki might not be to everyone's aesthetic taste, but there's no denying the technical and design achievement behind this slim tower gaming desktop. Should you spend $2,783 for it? With competing systems out there that offer more-flexible and more-powerful graphics card configurations in a similar price range, it's hard to recommend the Tiki unless you are unwaveringly attached to its slim-tower design.

The Tiki is the boutique PC answer to the mass-market-leaning Alienware X51. Alienware delivered a capable, tidy gaming system when it launched the X51 back in January. The x51's primary innovation is that, thanks to some clever motherboard manipulation, it was the first slim-tower PC with a full-size, dual-slot graphics card.

Falcon Northwest borrows heavily from the Alienware X51 here, adopting a similar slim-tower design in the Tiki, and the same full 3D card connected via a PCI Express daughter card. It also seems to have improved on Alienware's concept.

While the X51 has a massive 330-watt external power brick, the Tiki has an internal 450-watt power supply, as well as liquid cooling hardware. Liquid cooling is important, because it helps Falcon Northwest manage internal temperatures well enough that it can overclock the Tiki's third-generation Core chips. Alienware doesn't overclock. It also doesn't charge over $1,800 for any configuration of the X51. The Tiki starts at $1,870 or so. Our review unit will cost $2,793 when Falcon starts taking orders at the end of June.

That brings us to the granite base. However innovative the interior, the overall design of the Tiki is taller and narrower than the X51. That means it's top-heavy, and prone to falling over. The solution, Falcon Northwest has decided, is to include a custom cut-and-polished piece of granite that you can screw into the bottom of the unit.

I will not disagree that the granite serves its functional purpose. It also makes the Tiki look like an employee-of-the-month award, at least with the light-gray version included in our review unit. Falcon offers a black option that might look better. You also don't need to use the granite at all.

Falcon Northwest Tiki Alienware X51 Maingear F131
Price $2,793 $999 $2,999
Motherboard chipset Intel Z77 Intel H61 Intel Z77
CPU 4.3GHz Intel Core i7-3770K (overclocked) 3.0GHz Intel Core i5-2320 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-3770K (overclocked)
Memory 8GB 1,866MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 555 (2) 2GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 680
Hard drives 256GB SSD, 2TB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive 1TB 7,200rpm 60GB Corsair Accelera SSD, 2TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive
Optical drive Blu-ray drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

A potentially larger problem for the Tiki is that it can't support two graphics cards. I say potentially because many gamers might not care. The Geforce GTX 680 card in our review unit can play any game on the market at 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution with reasonably high, if not maxed-out, image quality. That's all the PC many gamers will need.

Then again, the larger, still-trim Maingear F131 has a pair of GeForce GTX 680 cards, and it only costs about $200 more than this Tiki. The Tiki seems to make up for the higher price with a 256GB solid-state hard drive and a Blu-ray drive -- the Maingear has only a 60GB solid-state drive and a plain old DVD burner.

I imagine some of you are in the market for the best slim-tower gaming PC you can find, regardless of price. This is that system. But I'd be willing to bet that most gamers shopping in this price range will prioritize 3D frame rates above most other features, even if that means a larger case. That argues for the dual card-capable Maingear as the better way to spend your $2,800 to $3,000. The Tiki is a reasonable value, but you won't be able to overcome its single graphics card limitation.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Falcon Northwest Tiki (Core i7 3770K, June 2012)
8.65 
1.82 

The Falcon Northwest Tiki performs reasonably well on our benchmark tests for its price. The 4.3GHz overclock setting is stable, but also on the more conservative side, likely due to air flow and cooling restrictions of the smaller case. Maingear turned in a faster overclocked Core i7 3770K chip, hitting 4.7GHz, and the ensuing performance boost helps keep it above the Tiki, but not by such a large margin that it earns an overabundance of bragging rights.

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Where to Buy

Falcon Northwest Tiki (Core i7 3770K)

Part Number: CNET-Falcon-Northwest-Tiki-Core-i7-3770KFalcon-Northwest-Tiki-Core-i7-3770K

MSRP: $2,793.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

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