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Falcon Northwest Mach V review:

Falcon Northwest Mach V

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The Good Runs on the fastest processor available; includes audiophile-quality speakers; DVD burner useful for making home movies and backing up files; custom paint job looks sharp.

The Bad High price will scare off many; no CD-RW drive for speedy CD burning; Falcon's valet service not as fast as onsite support.

The Bottom Line Cheap, it is not. But the Falcon Northwest Mach V combines top-notch performance and first-rate components like no other.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

9.0 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Support 9.0

Got money to burn? If you can spend it on designer handbags, jeans, and water, why not spring for a designer computer? Enter the eminently configurable, superfashionable Falcon Northwest Mach V. We looked at a $4,645 configuration--just one of the customizable possibilities--of this highest-end machine. A good chunk of this nosebleed-high price pays for its 3GHz Pentium 4 processor, the fastest processor currently on the market, and top-notch peripherals, such as the audiophile-quality Klipsch ProMedia 5.1 digital speaker system, to say nothing of the $515 custom-painted Coolermaster ATC-110 case. Though dauntingly expensive, the Mach V is physically stunning and ideal for gaming, home theater, video authoring, and almost anything else.


Beauty comes at a price.
Like a flashy, speeding sports car, the red case of the Falcon Northwest Mach V turned the heads of passers-by as it sat in CNET Labs, tearing through our benchmarks. Our test system's case came painted cherry red, thanks to Falcon's Exotix custom-paint option (multilayered and professionally done by an automotive painter). You can have any car color--or any hue at all for that matter--that you desire sprayed on the case, as long as you can provide either a paint reference or a sample.

The Mach V's 18.5x8.0x21.0-inch (HWD) midtower leaves you with a massive amount of interior space for expansion. But while you can open the case's side panel without tools, you'll need to take out some screws to remove any of the drives. The data cables from all of the drives are shielded against radio frequency interference (RFI) and are routed tightly and out of the way by gray insulated tubing.




It's a clean case.


Adding more drives won't be a problem.


Inside, there are three open external and two open internal drive bays. The graphics and sound cards fill two PCI slots, and a third is blocked by a daughter card (giving you an additional FireWire port and a game port), leaving two additional PCI slots free for future expansion.


Not only does the Mach V's Pentium 4 processor run at an unprecedented 3.06GHz, it also includes 512MB of PC1066 RDRAM running at 533MHz, along with the top-notch ATI Radeon 9700 Pro graphics card and dual RAID-controlled 100GB Western Digital hard drives. And if that's not enough, you can triple the 512MB of 1,066MHz RDRAM currently in the system. The power supply has 350 watts on tap for whatever you need.



Audigy Platinum EX breakout box and remote control.


Two 100GB hard drives give you plenty of storage space.


The excitement doesn't stop inside the box, either. The Mach V's stellar collection of peripherals starts with THX-certified, 24-bit Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy Platinum EX sound card, which includes analog and digital stereo outputs, a FireWire port, a remote control, and an external breakout box with even more inputs and outputs, such as optical S/PDIF and MIDI connection points and another FireWire port. This setup lets you connect oodles of devices, from stereo receivers and DV camcorders to electronic keyboards and digital speaker systems, such as the bundled audiophile-quality Klipsch ProMedia 5.1 speaker set.

ViewSonic's crisp 19-inch G90f monitor offers an impressive 77Hz refresh rate at its maximum resolution of 1,600x1,200. Why a CRT and not a flat panel for such a high-tech product? Speed and size. The 60Hz refresh rate of most LCDs might slow down fast gameplay. Likewise, only an enormous LCD could reach the G90f's 1,600x1,200 maximum resolution. The G90f will also do a more comfortable 1,280x1,024 size at 89Hz or the more typical 1,024x768 gaming resolution at a solid 118Hz.




DVD-ROM and DVD-RW drives.


A wireless keyboard and mouse round out the package.


The Pioneer DVD-RW (plus a separate DVD-ROM drive) would be the subject of raves for most systems. For the Mach V, they're just footnotes to the system's already astounding features. The Mach V's wireless Logitech keyboard and optical mouse are yet another footnote. While both are convenient, comfortable, and sturdy, the mouse isn't the best that Logitech currently offers. Serious gamers will want to upgrade to the MX700, which contains Logitech's most responsive and accurate optical engine to date.

Falcon Northwest's software bundle is the only aspect of the Mach V that failed to impress us. It contains the relatively dated Ulead VideoStudio 4.0 (6.0 is now available). Additional bundled apps include CyberLink's PowerDVD, Cakewalk's FruityLoops 3.0, and Acid Style 2.0--you'd think that for this kind of money, you'd get a free game or two. But if you opt for the Audigy 2.0 sound card, which wasn't available in time for this review, you'll not only get support for 6.1 channels, but also two free games: Soldier of Fortune 2.0 and Hitman 2.0.


Application performance
What do you get when you take the latest state-of-the-art components and combine them in a desktop computer? You get a screamingly fast PC, such as our Falcon Northwest Mach V test configuration. The 3.06GHz P4 CPU is 266MHz faster than the preceding iteration of the P4 processor and includes a performance-improving technology called Hyper-Threading. Until relevant software appears, performance gains from Hyper-Threading should be minimal, but you may see some advantage during heavy-duty multitasking. In any case, the 3.06GHz P4-based Mach V will satiate anyone hungry for top-level performance.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 Rating  
SysMark2002 Internet Content Creation Rating  
SysMark2002 Office Productivity Rating  
Xi 4036 MTower Premiere (3.06GHz Intel P4, 533MHz RDRAM)
309 
428 
223 
Gateway 700XL (3.06GHz Intel P4, 533MHz RDRAM)
299 
424 
211 
Falcon Northwest Mach V (3.06GHz Intel P4, 533MHz RDRAM)
298 
420 
211 
Dell Dimension 8250 (3.06GHz Intel P4, 533MHz RDRAM)
293 
413 
208 
ABS Awesome 3600 (2.8GHz Intel P4, 533MHz RDRAM)
274 
387 
194 
 
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, 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 graphics and gaming performance
Hard-core gamers have been practically beating down doors to get their hands on the ATI Radeon 9700 Pro graphics card. Match up such a speedy card with a 3GHz P4, and your gaming experience will rise to a whole new level. Even though the graphics card can run at up to AGP 8X, the Mach V's Intel 850E-based motherboard supports up to only AGP 4X; but this doesn't seem to adversely affect the Mach V's high-speed performance. This is the system that hard-core gamers have been dreaming of.

3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 (16-bit color)  
MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 (32-bit color)  
Xi 4036 MTower Premiere (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
16108 
13538 
Falcon Northwest Mach V (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
15984 
15719 
Gateway 700XL (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
15967 
15413 
Dell Dimension 8250 (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
15702 
15433 
ABS Awesome 3600 (Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600)
14818 
14038 
 
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Pro. We use 3DMark to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8 (DX8) interface at both 16-bit and 32-bit color settings at a resolution of 1,024x768. A system that does not have DX8 hardware support will typically generate a lower score than one that has DX8 hardware support.

3D gaming performance (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Quake III Arena  
Gateway 700XL (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
303 
Falcon Northwest Mach V (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
299 
Dell Dimension 8250 (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
294 
Xi 4036 MTower Premiere (ATI Radeon 9700 Pro)
270 
ABS Awesome 3600 (Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600)
238 
 
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Quake III Arena. Although Quake III is an older game, it is still widely used as an industry-standard tool. Quake III does not require DX8 hardware support--as 3DMark2001 does--and is therefore an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. Quake III performance is reported in frames per second (fps).

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.


System configurations:

ABS Awesome 3600
Windows XP Home; 2.8GHz Intel P4; 512MB RDRAM 533MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 128MB; two Maxtor 6L080L4 80GB 7,200rpm; HPT372A UDMA/ATA133 RAID controller

Dell Dimension 8250
Windows XP Home; 3.06GHz Intel P4; 512MB RDRAM 533MHz; ATI Radeon 9700 Pro 128MB; Western Digital WD2000JB-00DUA0 200GB 7,200rpm

Falcon Northwest Mach V
Windows XP Home; 3.06GHz Intel P4; 512MB RDRAM 533MHz; ATI Radeon 9700 Pro 128MB; two Western Digital WD1000JB-00CRA0 100GB 7,200rpm; Promise FastTrack TX2000 RAID controller

Gateway 700XL
Windows XP Home; 3.06GHz Intel P4; 512MB RDRAM 533MHz; ATI Radeon 9700 Pro 128MB; two Maxtor 6Y200P0 200GB 7,200rpm

Xi 4036 MTower Premiere
Windows XP Home; 3.06GHz Intel P4; 512MB RDRAM 533MHz; ATI Radeon 9700 Pro 128MB; two Western Digital WD800JB-00CRA1 80GB 7,200rpm; integrated Promise MBFastTrack 133 RAID controller


Other companies offer tech support; Falcon delivers valet service. If a hardware problem arises that Falcon can't solve over the phone, the company will send a courier to overnight the system back to its facilities, fix the defect, and then overnight the system back to you. This overnight service is good for the first year of ownership, but parts and labor coverage lasts for a full three years.

Toll-free phone support is available Monday through Saturday during West Coast business hours. You can also e-mail or fax questions to Falcon's support team. And in addition to Falcon's online FAQ page, the printed documentation that ships with the Mach V should help you find answers to the questions you may have. User manuals are included for the graphics and sound cards, and the Mach V-series system manual is a valuable tool for getting the system set up and running smoothly.

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