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Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 (Intel Core 2 Duo E8400) review: Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 (Intel Core 2 Duo E8400)

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The Good Overclocked dual-core CPU delivers strong performance; compact size gives you flexibility and makes the system semiportable.

The Bad Not SLI-capable; small-scale system begs for wireless networking.

The Bottom Line Falcon Northwest's new, fixed-configuration FragBox 2 is an overclocked, reasonably priced gaming rig whose small size invites you to put it pretty much wherever you want. If you're after that kind of flexibility and have reasonable gaming expectations, you'll be very happy with this PC.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Support 8

Review Sections

Falcon Northwest's FragBox line has always been quirky, even among other gaming PCs. This newest iteration of the FragBox 2 is no exception. By introducing a preconfigured approach to selling its small form factor desktop, Falcon Northwest is able to make this $1,499 gaming system an awfully compelling bargain. As usual with smaller PCs, you have to make sacrifices, and in this case you lose expandability. Falcon makes up for it with its system-tuning expertise. We wouldn't recommend the FragBox 2 if you're looking for a record-setting gaming PC, but if you're interested in a small-scale desktop that will grant you space-savings, a degree of portability, and outstanding performance for its price, the FragBox 2 delivers on all counts.

As stated, this FragBox 2 is preconfigured, which is a first for Falcon Northwest. It will also continue to sell customizable FragBox 2 systems, and with higher-end options. This is also the first system we've seen from the Seattle-based boutique shop at a mainstream price that actually offers some bang for the buck. The last time we ventured into Falcon Northwest's more reasonably priced PCs, with its Talon desktop, didn't result in the most glowing coverage. This $1,499 FragBox 2 offers a much more compelling deal.

  Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 Dell XPS 630
Price $1,499 $1,619
CPU 3.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
Memory 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT
Hard drives 500GB, 7,200 rpm 500GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium Windows Vista Home Premium

We should make it clear that the Dell XPS 630 remains our midrange gaming desktop of choice. Because it's a full-size desktop, the XPS 630 has all the benefits of a roomier case, which for gamers means dual-graphics card capability. The FragBox 2 can only offer a single 3D card, and in that way it will always be limited. However, the FragBox 2 also makes up a lot of performance ground because of overclocking. Falcon Northwest bumped (and will ship) the FragBox's Core 2 Duo E8400 dual-core chip to 3.2GHz, up from its stock speed of 3.0GHz.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Uberclok Ion
Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Dell XPS 630

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Uberclok Ion
Dell XPS 630

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Uberclok Ion
Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Dell XPS 630

Cinebench test (in seconds)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Uberclok Ion
Dell XPS 630
Gateway FX7020
Falcon Northwest FragBox 2

The FragBox 2 outpaces the XPS 630 on four of our seven tests. Likely this is because of the Falcon's faster processor clock speed, and to be fair the Core 2 Quad Q6600 in the XPS 630 only runs at its stock speed, and that chip has shown itself to be very overclockable. Despite the fact that with the right tinkering the Dell system could make up ground here, the FragBox 2 gives an impressive showing for a small form factor system. If you're typically a big multitasker or a multimedia editor, you might benefit more from a system with a quad-core CPU, but for most common applications, the FragBox 2 will tackle them as fast as or faster than its full-size competition.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Dell XPS 630
Uberclok Ion
Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Gateway FX7020

Crysis (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600x1,200 (high quality)  
1,280x1,024 (medium quality)  
Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Dell XPS 630
Gateway FX7020
Uberclok Ion

We're also happy with the FragBox 2 as a gaming PC, but you should definitely consider your display resolution before running out to make a purchase. The Unreal Tournament 3 chart provides a good example. The FragBox 2 actually outperforms the XPS 630 on our 1,280x1,024 resolution test, but it drops off dramatically when we bump the resolution to 1,920x1,200; whereas the XPS 630 and its pair of GeForce 8800 GT cards doesn't take such a big performance hit. Unreal is still playable on the FragBox 2 at the higher-end setting, but in the interest of future-proofing, anyone who plays PC games on a 24-inch or larger LCD will want to invest in system that's SLI or CrossFire capable.

You might reasonably think that with two dual-3D chip cards on the market, the Radeon HD 3870 X2 from ATI, and Nvidia's GeForce 9800 GX2, you could always upgrade the FragBox 2 that way, regardless of its lack of a second graphics card slot. Falcon Northwest does offer the ATI card as an option on its configurable FragBox 2, so you have at least one option for an aftermarket upgrade, although that card wouldn't provide that big a boost. However, the 500-watt power supply in the FragBox 2 won't allow the 9800 GX2 (which requires a 580-watter), which definitely puts a 3D performance cap on this system.

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