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Falcon Northwest FragBox (2016) review: A compact powerhouse for VR and more

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The FragBox by Falcon Northwest is a gaming desktop you could say we've had some experience with. This compact powerhouse has reinvented itself over and over again, and the latest version is packed with new components for an unmatched virtual-reality experience, in a chassis that's about a small as any Oculus Rift- or HTC Vive-ready desktop gets.

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8.4

Falcon Northwest FragBox (2016)

The Good

The Falcon Northwest FragBox can fit two brand-new graphics cards into an very compact chassis, and configurations are incredibly flexible. Performance, as expected, is outstanding.

The Bad

Even basic configurations are expensive, and just adding a single paint color to the box drives up the price quickly. The tightly packed interior makes it hard for tinkerers to swap components as easily as in bigger desktops.

The Bottom Line

The Falcon Northwest FragBox can be configured anywhere from pricey to super-expensive, but making a big investment in this expertly assembled compact gaming desktop is a way to future-proof against the next generation of VR and 4K gaming.

Before this, the most recent full review of a FragBox is from 2013, when it featured a fourth-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 GPU, and Windows 8. The oldest review I could find on CNET was from 2003, when the FragBox, in an earlier version of its toaster-like case, ran a Pentium 4 CPU, an Nvidia GTX 5600 GPU, and Windows XP.

falcon-northwest-fragbox-2016-02.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

That's all to say, this company and this compact gaming desktop line have been around for a while. When we slotted the latest FragBox into our roundup of gaming PCs equipped with Nvidia's newest GeForce GTX 1080 graphics cards, it stood out in a couple of ways. It was obviously the smallest, although the Alienware Aurora and Acer Predator G1 are fairly compact as well, but it also squeezed two new full-size video cards into its cozy case. Most PC makers dare only do that with a larger chassis that has plenty of room for fans and airflow (after all, liquid cooling can only do so much on its own).

But if you peer through the vent holes on top of the case, you will indeed see not one, but two new Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 cards, packed tightly together. It's a feat of expert system building and cable bundling, and what's more, even under heavy use the aluminum exterior never gets very hot (although it's definitely on the high side of warm). The system fans, while audible at times, don't have that loud hurricane effect that some gaming systems do.

This particular configuration is meant to impress. It has an Intel Core i7-6950X CPU, which is the current top-end of the line, along with those two Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics cards. There's a stunning 64GB of RAM inside, as well as a 512GB SSD and 6TB of platter hard-drive space. That came out to $5,727 on Falcon Northwest's online configurator, but if you drop some of those more exotic add-ons (like the 64GB of RAM), a very reasonable configuration can be had for around $3,500. Falcon Northwest ships to countries such as and UK and Australia, but shipping costs and tariffs can add to the price. As configured, our review unit works out to £4,342 and AU$7,687.

Falcon Northwest FragBox

Price as reviewed $5,727
PC CPU 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-6950X
PC memory 64GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics (2) 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080
Storage 512GB SSD + 6TB HDD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

That's all inside a box that measures 10.5 x 15.5 x 7.6 inches and weighs 28.3 pounds (12.8kg). To make travel a little easier, there's a curved metal handle on the top. Our unit was painted a deep red, and extra colors like this add a hefty $355 to the price.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Of course, if you're spending this much on a gaming PC, you want to know it performs. No surprises here; this can run any new game at max settings. Even the notoriously tricky PC version of No Man's Sky ran amazingly smoothly with all settings maxed and at full 4K resolution. The new Deus Ex: Mankind Divided also ran great at 4K resolution and Ultra detail settings.

Virtual-reality gaming was likewise no problem, and unlike gaming PCs that just meet the minimum specs for Oculus and Vive, there's a certain amount of future-proofing built in here, as VR games will only get bigger and more complex in the coming year.

Conclusion

At this high-end level, the handful of desktops we've tested with dual Nvidia 1080 cards and Core i7 X-level processors all performed similarly, so you're choosing between the brand names, available case designs, and extras such as overclocking.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Based on the cost of the actual components inside, this Falcon Northwest is still a very premium-priced product. But what you're investing in is not just a pair of high-end graphics cards and a big hard drive, but rather the expert build quality and testing before you get the system, and the high level of hands-on service and support after, in case there's a problem or you need some tech support help. This is one of only a handful of boutique PC companies I feel confident in saying that about.

Multimedia Multitasking test 3.0

Cybertron CLX Ra 77Origin PC Millennium 79Falcon Northwest FragBox 81Digital Storm Velox 85Digital Storm Aura 128Origin PC Omni 133Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 133Alienware Aurora R5 152Acer Predator G1 710 157
Notes: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core)

Cybertron CLX Ra 41431Origin PC Millennium 40631Falcon Northwest FragBox 39935Digital Storm Velox 34473Digital Storm Aura 18845Origin PC Omni 18103Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 17894Alienware Aurora R5 16904Acer Predator G1 710 14465
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Cybertron CLX Ra 10901Origin PC Millennium 10384Digital Storm Velox 9859Falcon Northwest FragBox 9220Origin PC Omni 5427Digital Storm Aura 5036Alienware Aurora R5 4973Acer Predator G1 710 4936Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 4717
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Bioshock Infinite gaming test

Digital Storm Velox 334Cybertron CLX Ra 334Origin PC Millennium 309Falcon Northwest FragBox 276Origin PC Omni 241Alienware Aurora R5 232Digital Storm Aura 230Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 221Acer Predator G1 710 192
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System Configurations

Cybertron CLX Ra Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.4GHz Intel Core i7-6950X; 30GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; (2) 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 4TB HDD
Origin PC Millennium Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.4GHz Intel Core i7-6950X; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; (oc) (2) 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 3TB HDD
Origin PC Omni Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 500GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Alienware Aurora R5 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Digital Storm Velox Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.3GHz Intel Core i7-6900K; 30GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; (2) Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Digital Storm Aura Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Velocity Micro Raptor Z55 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 4.2GHz Intel Core i7-6700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2400MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 3TB HDD
Acer Predator G1 710 Micorsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-6700; 30GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 8GB Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 2TB HDD
Falcon Northwest FragBox Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); (oc) 4.5GHz Intel Core i7-6950X; 64GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; (oc) (2) 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080; 512GB SSD + 6TB HDD
falcon-northwest-fragbox-2016-02.jpg
8.4

Falcon Northwest FragBox (2016)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 9