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Falcon Northwest Mach V (Core i7 3930K review: Falcon Northwest Mach V (Core i7 3930K

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MSRP: $4,995.00

The Good This latest Falcon Northwest Mach V features Intel's new six-core CPU, a new motherboard chipset, and the usual assortment of high-end components.

The Bad Gamers won't see much benefit from Intel's new chip compared with the old flagship Core i7, and the imposing Mach V case isn't for everyone.

The Bottom Line Well-heeled gamers with professional-level application performance needs should look into this statement-making Falcon Northwest Mach V, but you can spend far less and still enjoy top-notch gaming with an older CPU.

Visit for details.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Support 9

Like most boutique PC vendors, Falcon Northwest has a mandate to offer its customers the latest PC hardware. That means the company has an inclination to showcase Intel's latest CPUs, even when those chips aren't the most obvious fit for Falcon's hard-core gaming clientele. Well-heeled gamers who also engage in professional content creation or other CPU-intensive tasks should consider this $4,995 Falcon Northwest Mach V and its new six-core, 12-thread Intel Core i7-3930K processor. Pure gamers can get a similar gaming experience from PCs with older Intel chips that cost half as much.

The 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K in the Mach V is a new, high-end variant of Intel's second-generation Core architecture. Code-named Sandy Bridge-E, the new chip is joined by two other new models, the higher-end 3.3GHz Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition, and, coming in early 2012, the quad-core, 3.6GHz Core i7-3820.

Like earlier second-generation Core i7 CPUs, these new models all feature Intel's Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost 2.0 technologies. Hyper-Threading emulates a second full set of processing cores, effectively doubling the number of threads. Thus these six-core variants can behave as if they have 12 processing threads, and the quad-core model becomes 8-threaded.

Turbo Boost works in conjunction with Hyper-Threading, ratcheting the clock speed per core up in accordance with the software workload and the chip's thermal restrictions. Thanks to Turbo Boost, the Core i7-3930K in the Mach V can potentially hit 3.8GHz, at least on one core, before any tweaking.

The tweaking factor is important. The "K" designation of the chip means that its core multiplier is unlocked, and can thus be overclocked. Falcon Northwest has pushed the base frequency of the Core i7-3930K to 4.4GHz. A competing system with the same chip from Velocity Micro hit 4.7GHz.

That overclocking means significant added performance from Intel's K-designated chips. Older CPUs like last year's Core i7-2600K regularly showed up in the CNET lab clocked to 4.8GHz from their 3.6GHz standard clock speed. Notice how that range of speed overlaps that of Intel's new chips? Remember that.

Along with the extra cores in the new Sandy Bridge-E CPUs comes a new motherboard chipset, the Intel X79. Most important of the new chipset's features is that in tandem with the new CPUs' integrated memory controller, it now natively supports four-channel 1,600MHz DDR3 memory, up from last year's two-channel, 1,333MHz standard.

The X79 chipset has some other new features. It's one of the first comparatively mainstream motherboards to offer eight memory slots, which should interest content creators. It also offers new PCI Express 3.0 graphics card slots, a perhaps too forward-looking feature, as it will only benefit future graphics cards with more bandwidth.

Falcon Northwest Mach V Velocity Micro Raptor Z90 Digital Storm Ode Level 3
Price $4,995 $4,999 $2,399
Motherboard chipset Intel X79 Intel X79 Intel P67
CPU 4.4GHz Intel Core i7-3930K (overclocked) 4.7GHz Intel Core i7-3930K (overclocked) 4.8GHz Intel Core i7-2600K
Memory 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM 16GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics (3) 1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 (2) 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 (2) 1.28GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 570
Hard drives 128MB Crucial SSD, 2TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive (2) Patriot Wildfire 120GB SSDs, 2TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive; 2TB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive 120GB Intel SSD, 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive
Optical drive Blu-ray writer/dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray writer/dual-layer DVD burner Blu-ray/DVD burner combo
Operating system Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

Expect every major boutique vendor to offer Intel's new chip and chipset. I'll have more reviews of such systems following this one over the next few weeks, but for now I'll compare the Falcon Northwest with the similar Raptor Z90 from Velocity Micro, as well as with the Editors' Choice Award-winning Digital Storm Ode Level 3. That last desktop costs half as much as these luxury boxes, and runs on Intel's previous top-dog CPU, the Core i7-2600K.

Next to its competition, the Falcon Northwest Mach V primarily stands out for its imposing case and its triple-graphics-card configuration. Falcon submitted a Mach V with its new up-venting case earlier this year. Maingear offers a similar design in its flagship Shift.

The Mach V case design is unique enough, and projects a more boutique-looking profile than the plain-but-sturdy Raptor Z90. I'm also happy to report that Falcon has shored up the power button design. The earlier power button wasn't mounted securely enough: push down on it too hard and it would fall into the case, drawing you into a comically arduous process of disassembling the entire front panel to fish it out.

Overall, the Falcon Northwest Mach V offers competitive pricing for its configuration, particularly when you consider the costs of its intimidating case. Velocity Micro achieved a higher overclock setting in the Raptor Z90, though, and offers two solid-state hard drives to the Mach V's one. While you might not be overly price-sensitive if you're shopping for a gaming desktop in this price range to begin with, you can expect to pay a touch more for the Mach V part-for-part than for its competitors.

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 (score)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  

As impressive as these PCs can be for their assortment of high-end components, the new Intel CPUs are the real stars of the show. But while the Falcon Northwest and Velocity Micro systems both land on the top of our performance charts, the lack of distance between them and the Digital Storm Ode Level 3 speaks to the difficulties Intel and these vendors will have in convincing gamers that these new Sandy Bridge-E series chips and their supporting motherboards are worth the expense.

The Falcon and Velocity systems only separate themselves in our Cinebench 11.5 multithreaded test. While Photoshop CS5 and our multimedia multitasking tests both benefit from extra CPU cores and processing threads, the new chips really only make a difference for programs with the need and the ability to scale their workloads across all available processing threads. 3D encoders, financial spreadsheet maintainers, and others with specific multithread needs may see some benefit, but for the most part, the Core i7-2600K offers just as much application performance as Intel's new chips and faster memory support, for a significantly lower price.

Crysis (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600x1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280x1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  

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