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Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700) review: Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700)

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One of many superfast PCs
Falcon Northwest's latest Mach V compares well against systems we've seen recently from Dell, Velocity Micro, and Widow PC. All feature an Intel Core 2 Exteme QX6700 quad-core CPU and two Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX 3D graphics cards. That makes all of these systems complete gaming overkill. We dare you to find a resolution or an image quality setting in a current gen-game that any of these systems can't handle. Still, when you get to spending between $5,500 and $7,500 on a PC, the little things tend to mean much more. This is why we have to give Falcon Northwest credit for its overclocking.

8.4

Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700)

The Good

Fastest gaming PC we've ever seen; somewhat less expensive than the competition; quiet; pristine interior.

The Bad

The overclocking might be a little too aggressive; digital media archivists will want more storage space; Blu-ray costs extra.

The Bottom Line

Falcon Northwest continues its tradition of building the fastest gaming PCs around. This one comes with Intel's quad-core chip clocked higher than we've ever seen before, and its resulting game performance sets new records. You might want to bolster some of the features on this system, but if it's 3D power you're after, Falcon delivers the strongest system we've seen so far.
Of the next-generation game systems we've seen recently, none has performed as well on our game tests as Falcon Northwest's Mach V. Similar PCs are by no means slow, but if your goal is showing off frame rates, Falcon Northwest turned in the fastest scores. Like its competition, the Mach V's prohibitive price tag ($6,800) cuts off all but the most serious gamers. Those that can spring for it can feel comfortable in the knowledge that this is one of the fastest PCs available today. With only 300GB of storage and no HD optical drives, this system definitely has room for more features, but as a pure bragging-rights gaming PC, we've seen none faster.

All of the systems listed above came with the processor overclocked from 2.66GHz to either 3.2GHz or 3.34GHz, in the case of the Widow PC. The Mach V beats them all with its 3.73GHz setting. Falcon Northwest claims that only its own custom-designed liquid-cooling hardware is efficient enough to allow it to warranty a system overclocked that much. For its game performance, we saw that extra clock speed pay big dividends. It also lets us illustrate pretty well that overall performance isn't simply about raw clock speed.

Quake 4 performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048x1,536 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
1,600x1,200 (4x AA, 8xAF)  
1,280x1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
Falcon Northwest Mach V
143.2 
141.6 
145.6 
Widow PC IX2 SLI
138.4 
137.4 
138.3 
Dell XPS 710 H2C
114.6 
114.3 
130.3 
Alienware Area-51 7500
105.7 
121.2 
125.7 

F.E.A.R. performance (fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048x1,536 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
1,600x1,200 (4x AA, 8xAF)  
1,280x1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
Falcon Northwest Mach V
111 
163 
205.7 
Widow PC IX2 SLI
103.3 
150.3 
197 
Dell XPS 710 H2C
103 
145.7 
156.7 
Alienware Area-51 7500
59 
88.3 
115 

Here's what we like best about the Mach V's scores on Quake 4. Like the Widow PC, as the resolution goes up, the frame rate stays relatively the same. That means that this system is not even close to being overwhelmed at 2,048x1,536, one of the highest resolutions out there. The more demanding F.E.A.R. taxes the Mach V a bit more as we dial up the number of pixels on display, but this system still edges out the competition by a measurable margin at the higher settings. None of these systems is slow, and all will deliver smooth frame rates in current games. But if we use these results as a predictor of performance on next-gen titles, the Falcon Northwest Mach V shows the most promise for longevity.

Multitasking test (simultaneous McAfee AntiVirus scan, DivX 6.1 video encode, CAB file extraction)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  
Note: Note: iTunes for Windows version 6.0.4.2; iTunes for Mac version 7.0.1

CineBench 9.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

On our tests of regular application performance, you'll see mostly the same story as you did with the game performance, with one exception. Again, this is rarefied air we're in with these PCs, so none of them could be considered slow. On CineBench and Photoshop, tests where clock speed matters most, the Falcon Northwest wins outright. It also comes very close to toppling the reigning iTunes champ, the Apple Mac Pro, which has a distinct home court advantage. For all of its fancy overclocking, though, the Falcon Northwest still can't overtake the Velocity Micro's multitasking score. That's because Velocity Micro has a dedicated RAID card, which speeds data access. The benefits of that add-on aren't available on the Mach V, as Falcon Northwest doesn't offer the RAID card as an option. Gamers won't care, but if you're a professional shopping for a high-end PC and you do a lot of task switching, you might.

Only 300GB of hard drive space?
Aside from performance, the Mach V that Falcon sent us had a near-typical configuration for a high-end gaming PC, although it's a little short on hard drive space, which could explain its somewhat lower price tag than its competition. Our configuration had only two 150GB 10,000rpm hard drives. The other PCs in this class come with at least 500GB of storage space, if not 1TB in various drive combinations. The Mach V also has an adequate 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, but if Dell is able to include 4GB of 667MHz RAM in its significantly less expensive XPS 710 H2C, it looks a little weak for Falcon Northwest (or any of the other vendors) to offer only half as much, even if the Mach V has faster memory and the more up-to-date Nforce 680i SLI motherboard chipset. You can add memory and expand the hard drive storage on the Mach V's configurator, but bringing them on a par with the Dell will add another $1,100 to the price tag.

Similar to the others, the Mach V comes with a dual-layer DVD burner and a second DVD-ROM drive. We're surprised, though, that none of these cutting-edge desktops comes with an HD optical drive. We'll give Falcon credit, though, because it's the only vendor of Dell, Velocity Micro, or Widow PC to even offer Blu-ray as an option (for an extra $950). Both this system and the others are up to date on audio cards, however, in the Mach V's case by way of the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Fatal1ty model.

Simple but polished
Finally, the design. Falcon Northwest sent us its brushed-aluminum case, sans the $1,000 paint job. It's a clean, if perhaps plain, look in a box that takes up lots of space. We couldn't really put our finger on why, but there's something about Falcon's wiring inside the box that makes it look cleaner than even the Velocity Micro. We also hate the Mach V's hard drive cage, similar to the Velocity Micro's case. By facing the drives toward the rear of the system, it makes it much harder to swap or add drives later. Dell, Widow PC, and the Apple Mac Pro have the best designs in that area, with the drives facing out. We will give the Falcon Northwest credit for its noise level, though. The Velocity Micro sounded like a rocket ship, and while the Dell was nearly silent, it needed a cumbersome, customized cooling unit to achieve its silence--and the Dell is overclocked to only 3.2GHz. The Mach V might be a little louder than the Dell, but the judicious application of sound dampening foam goes a long way toward keep its noise levels low.

The support story on the Mach V is the same as always. Blessedly, Falcon Northwest gives you three years of parts-and-labor coverage. We wish every other vendor made this the baseline support option. And while its phone support might not be open at all hours, you can reach Falcon's in-house techs seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. There's an extensive list of FAQs and driver and other software downloads on Falcon's Web site.

System configurations:

Alienware Area-51 7500
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (overclocked to 3.2GHz); 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA hard drives (RAID 0); 250GB Samsung 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive

Apple Mac Pro
OS X 10.4.7; 2x 2.66GHz Xeon 5150; 1,024MB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7300GT; 250GB Western Digital 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive

Dell XPS 710 H2C
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 overclocked to 3.2GHz; 4,096MB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0); 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive

Velocity Micro Raptor Signature Edition (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 overclocked to 3.2GHz; 4,096MB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; (4) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0)

Widow PC IX2 SLI
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 overclocked to 3.34GHz; 2,048MB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0); 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive

8.4

Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 9Support 8