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Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770) review: Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770)

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The Good Outstanding application performance thanks to 4GB of RAM and 64-bit Windows; immaculate cabling makes for roomy interior; among the best warranties in the industry.

The Bad No 1,600MHz RAM option; inward-facing drive cage is a pain to work with.

The Bottom Line The Falcon Northwest Mach V is an expensive, very well-built high-end gaming PC. It features the latest in almost everything, with the top-end performance to match. True snobs will want faster memory, but aside from that, the Mach V gets almost everything right.

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

Falcon Northwest's latest Mach V ($6,957, as reviewed) remains true to the company's reputation of high performance and best-of-breed craftsmanship. But for a few exceptions, its parts offerings remain on the cutting edge, and its smart system building philosophy results in outstanding performance. If your goal is to build the best possible system with no thought to cost, we can think of a few options we wish Falcon Northwest would add to its configurator. But for anyone looking for a fast PC in the $7,000 price range, the Mach V is as well-built and as capable as any other high-end gaming PC out there.

Like many boutique shops, Falcon has stuck with a signature case design for the Mach V and little has changed over the years. The massive, full-tower case has clean, austere lines, a relatively tasteful, backlit falcon design laser-etched onto the front, and easy-to-remove side panels. The large case leaves lots of room on the inside, and even with two double-wide graphics cards and a CPU liquid-cooling system, the Mach V still gives you clean air flow and plenty of room to maneuver, thanks in part to Falcon Northwest's expert cable-routing. You can opt for a variety of automotive-quality custom paint jobs, but our review model came in default, unpainted silver.

Compared with other high-end game PC's, the Mach V is a bit more expensive than some. Maingear's Ephex costs roughly $200 less for the same configuration (and with faster RAM), although its internal craftsmanship, while fine, is not quite as flawless as the Mach V. But if you go to Dell, Alienware, Hewlett-Packard, Voodoo, or Velocity Micro, you will either pay more or fall short on the specs, depending on the vendor, and again, none can claim an interior as well-crafted as the Mach V.

  Falcon Northwest Mach V Dell XPS 730 H2C
Price $6,957 $6,629
Motherboard chipset Nvidia NForce 790i SLI Nvidia NForce 790i SLI
CPU 4.0GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (overclocked) 3.8GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (overclocked)
Memory 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM 2GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM (overclocked)
Graphics (2) 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800 GX2 (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2
Hard drives 1TB 7,200 rpm Hitachi hard drive (2) 160GB 10,000 rpm Western Digital Raptor hard drives (RAID 0); 1TB 7,200 rpm hard drive
Optical drive Dual-layer DVD burner with LightScribe Dual-layer DVD burner with LightScribe
Operating system Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)

As you can see in our side-by-side with the Dell XPS 730 H2C, the Mach V costs more, but it also offers more aggressive overclocking and better graphics cards. The Dell's pair of ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 are fast enough, but they don't quite deliver all-around performance that approaches that of the Mach V.

Because it has 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate, the Mach V is also able to put all 4GB of its memory to work. But since Dell (as well as its subsidiary, Alienware) offers only mainstream, 32-bit Vista (Home Premium, no less), if you added more RAM it would only use up to around 3GB or so. As our performance results show (on Photoshop in particular), the more RAM the better, even if it is a little slower on the Mach V.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Falcon Northwest Mach V
Uberclok Ion

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Falcon Northwest Mach V
Uberclok Ion

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Falcon Northwest Mach V
Uberclok Ion

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Falcon Northwest Mach V
Maingear Ephex
Dell XPS 730 H2C
Alienware Area-51 ALX
Uberclok Ion

When you look at our game charts, however, you'll see that the extra memory does not help the Mach V on games. On our three gaming tests, the Alienware Area-51 ALX outpaced the Falcon Northwest system by a few frames per second on every test, most noticeably on our 1,280x1,024 Unreal Tournament 3 test and our 1,600x1,200 resolution Crysis test. We suspect that difference has to do with the Alienware's faster memory and its pair of Western Digital Raptor hard drives, which have a faster 10,000rpm disk speed than the Mach V's 7,200rpm 1TB Hitachi drive. The Alienware is a faster gaming system, then, but it also costs about $700 more, and it's not quite as fast as the Mach V at multitasking and digital media manipulation.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,200  
1,280 x 1,024  
Falcon Northwest Mach V
Dell XPS 730 H2C
Alienware Area-51 ALX
Maingear Ephex
Uberclok Ion

World in Conflict (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,200 (4x AA, 16x AF)  
1,280 x 1,024 (4x AA, 16X AF)  
Falcon Northwest Mach V
Dell XPS 730 H2C

Crysis (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (high, 4x aa)  
1,280 x 1,024 (medium, 4x aa)  
Falcon Northwest Mach V
Dell XPS 730 H2C
Maingear Ephex
Uberclok Ion

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