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Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7 2600K) review: Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7 2600K)

Review Sections

Far Cry 2 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920x1,200 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
1,440x900 (DirectX 10, 4x aa, very high)  
Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7 2600K)
198 
207 
Maingear Vybe (Intel Core i5 2500K)
127 
173 

Metro 2033 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,560x,1,536 (DirectX 11, very high)  
1,920x1,080 (DirectX 11, very high)  
Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7 2600K)
20 
47 
Maingear Vybe (Intel Core i5 2500K)
6 
23 

We've added Metro 2033 as a DirectX 11 test this go-round, and although we hope to expand our game testing further this year, the early results suggest that this game can challenge the most expensive systems. On that test, as on almost all the others, the Falcon Northwest Mach V has a performance advantage in keeping with its extra graphics card and its higher price. The lone exception--on our lower-resolution Far Cry 2 test, where the Origin system enjoys a commanding lead--is likely because of that system's overclocked graphics card. Our hunch is that at lower resolutions, Far Cry 2 is more sensitive to GPU clock speed than scaling between multiple graphics cards.

For those shopping for a gaming PC in the $4,000-plus price range, our hope is that you intend to connect it to at least a 24-inch monitor, if not higher. That will let you play at resolutions of 1,920x1,080 pixels and above, where the Mach V's second graphics card helps most. For fun, we also tested Metro 2033 at 2,560x1,536 pixels, the native resolution of 30-inch LCDs. As you can see, you might need to add yet a third graphics card, or perhaps opt for two dual-chip ATI cards to get better performance on that test. In any case, though you may find some titles that challenge this system at the highest resolutions and image quality settings, for the vast majority of PC games and monitor setups the Mach V will provide a superior experience.

If you'd like to push the Mach V to that next level of gaming capability, you do get room for a third graphics card in this system. The 1,000-watt power supply may even prove sufficient given the power efficiency gains of Sandy Bridge and the GeForce 500 series. Adding a third card will crowd the card expansion section of the case, which Falcon Northwest has compartmentalized behind a curved air deflector, which it says provides superior thermal management compared with that of the Maingear Shift. You'd only lose one standard PCI card slot with a third 3D card, however. A 1x PCI Express slot would still remain available.

With 16GB of RAM from four 4GB memory sticks, you would have to discard some of the extant memory in order to expand. For most gamers, 16GB should be plenty for the foreseeable future. You also get four spare hard-drive bays that are designed to be tool-free, although Falcon has not run the power and data cables behind each bay, much less mounted them for easy drive installation. If there's one trend we'd like to see in 2011, it would be that all PC vendors offering tool-free hard-drive bays see the concept through by properly mounting the necessary cables.

You also get a fair amount of external connectivity on the Mach V. On the back panel you'll find plentiful USB 2.0 jacks, as well as FireWire, eSATA, and USB 3.0 ports. For audio you get both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, along with the standard set of 7.1 audio jacks. You also get a pair of DVI outputs and a Mini-HDMI output on each graphics card.

Juice box
Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7 2600K) Average watts per hour
Off (watts) 0.46
Sleep (watts) 3.6
Idle (watts) 154.6
Load (watts) 509.23
Raw (annual kWh) 856.16736
Energy Star compliant No
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $97.17

Annual power consumption cost
Maingear Vybe (Intel Core i5 2500K)
$56.34 
Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7 2600K)
$97.17 

As we noted in our review of the Origin Genesis, the power efficiency brought about by these new Intel CPUs and Nvidia CPUs is one of the more impressive technological leaps we've seen since we started testing power efficiency almost two years ago. Although the Falcon Northwest Mach V is significantly faster in all respects than the older builds of the Maingear F131 and the Digital Storm Special Ops systems, the Mach V is also more power-efficient. Expect the Mach V to make its presence felt on your monthly power bill, where it will add around $8 each time, but that's still less than either of those $2,500 systems, for more performance.

Finally, Falcon Northwest's service and support policies remain some of the best in the industry. The Mach V nets you three years of parts and labor warranty coverage as its default plan. Falcon also offers free shipping to and from its offices for repair. Phone support is not 24-7, but lines are open from a still generous 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, seven days a week, and are staffed by an entirely in-house support team.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7 2600K)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.6GHz Intel Core i7 2600K (overclocked); 16GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards; 128GB solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Digital Storm Special Ops (Intel Core i7 950)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.07GHz Intel Core i7 950; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 graphics cards; 80GB Corsair Drive Force solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive

Maingear F131 (Intel Core i7 950)
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit; 3.87GHz (overclocked) Intel Core i7 960; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards; 80GB Intel X25-M solid-state hard drive; 1.5TB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive

Origin Genesis (Intel Core i7 2600K)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.7GHz Intel Core i7 2600K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics card (overclocked); 80GB solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Maingear Vybe (Intel Core i5 2500K)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 4.6GHz Intel Core i5 2500K (overclocked); 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2)1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 graphics cards; 64GB solid-state hard drive; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

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