The Falcon Northwest Talon is a gaming desktop that features a beautifully painted case stuffed with a pair of Nvidia’s Titan X graphics cards (using the new Pascal architecture) and an overclocked version of Intel’s top-tier consumer processor. Though the base Talon can be bought for $1,771, it costs a lofty $9,591 as tested. But for that dose of insanity sauce, you get smooth 4K and VR gaming capabilities and some of the highest benchmark test scores we’ve seen, without having to resort to labyrinthine cooling methods that can add to complexities down the road.
Design and Features
This latest version of the Talon sports the same steel case Falcon Northwest has been using for a decade. Well built and sturdy, it can be painted any color you want, from the stunning smoky-gray automotive finish of our review unit to a hue matching that of the low-slung luxury car in your garage. (If you want to save a few bucks, you can get the configuration tested here with a matte black version of the same chassis for $8,363.) The case measures 17.5 by 8.2 by 19 inches (HWD), so it’s decidedly in the mid-tower camp. It’s shorter and slimmer (but deeper) than the Alienware Aurora, another mid-tower. It’s not as eye-catching as systems like the Maingear Rush X99 Super Stock and the latest Origin Genesis, but it makes up for that with performance (as we’ll see below).
The front door swings open to expose a fairly standard tray-loading DVD burner. You can omit this if you only play downloaded games, but it’s nice if you still have a large collection of vintage titles on disc. Two USB 3.0 ports and the microphone and headphone jacks adorn the front of the top panel. In the back are an Ethernet port, surround audio jacks, the connectors for the included 802.11ac Wi-Fi antenna, four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, three USB 3.1 (Type-A) ports, and a single USB-C port. The two Titan X cards have six DisplayPort connectors, two HDMI jacks, and two DVI ports between them. Connectivity is excellent, and the USB-C port means that you won’t need an adapter to directly hook up speedy external SSDs or one of the latest smartphones.
Speaking of SSDs, the Talon comes with two: one 512GB Samsung 950 PRO M.2 SSD as the boot drive and a 4TB Samsung 850 EVO SATA SSD for storage. If that’s not enough, you can add three additional 3.5-inch drives and two 5.25-inch drives to its case. There is also 64GB of RAM from four DIMMs, and the motherboard can accommodate four more for a maximum of 128GB. This should let you load and run virtually any game for the next half-decade with no hint of a slowdown, even if you also have 25 browser windows, a video broadcast client, and Photoshop all open at the same time. As with previous Falcon Northwest computers, the Talon is covered by a three-year warranty.
An Intel Core i7-6950X Extreme Edition processor (overclocked from 3.0GHz to 4.0GHz) with 10 computing cores is the engine that keeps the Talon purring. The closed liquid cooling system that keeps it all in check is a lot less complex than the elaborate plumbing built into the Maingear Rush X99 Super Stock and the Origin Genesis. Their piping is wonderful to look at and brag about, but creates some potential problems. In open liquid cooling systems, the coolant can evaporate, which will require a refill after five to six years. The pumps are extra points of failure and will eventually wear out, much like the water pump in your car. And although we haven’t run a system long enough to require a refill or experienced pump failure firsthand, we have experienced shipping mishaps on desktops like these where the coolant has ended up in the packaging instead of the PC’s reservoirs.
As you’d expect, those two Titan X graphics cards helped the Talon return excellent frame rates on our Heaven (95 frames per second, or fps) and Valley (109fps) tests at 4K resolution with the quality setting on Ultra. What’s remarkable is that they achieve these feats in an air-cooled configuration, without all the liquid tubing and complexity of the Maingear Rush or Origin Genesis. The Talon outperformed other systems we’ve tested at 4K, beating the Genesis, the CybertronPC Titanium, the Digital Storm Velox, and the MSI Vortex G65 by a margin of at least 30fps, and that’s saying something. (To be fair, the last two PCs use older graphics processors, but they are still considered high-end enthusiast GPUs.) The Talon was also at or near the top of our 3D tests at 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme (19,013 points), as well as Heaven (255fps) and Valley (140fps) at full HD resolution. You’re certainly ready to drive the current set of VR helmets, and likely ready for future headsets if VR reaches the mainstream.
The speedy SSDs and the overclocked Core i7 processor helped the Talon ace our HandBrake (27 seconds) and CineBench (2,241 points) tests. The Maingear Rush and Origin Genesis shared the same processor, and both were deadlocked at a close second (and third) place behind the Talon. Just about all the other gaming desktops we reviewed recently were no slouches either, but they did lag the frontrunners by 20 to 30 seconds on HandBrake, and upwards of 500 to 1,300 points on CineBench. You’d have no trouble using the Talon to complete a 4K video project with CGI animation during the day, before kicking back to play more 3D games after hours.
The Falcon Northwest Talon leapfrogs systems like the Origin Genesis and Maingear Rush X99 Super Stock, and it does it without resorting to more complex cooling methods that introduce additional risk points. It’s funny to talk about value at this price point, but the Talon costs only $22 more than the Maingear Rush, it has (slightly) higher performance, and it comes with double the memory and storage. No doubt the Titan X graphics cards have a lot to do with the results, but a brute force win is still a win. The Talon isn’t quite as flashy as the Genesis and the Rush, and doesn’t convey that luxury aesthetic as overtly, but you can’t argue with the performance overhead and capabilities of the newer Titan X cards and brag-worthy components like the 4TB SSD and 64GB of memory. Naysayers and home PC hobbyists will claim they can build a high-end gaming PC for half the cost, but can they do so with the same level of care and expertise? I don’t think so. In any case, the latest Falcon Northwest Talon soars to the top as our latest Editors’ Choice for high-end gaming desktop PCs.
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