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Falcon Northwest Talon 20th Anniversary Edition Gaming PC Review

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Falcon Northwest, one of the most enduring names in custom-built gaming PCs, is celebrating. 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of its Talon mid-tower desktop, and the company released a new take on the design to make sure everyone knows it’s still looking good even after all these years. The 2019 Talon, which launched last November, is a pristine and powerful reminder that custom pre-built desktops can look sharp and deliver sharp performance.

Of course, that may be because the build I tested had more power than even the most intense gamer really needs, including AMD’s Ryzen 3950X processor and a pair of Nvidia GTX 2080 Super GPUs. Even configured with something more reasonable, though, the system’s design and build quality are undeniable across the board. For a novice PC builder like me, the 2019 Talon is a reminder that, with the high price tag, elite custom systems deliver a level of hardware polish most of us can only dream of.

Before I start, I want to give you a short outline of the specific system I tested.

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core (3.49GHz)
  • Graphics: 2 Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super Founder’s Edition GPUs connected with an Nvidia GeForce 3-slot NV Link bridge
  • Memory: 32GB Gskill 3200 MHZ RGB DDR4
  • OS: Windows 10 Pro
  • Storage: 2 1TB Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2 Drives
  • Rear Ports (Motherboard): 7 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, 4 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 1 x 1Gb Ethernet, 1 x 2.5Gb Ethernet, 1 x Optical, five 3.5mm audio ports
  • Top Ports (Case): 2 x USB-A 3.0, 1 x USB-C 3.1, audio out.
  • Connectivity: 802.11ax (via Motherboard), Bluetooth
  • Dimensions: 8.75” x 15.5” x 17.25”
  • Price: $5,228 (Before shipping)

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Design & Features

The Talon is, by definition, an ATX mid-tower design. At 8.75” wide x 15.5” deep x 17.25” high, it skews slightly to the smaller side of the spectrum, but still requires a decent amount of space. Its size will catch you by surprise during set-up, though, as it’s surprisingly heavy.

To be the big differentiating factor for the Talon is the design of the mid tower PC case. The clean front panel is angled on either side to avoid too much boxiness. The black aluminum on the top and front – also the sides if you prefer metal panels to glass – looks clean and should match well with most desk setups and gear.

Speaking of the top panel, the Talon has four ports on top: Two USB 3.0, a USB-C 3.1 port, and the usual 3.5mm audio out. It’s all pretty standard, except for a small eccentricity: One of the USB ports was extremely tight, to the point where some cables and dongles could feel stuck, and required a lot of force to remove. As someone who’s constantly swapping things out of those ports, it was a little unnerving.

Falcon Northwest Talon

The more interesting (and practical) design magic happens when you start looking to the inside. The side panels, which you can swap between aluminum and tinted glass, open fully on both sides to provide full access to the interior. The doors are held shut magnetically, so it’s quick and easy to open a panel and get inside.

If you opt for glass, you’ll be treated to a fanciful, but understated light show. In this system, the Talon had nearly the maximum amount of RGB flash possible: Three RGB fans, Two RGB DDR4 DIMMs, plus the falcon logo on the cooling system. In a PC Gaming space where everything lights up, the lighting has a chill, subdued vibe rather than a red alert battlestation assault on the senses, especially when looking at it through tinted glass. As someone who both likes RGBs and thinks they can get a little gaudy, this struck a fine balance for me.

Falcon Northwest Talon

Once you open it up, you can see that it’s a bit of a full house in there. All the components – two GPUs, motherboard, two Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2 drives, plus fans and cooling – are all neatly laid out in a very precise manner. The memory mirrors the logo on the Asus Crosshair VIII motherboard to create an aesthetically pleasing symmetry. That said, the space looks smaller than it is because of the PSU shroud, which also helps hide a lot of the cables and keeps a tight focus on the most interesting parts of the system.

No matter what configuration you choose, the Talon is built around its Asetek 680LS liquid cooling system, which, as I mentioned, sits front and center over the CPU. Asetek, a company that helps OEMs design their liquid coolers, doesn’t sell its parts directly to consumers, so while it is an off-the-shelf part, it isn’t something you or I would have access to when building at home. In general, the cooling works phenomenally well, keeping the heat down in almost every circumstance.

Falcon Northwest Talon

Let’s talk about configurability, post-build. While removing and replacing the cooler is easy enough, there isn’t much need to think about swapping out the motherboard or CPU, as doing so is tantamount to building a new PC in the same case. That said, the easy access afforded by the magnetic doors makes it incredibly easy to replace anything else – particularly the RAM or graphics card. If you’re building a more modest system – putting in 3.5” SSDs instead of M.2 drives, adding cards to PCIe slots, etc. – it should be relatively simple to get in and out without much hassle. Of course, if you start messing with Falcon’s cable management, there’s no guarantee that your system will ever look as good again. Just sayin’. (Clearly I’m telling on myself, here.)

When looking at pre-builts, no matter what’s inside – but especially with high-end systems – there’s always the nagging wonder if you could build it yourself for cheaper.  Even if you have the building skills to replicate what Falcon does here, the answer is not as clear as one might think. A cursory inventory of the off-the-shelf parts, not including a case or cooler, since those parts are bespoke, came out to $3,912. Assuming you buy similarly high-end parts, and you’re probably looking at a roughly $4,500 machine. So do custom parts, a three-year warranty, and high-quality labor make up the difference? If you’re already reaching that high a spend, I think it does.

Software

Like other custom-builders, Falcon Northwest doesn’t weigh its PCs down with much in the way of bespoke software. Because this system featured an Asus ROG motherboard, it came with Aura Sync, Asus’ RGB config software, which allows you to customize the lighting in your system. FalconNW set up the software in advance so all of the components were synced on first boot, which is very convenient.

Less exciting is Asus’ audio mixing program, RealTek audio control. While it does provide some advanced mixing options, it can be finicky and make simple things like plugging in a pair of headphones needlessly complicated. This isn’t really the fault of the system, of course, but it’s something to think about when choosing a motherboard.

Falcon Northwest Talon

Gaming

This Talon 20th Anniversary Edition has some of the best components that money can buy. So how do they stack up against the competition? Here’s what we found.
Benchmarks

  • Price (as tested): $5,228.00
  • GPU: RTX 2080 Super Founder’s Edition x 2
  • Unigine Heaven 4.0: 8,153
  • Far Cry 5: 107
  • Hitman (2016): 108
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider: 152
  • 3DMark Time Spy: 20,167
  • 3DMark Fire Strike: 33,541
  • PCMark 8: 5,355

Given the price, it makes sense that the Talon delivers strong numbers in every test we tried. As I mentioned, in this configuration, this should be about as powerful a PC as you can jam into a mid-tower. I’m not 100 percent sure it clears that bar, but I’ve been very happy with the result of every performance challenge I put it through.

Some might argue that a PC this powerful really isn’t necessary for gaming. That you may make better use of its full powers if you’re streaming or editing video. On paper, there is some truth to that, but with next-gen consoles coming and obscenely demanding games like Red Dead Redemption 2 already here, I say that today’s “overpowered” is going to seem more like “Ultra-capable” 12-18 months.

Beyond the benchmark tests, I played a variety of games of all shapes and sizes to get a sense of how this rig handles different types of gaming. These are just some of the games I played:

  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  • Control
  • The Witcher 3
  • XCOM 2
  • Teamfight Tactics

In every case, I played these games with all the graphics sliders turned all the way up, and still found myself getting high frame rates at both 1080p and 1440p. Modern Warfare runs at a locked 60 frames per second in both campaign and multiplayer, even with Ray Tracing on. The powerhouse, Control, ran at a surprisingly stable frame rate between 85-90fps at Ultra settings in DirectX11, and oscillated between 30-40fps in DirectX12 at the “high” ray tracing setting. (It held a much more pleasant 60fps if you dropped the ray tracing effects down to “medium.”)

It ran my Esport game of choice, Teamfight Tactics, at a 120-125fps for multiple games, without breaking a sweat.

Falcon Northwest Talon

Though I don’t have a proper 4K display to fully push the system to its limits, I’m confident based on the testing that the Talon will be able to run pretty much any game in 4K that’s properly optimized. (Though who knows what will happen if you jack up all the sliders on Red Dead Redemption 2 at that resolution and ride into the sunset.)

The Talon runs fairly cool and quiet under most circumstances. Other than when booting up or launching a game, I rarely noticed more than a small hum from the fans. Though it runs within a normal range, temperature-wise, I did notice the system getting very hot to the touch when playing a resource-intensive game for long stretches. I could feel the heat radiating off the glass panel sides after playing for a few hours, but there was never an issue with the PC overheating to the point where it impacted performance

Purchasing Guide

The Falcon Northwest Talon 20th Anniversary Edition is available now through the Falcon Northwest website. As I mentioned, getting one with the same specs as the one I used for this review will run you back a hefty $5,228. However, since Falcon machines are custom-built, you can create many, many configurations to fit your budget, the absolute cheapest of which starts at $2,298 with an Intel 4-core i3-9100 4.2 GHz processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB graphics card.

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This article was originally published by IGN.COM

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