High-end gaming rigs like the Falcon Northwest Fragbox (GeForce GTX 780) are made to play premier AAA gaming titles at the highest resolution possible with the highest quality settings. The Fragbox is certainly capable of that, and it’s semi-portable to boot. It’s going to cost you, but not as much as you’d think. It comes in at just under $5,000, but can compete on the game grid with systems costing thousands more. The Fragbox is our latest Editors’ Choice award winner for high-end gaming desktops.
Design and Features
The newest Fragbox follows in the same style as previous Fragbox models, but the styling has been updated. The black painted metal chassis still has an integrated carry handle on the top, which is more than robust enough to handle the system’s hefty components. Users can choose to remove the handle, in case they are going for a built-in look.
The front panel is now flat, with a slot-loading Blu-ray/DVD combo drive replacing the old tray mechanism. The Fragbox skull logo is now laser-cut into the front panel and backlit with blue lights, the older model had a clear polymer panel with the logo cut in. Overall, it’s a nice design and shows that you’re serious about gaming without resorting to flashy lights and an overabundance of chrome. The Fragbox is shorter than competing systems like the Maingear F131 SS, and is certainly smaller than full sized behemoths like the Origin Genesis (Core i7-3970X).
The internals are top notch, as we’ve come to expect from Falcon Northwest. The system comes with a quad-core Intel Core i7-4770K processor, 32GB of DDR3-1866 memory, two 960GB Crucial M500 SSDs in a RAID 0 array, and a pair of Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 graphics card setup in a two-way SLI configuration. At most you can currently put 32GB of system memory into the chassis, as are the two GTX 780 cards. Having 32GB means that you will be able to load virtually any game in existence right now, or any in the future before the system becomes obsolete. It also means you have plenty of memory to multitask while gaming, including simple tasks like Web surfing and instant messaging. However, with 32GB at your disposal, you have the space to do real work in the foreground like recalculating spreadsheets or editing photos while grinding or mining for resources in the background on a RTS like Starcraft II.
The Intel Core i7-4770K processor is one of Intel’s new fourth-generation (Haswell) processors, which is more power efficient than older 3rd and second gen CPUs. Falcon NW didn’t overclock the i7-4770K in the Fragbox, but it is unlocked so you can experiment with that later. If you don’t feel like taking on that task yourself, the company can tweak the system for you before shipping, for a fee. The new i7 processor, 32GB of memory, and the two SSDs work together to give Fragbox users the same multimedia benchmark performance as systems powered by overclocked six-core Intel i7-3970X processors (more on that below).
The two SSDs are Crucial M500s with 960GB of storage capacity. Together in a RAID 0 array they give you about 1.9TB of total storage capacity on the C: drive. While this is more than enough for most users and many hardcore gamers, you may want more space for downloads and other media files. The Fragbox is well equipped for extra storage, as there is space for an additional 3.5-inch hard drive or two 2.5-inch SSDs in the chassis. Plus, you can always hook up an additional external hard drive to one of the system’s six USB 3.0 ports (two are above the front panel). With a high end system like this, we would’ve liked to have seen a 10Gbps Thunderbolt port for professional hard drive array support, but as configured this Fragbox is very connectable with four more USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, digital audio out, analog surround audio, HDMI, DVI, and all the video ports on the GeForce GTX 780 graphics cards. In addition to the Ethernet port, the Fragbox comes with 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi built in. The system has a 1000W power supply, so the system is capable of supporting power-hungry next generation graphics cards, whenever Nvidia releases its next monster card.
The two 3GB GeForce GTX 780 graphics cards are aimed at high-end enthusiast gamers, the ones that absolutely have to have everything turned up to 11. Together, the two cards can support at least four displays simultaneously, including Nvidia Surround gaming. Though stereoscopic 3D gaming never really took off, the system will support Nvidia’s 3D Vision kit as well.
That’s all well and good, but the reason you want two top-end graphics cards is so you can play high-end AAA games at the highest quality settings. If you’re lucky enough to own a 2,560-by-1,600 or 2,560-by-1,440 resolution display, the Fragbox is certainly capable of driving it with all the eye candy turned on. The two GTX 780 cards have four dual-link DVI ports, two HDMI, and two DisplayPorts between them. The cards run quiet as well. Under normal operation, the cards ran almost silent, and only made themselves present when running our most strenuous gaming benchmarks. Even then, you’d have to have the Fragbox backwards, with the video connectors pointed at your ears to hear the fan noise.
Our review unit came with Windows 8, and as usual Falcon NW keeps the software preloads to a minimum. The SSDs are mostly empty, since Windows, the drivers and utilites for the graphics cards, and Nvidia’s GeForce Experience are all that occupy the C: drive. GeForce Experience can help you automatically setup optimal quality and resolution settings for your system, depending on any game it has in its database. Nvidia has also promised first-day driver support for all current and upcoming AAA gaming titles, so you’ll be able to optimally play the day you download the next Bioshock Infinite on launch day. Other neat GeForce Experience features include Shadowplay, which will automatically record the last 20 minutes of gameplay, so you can save gameplay videos for future analysis, or so you can relieve a particularly sweet move and share the experience with your friends.
The reason you spend almost $5,000 on a gaming rig is so that you can play high-end games at all quality settings. This is totally the case with the Fragbox, as it destroys our 3D gaming tests, returning a glass smooth 129fps at Aliens vs. Predator and 132fps at our Heaven benchmark tests at maximum quality. We tested at our standard 1,920-by-1,080 resolution settings, but the system is easily capable of driving a 2,560-by-1,600 resolution 30-inch panel at the same quality settings. Granted, these tests numbers aren’t quite as high as the systems with dual GTX 690 cards like the Origin Genesis (Core i7-3970X) or dual GTX Titans like the Maingear F131 SS (GTX Titan), but once you get past a hundred fps or so, you’re just gilding the lily. At that point, you’re really just bragging about top frame rates. The Origin Genesis, Maingear F131SS, and other über-gaming systems like the Falcon Northwest Mach V (Triple Titan) really are more about the bragability, like owning a high-end sports car to drive on public roads.
The Fragbox also makes short work of the other benchmark tests we run, returning one of the highest, if not the highest score on the day-to-day PCMark7 test (7,322 points). This is high score is a result of the system’s quad-core processor, 32GB of memory, and dual SSDs working in concert with the graphics cards and the rest of the system’s components. Other multimedia tests like the Handbrake video test and Photoshop CS6 test were also class leading, coming in marginally faster than the overclocked Falcon Mach V and Maingear F131 SS systems.
Though just under $5,000, the Falcon Northwest Fragbox (GeForce GTX 780 SLI) displays a very good bang for the buck compared with systems costing thousands more. It’s quite competitive with systems like our former Editors’ Choice, the Falcon Northwest Mach V (Triple Titan), especially if you’re not already running a multi-monitor gaming rig. It doesn’t have the tower PCs’ future expandability, but with these components already in the chassis, you likely won’t have to upgrade for a very long time. The Fragbox gives users the benefit of the latest technology, and as such is our new Editors’ Choice award for high-end gaming desktop PCs.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Check out the test scores for the Falcon Northwest Fragbox (GeForce GTX 780 SLI)
Compare the Falcon Northwest Fragbox (GeForce GTX 780 SLI) with several other desktops side by side.
More desktop reviews:
|Primary Optical Drive||Blu-Ray Disc|
|Processor Family||Intel Core i7|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia GeForce GTX 780|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||1920 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc