The launch of Nvidia’s new GeForce GTX Titan graphics card has lit a fire underneath multiple boutique computer manufacturers. Falcon Northwest has built a new version of its Mach V desktop tower—the Mach V (Triple Titan)—to take advantage of the Titan’s capabilities, with support for up to three of the new graphics cards and a six-core Intel Core i7 3970X CPU overclocked to 4.7GHz. The system’s price tag as configured was $7,394. Yes, you read that right. The three graphics cards account for about $3000 of the eye-popping figure; this much power doesn’t come cheap. The system’s performance blew away the competition for the most part, setting a new standing for PC gaming. Thus, the Mach V (Triple Titan) takes the Editors’ Choice for high-end gaming rigs.
Design and Features
The Mach V uses the same vertical chassis design as the Maingear Shift Super Stock (Core i7-3930K) ($5289 4.5); both cases orient video cards and components upwards to take advantage of the fact that hot air naturally rises. From the outside, the chassis design is simple, even understated, but the hardware inside the box is some of the most powerful that money can buy. There’s 32GB of DDR3-1866 RAM, the aforementioned Intel Core i7-3970X, and a 256GB Crucial M4 SSD, backed up by a 2TB Western Digital Caviar Green hard drive. The entire system is powered by a 1200W PSU; optical storage comes courtesy of a 16x Asus DVD-RW drive.
The disadvantage to this triple-GPU configuration is that the GPUs consume every available slot; there’s literally no room for any additional hardware. Falcon Northwest makes up for the lack of free PCI-Express ports with a whopping nine USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. Two of the latter are mounted at the top of the case for convenient access while working.
The vertical design presents two other challenges. First, a desk that’s designed to exhaust hot air at the back may end up trapping that air if the system exhausts at the top. Second, there’s the cabling issue. If you don’t have many external drives or peripherals, the Mach V presents a very clean, crisp profile. Add three monitors’ worth of cables, a few external drives, and a keyboard + mouse, and the top of the system looks like a rat’s nest.
The trade-off is that cooling performance is typically better in a vertical case—and with three GPUs and a 4.7GHz overclocked CPU, the Mach V needs to balance cooling performance and noise. It does so quite well. The next-generation GPU Boost technology built into the Titan family keeps each GPU’s temperature pegged at 80C. Customers can override this manually if they wish, but the system automatically adjusts frequencies to ensure that even a three-GPU system runs no risk of overheating.
The three Titan graphics cards are the showcase of the system and its strongest point. The Mach V (Triple Titan) sweeps even the Maingear F131 Super Stock (GTX Titan) in our 3D benchmark tests. Its 3DMark 11 Extreme score of 12,505 is 18% faster than the previous record-holder – the Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core i7-3770K), which was equipped with a pair of dual-GPU GTX 690s (four GPUs in total). In Aliens vs. Predator at 1,920-by-1,080 with 4x anti-aliasing (AA) and 4x anisotropic filtering (AF) turned on, the Mach V (Triple Titan) turned in 222 frames per second (fps) compared with the dual-Titan-equipped Maingear F131′s 182fps. Performance in version 3.0 of Unigine’s Heaven benchmark test at 1,920-by-1080 with 4x AA / AF was 198fps, compared to 155fps for the Maingear F131.
In other areas, the Maingear F131 and Mach V (Triple Titan) came in neck and neck. Both systems completed a Handbrake decode in 23 seconds. The Maingear F131 led in PCMark 7 (6,523 vs. 6,241 for the Mach V) and in Photoshop CS6 (2 minutes, 35 seconds to apply a dozen filters, vs. the Mach V’s time of 2:41). The Mach V (Triple Titan) outperformed Maingear F131 in Cinebench, where the hexa-core 3970 got to stretch its legs. The multithreaded Cinebench R11.5 score for the Mach V (Triple Titan) was 13.62. Only the Origin Genesis (Core i7-3930K), with its 4.9GHz CPU, was faster.
Those performance figures provide an accurate model of how the Falcon-Northwest compares to other gaming systems. What they don’t explain is how Falcon and its boutique competitors have leveraged the new cards to create better gaming experiences. We had the opportunity to test the Mach V in a 5,760-by-1,080 configuration across three 27-inch displays. A standard 1,920-by-1,080 display contains two megapixels— 5,760-by-1080 more than triples that, to 6.2MP. For comparison, 2,560-by-1,600 is 4 MP.
Yes, three GTX Titan GPUs pushing nearly 200fps in Heaven is impressive. What’s more impressive yet is seeing the Mach V (Triple Titan) maintain 90fps in the same benchmark test when running across three displays at once. It’s not a capability that’s limited to synthetic benchmark tests—while multi-monitor gaming is still not standard, many recent titles like Shogun 2, Serious Sam BFE, World of Warcraft, and Batman: Arkham City all support it.
With three GTX Titan GPUs, the Falcon Northwest Mach V (Triple Titan) is capable of fielding game experiences that other configurations don’t offer. Serious Sam BFE at 5,760-by-1,080 with 4x super-sampled AA, 16x AF, and all GPU and CPU options set to maximum, for example, still maintains a consistent 75fps.
The three-monitor experience isn’t perfect—the view on the side panels is often distorted and, in some games, magnifies the landscape and enemies to appear closer than they are. Despite these flaws, multi-monitor gaming support is growing, and the immersion in these games is superior to single-panel play. Game for a few hours across three monitors, and you’ll find that dropping back to one is jarring.
That said, what’s also jarring is the Mach V (Triple Titan)’s price tag. At $999 each, there’s no such thing as a cheap Titan GPU, but gamers who are interested without having quite that much scratch to spare should consider a single GPU configuration built around one of Falcon’s lower-cost alternatives like the Tiki or FragBox.
If you’ve got the funds, this is an excellent system. It’s a configuration that can handle multi-monitor gaming, 3D gaming, or both without breaking a sweat. Given the strength of the underlying hardware, this Mach V could be the center of a gaming platform for years to come. Buyers who prefer to buy a high-end system and use it for a number of years rather than upgrading on a regular basis should give the Mach V (Triple Titan) serious consideration. Of course, if you want to use this to replace the high-end gaming rig you bought last year because that system was the “fastest,” that’s also your prerogative. Regardless, with its record-breaking performance, triple-monitor capability, and smart power-saving functionality, the Falcon Northwest Mach V (Triple Titan) earns our Editors’ Choice for high-end gaming desktops.
More Desktop Reviews:
|Primary Optical Drive||Dual-Layer DVD+/-RW|
|Processor Family||Intel Core i7|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia GeForce Titan SLI|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||2TB plus 256GB GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc