System offers top performance at a reasonable price
I realize that I’m seriously dating myself, but back in the day I used to love to get a copy of a huge magazine called Computer Shopper just to look at all the ads. Print was king back then, and CS wore the crown. It was basically 1,000 pages of computer ads with everything from full systems to individual components. I don’t even think it had articles, or if it did, I think everyone skipped them to get to the ads.
Within those pages there was always an advertisement for the God of gaming systems, the Mach V. Built from the ground up to be a gaming system, and featured in games like Fallout 2, it was the computer everyone wanted to have. But I was in middle school at the time, and more likely to get a date with the head cheerleader as I was to come up with the $10,000 or so to score a Mach V. Plus I doubt there was space in my room to house one, as they were a touch on the large size. At least I had one inside the Fallout world, as they were used to run the computers inside the nuclear bunkers.
Fast forward an undefined but long span of years, and we find that that even though almost everything else has changed, that Falcon Northwest is still making some of the most killer gaming machines on the planet. The Mach V line even still exists, updated to pack in all the latest gear.
But Falcon Northwest has done something else extraordinary other than survive for over 20 years: they have brought both the size and the price of gaming systems down out of the stratosphere to the point where almost anyone can afford one. Specifically, I’m talking about their new Tiki line.
These desktops are four inches wide and a scant 13-inchs tall. Even more space is saved by making the disk drive top-loading with no drive door. DVDs (or blu-rays) are simply pressed into the slot and then later ejected using software. In fact, the Tiki’s are so tiny that Falcon discovered that even people’s cats were able to knock them over, so a chunk of high quality polished granite can be added to the base to anchor the Tiki in place. That is how our review system came configured. The stone can be removed if you want to make your system more portable, but we liked the extra stability it offered.
We were also impressed with the price of the unit. You will see all the tests we ran on the little Tiki, but suffice to say there wasn’t a game on the Ultimate or Extreme settings which it couldn’t handle. And the Tiki only cost $3,400. Perhaps that’s still out of reach for middle school kids, but it’s something the rest of us can at least shoot for, and there is no way the Tiki is going to become obsolete anytime soon.
Let’s get the boring speeds and feeds out of the way before we dive into gaming performance. The Tiki scored 5,646 on the Passmark Performance Benchmarks, putting it in league in terms of raw speed alongside workstation class systems that are much higher in price, and a lot larger in terms of actual size.
The system runs on an Intel Core i7 3770K processor running at 3.5 GHz. It’s even overclocked to go faster than that, thanks to a complete water-cooling system that is somehow hidden inside the tiny case. You would think that all the cooling gear would make the Tiki about as quiet as a World War II tank division trying to sneak through the Western Desert, but it’s actually whisper quiet. In fact, sometimes the only way we knew it was actually on was when looking at the illuminated falcon window on the front of the box, which can be customized to display any logo or picture you want when you build out your system online at the Falcon Northwest webpage.
The memory is equally impressive, with two 8G sticks of 1,866-MHz DDR3 from Elite Semiconductor, for a total of 16G. For graphics, our test unit had an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 processor, which was more than enough for any modern game.
For hard drives, the Tiki takes a page from its Mach V big brother with two hard drives which perform different functions. First there is a 512G solid state drive which houses the operating system and any commonly accessed files. With no moving parts, the drive is almost as fast as system memory. Then for storage, the Tiki uses a Western Digital Caviar Green hard drive, which gives you a whopping 3 terabytes of storage capacity. The two drives work together to provide both lighting quick access and an incredibly deep storage well.
As another bonus, the Tiki comes with integrated wireless. If you are doing a lot of shooters, you probably want to connect to a network anyway, but the wireless component makes setup a breeze. Just run power to the system and you can use it anywhere within your wireless network coverage.
For those of you who like to crack open your case to add components or fiddle around, you will be pleased to find a generous 450-watt power supply. And for such a small workspace, there’s a surprising amount of room inside, with all the cables neatly bundled and out of the way.
In terms of external ports, the top of the Tiki has two USB 3.0 ports, as well as a headphone and microphone jack. Around back, there are four more USB 3.0 ports and a bank of four USB 2.0 ports. For graphics, the GeForce GTX 680 offers hookup to a monitor over either an HDMI or a DisplayPort cable. There are also two DVI outputs that can be used in a dual monitor setup. The Tiki also has an optical audio-out port in addition to the standard audio ports, though we mostly ran our sound through the HDMI cable, or with an attached gamer headset plugged into a USB 3 port.
In terms of gaming, there simply wasn’t anything the Tiki couldn’t handle. Even with the high-res texture packs for Skyrim loaded up, the game still ran smoothly on the Ultimate settings. With atmospheric effects like rain and northern lights and huge battles occurring all around, the frame rate rarely dropped below 60 fps, and that was stable frames per second too. Farcry 3 was also able to run at its maximum settings. I ran it previously on another gaming machine that could be considered good by most accounts, but it was only able to drive medium quality settings without running into trouble, especially when things started exploding all around. However, the Tiki had no trouble, and made the lands around Rook Island look amazing, somewhat better than real life in some cases. Officials at Falcon said that they doubted we could find a game that their system couldn’t handle well, and on that count, they were more than correct.
But more impressive than that is the fact that the Tiki, while still costing a lot of money, is reachable for most people with a bit of planning if they really want a gaming system. Offering such a little system at a reasonable price, and with that level of performance under the hood, would have been impossible just a few years ago. My middle-school self would be as impressed as my adult self is today, and so we think will all of your personas.