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Falcon Northwest Upgrades the Mach V With AM2

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June 14, 2006 10:43:33 AM

With the new socket AM2 platform from AMD, consumers can expect faster systems from the guys who really know how to build them.
June 14, 2006 12:12:12 PM

No mystery where my money would go if I had that much. what a dream.
June 14, 2006 12:28:12 PM

Yeah, I have configured a pc on Falcon NorthWest and I got $7K for a X2 62 SLI 7900GTX. Wow, that is some crazy prize and with the performance is very good as well. But I would still prefer to build my own pc.
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June 14, 2006 12:51:13 PM

Quote:
As a regular reader of Tom's Hardware, you might wonder why we get as many systems as we do from Falcon. To dispel any thoughts of conspiracy theories, we don't have anything to do with Falcon on any level. The answer is simple: the company is the role model that many other enthusiast PC builders look up to; they are considered the elite of the elite.


Why did I always think that was Dell? Oh yeah, they push 100x the inventory...

I've been building computers since hard drives had black faces, green lights, and you could hear them clear across the room. I know a decent number guys who build systems who have only heard of falcon recently. Seems like a bunch of marketing to me.

Quote:
Companies like AMD, Asus, ATI, Intel and Nvidia all strive to have Falcon Northwest on their lists of partners when they debut a new enthusiast product.


lol. I'm not buying that one bit.

Quote:
Owning a Falcon is reminiscent of what Ferris Bueller had to say as he turned to the camera after picking up his girlfriend, Sloane Peterson, in a Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California SWB: "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."


Wow. Are you serious? This phrase won't hold water against the crowd here lol. Why would ANYONE who watches this site religously buy a system more marked up than a dell when they can build the same thing, NOT have it DOA, for like 2/3 the cost?


I dunno. The whole article seems fishy to me. It doesn't appeal to the THG reader base, so why are they even posting it?
June 14, 2006 1:08:42 PM

Quote:
I dunno. The whole article seems fishy to me. It doesn't appeal to the THG reader base, so why are they even posting it?


Falcon's products look to be excellent quality. Clean build, beautiful case. All you gotta do is fork over the big bucks. But I'm not dissing them for building pricey custom PCs - if they can make a living doing it, more power to them. Why post it here? Who knows, maybe not every Toms reader is a DIY'er? Maybe just to provide info for you to use to compare to what you do? I see no harm in Toms reviewing anything that's available. It's just data and I like data. But I wouldn't buy a Falcon even if I got run over by the money truck.
June 14, 2006 1:47:55 PM

Quote:
I dunno. The whole article seems fishy to me. It doesn't appeal to the THG reader base, so why are they even posting it?


Falcon's products look to be excellent quality. Clean build, beautiful case. All you gotta do is fork over the big bucks. But I'm not dissing them for building pricey custom PCs - if they can make a living doing it, more power to them. Why post it here? Who knows, maybe not every Toms reader is a DIY'er? Maybe just to provide info for you to use to compare to what you do? I see no harm in Toms reviewing anything that's available. It's just data and I like data. But I wouldn't buy a Falcon even if I got run over by the money truck.

No, you're right. I see why they posted it. With Dell's quality suffering so badly, I don't think "Dellienware" is enough to hold the enthusiest space.

Even so, for $4,500 I can build a nice Dual-SLI system with vapor phase cooling.

For THG, if you want to convince me that Falcon is as good as you claim, then pit it against a custom system. Show me that my extra 2000 duckets buys me more than a fancy name tag on the side of my case.


NOTE: To call a Falcon the Ferrari of computers is way off. Every Auto-enthusiast out there knows what a Ferrari is. There are still a LOT of people that will give you a blank stare when you say, "Hey, I got a new Falcon!" If anything, it's more like an Esprit. It's fast, but not faster than other cars in its class, and only people with money to burn will have one :) 
June 14, 2006 1:59:28 PM

Quote:
Even so, for $4,500 I can build a nice Dual-SLI system with vapor phase cooling.


Sure, you COULD do that, but instead go DFI3200/XFire...
June 14, 2006 2:24:12 PM

I say you call them if you have so many questions to their costs.

As for being first to launch... let me put it this way. Do you have a 3DFX motherboard or Voodoo5 6000? What about having a Conroe 2 months ago? Hmmm. Whenever you are called by the engineers of companies, beta test hardware, are called by Asus to design a motherboard, have Silverstone build custom cases or power supplies, or by Nvidia and ATI to discuss next generation hardware I think you would have an edge on the average Joe and especially some other custom system builders.

As for cost these can get up there quickly. Their custom paint jobs can add a few thousand as the person that paints them can charge $5,000 just to paint a Harley gas tank. Then take a computer with its parts and this could get astronomical. The paint on that case we had in was very expensive.

Another expense it the warranty. Being assured that you can have your system back in your hands overnight two and a half years later after purchase is great. If you have tech support issues you can all them the rest of your life and they will be glad to help. You cannot say that about many companies.

If you have questions I can answer about them fire away... they are a company all to themselves. They get stuff before we do sometimes and that has to say something.
June 14, 2006 2:37:56 PM

Quote:
They get stuff before we do sometimes and that has to say something.


Actually, that says very little. I've got contacts that get stuff early too. I got to piddle with AM2 something like 6 weeks ago, with Conroe 3 weeks ago, etc, just because I could go to my friend's labs and play around. Many people in the industry get engineering samples well ahead of commercial release and companies like Falcon can get in the queue to have commercial units early. Just go to AMDs web site or ATIs and work your way through the commercial side, fill out the forms, get supplier status, it's all standard bidness.
June 14, 2006 3:03:33 PM

I have a Voodoo 5500 if that means anything :)  That thing was a BEAST.
"Wow it has 2 cooling fans!" (If you remember everything up to the voodoo3 just had a big heat sink).

I agree that the price adds value beyond a DIY system, so I stand corrected. Falcon-ware isn't aimed at the DIY tinkerer (though I think they're trying with vendor-limited Quad-SLI).

I don't see George Clooney popping open his case when he blue-screens in World of Warcraft, so Falcon-ware is good for those that want the power of a custom-system without having to know anything about it.

At any rate, it still feels like marketing to me. Maybe it's just the way the article is written. (Maybe it's that the second page reads like a Falcon-ware brochure ;)  )

There are 2 sides to Falcon-ware computers tho, and on the one hand you have the DIY'er, reminiscent of the grease monkey and his big-block in garage, and you have the corporate CEO willing to spend money to get something almost as nice without all the maintenance. The target market is the CEO (or "Barry" as some retail chains refer to them).

It would have been nice to really show and compare these 2 sides in the article. Instead, it feels like you're trying to sell everyone on how great the Mach V is. It would have been nice to see the Mach V pit against a white-box FX-62. Even if the Mach V fell short, I think most would understand if you explained the real differences. Tinkerers know that you can't do a wicked OC without opening the case every now and then (We all want to, but it's never the case ;)  ), or knowing exactly what's wrong when you hear 6 beeps from the AWARD BIOS.

All and all, I think Falcon is going places. Dell is opening up the market by shortcutting quality with Maxtor hard drives, custom-motherboards, and the horrendous tech support. Falcon has recognized this and recently (and obviously) started dumping more money into marketing (not referring to the article: I see their ads popping up all over now).

I think other enthusiasts would agree with the statement that Falcon is up-and-coming, and has the potential to be a serious player in the enthusiast world in the next few years. They're not exactly established with enthusiasts yet. When you say they're the "Ferrari of computers," it seems very exaggerated. I would say Alienware has been the Ferrari of computers to-date. They're very well-known for providing high-quality, tweaked computers.

Now put an Alienware versus the Mach V versus a White-Box FX-62, and you have yourself a killer article :) 

*edit* I'm not sure why I insist on spelling enthusiest with an e.
a b } Memory
June 14, 2006 4:10:08 PM

Come on...it just a review....sure anyone can build one for cheaper...but like said....it's for "non-self building" gamers....they do exist...and they pay for it....

-------------------------
on the article
WTF did they put the 2 raptors out of the fans airflow for? why not move them up and separate them? The still could have ran the cables along the bottom of the case to keep it nice and not give the drives a reason to get so hot..
June 14, 2006 6:16:36 PM

Quote:
With the new socket AM2 platform from AMD, consumers can expect faster systems from the guys who really know how to build them.


That's a good review. The thing i like best about it is htat it shows the 20% increase over FX60 I was expecting. Looking at the 1024 nubers you can see the juicy increase.

I knew once builders started putting out systems you would clearly differentiate AM2 from 939.

I do have a suggestion though. Would it be possibele to putout a stress test review for those folks that use their computers like psychos (I regulary have 1-2GB of programs loaded including Virtual Server and VS 2005 and then start up Q4). Thsi will show how new processors handle those heavy loads

I can't imagine doing what I do with a 4400+ with a P4 anything. I'm using one now and as soon as you get to the limit of physical RAM it gets "tedious."

My Athlon 3200+ was better at 2GHz.
June 14, 2006 7:04:33 PM

The performance looked nice, but not worth the $7000. With that much cash you could get an FX62 with 4GB of the best DDR2 and dual 7950GX2s. :?
June 14, 2006 7:27:06 PM

"The downside is cost, as Falcon Northwest systems do not come cheap: the total price tag for the system we received was $4,558."

This system was not $7,000.
June 14, 2006 7:32:30 PM

Just because you haven't heard of them before doesn't mean they haven't been around a long time. If I remember correctly Alienware started in 1996. I remember when I was looking for my first computer (386 sx 16, when the turbo button was on) I was seeing Falcon ads. For the Mach 5, no less. I'm just going off memory here but i know for a fact that Falcon has been around a lot longer than Alienware. And Falcon has always had the top end parts for a premium price. On the other hand I have never heard a bad word about them and the performance of their computers.

And, no, I don't work for them nor do I own one. Not that rich.

*edit* Well, shows how bad my memory is. Falcon started in 1992, so I was still right but not by a whole lot. Only 4 years before Alienware.
June 14, 2006 7:47:15 PM

What a great article! I understand why some readers wouldn't understand how this article has a place on THG but I have the answer!

TA-DA

I think a lot of people (myself included) spend time on THG to dream. That is, we could never afford a 7900GTX Platinum Plus Extreme Edition Hyperclocked graphics card(or could never justify the cost to our wives). I'm just using the GPU as an example but you get the idea. The concept of a $4500 computer system is beyond our reach, but we get to live vicariously through articles like this.

By the way, If I got hit by the money truck, I'd sue!
June 14, 2006 8:33:45 PM

Just a note, I priced this system (or as close as I could get to it) on newegg and came up with the following prices:

Components:

AMD FX-62 - $1390
ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe - $146
2 WD 150GB Raptors (OEM) - 2 x $219
Creative X-Fi (cheapest one) - $87
2 BFG 7900GTX 512MB cards - 2 x $485
BFG PhysX Card - $275

Similar Components (couldn't find exact)

PSU - Decent 650W - $150+
Corsair XMS 2x1GB (cheapest) - $171
Liquid Cooling - Decent cooling system - $150
Case - $200+

Software:

Windows XP Pro OEM - $140

This brings the total price to: $4117

As for the similar components: the corsair ram in the falcon system is likely better than the cheapest 2GB corsair (non value) that I could find, the PSU is custom, so it is likely better than a 'Decent' $150 one. Also, while you can get a good case for less that $200, this one is a custom case, with the falcon paint. I don't really care about this, but it does add value.

So if you take the following into consideration:

- Minimum component price of $4117+
- Free software, cables, mug, coffee, etc.
- Pre-built system (labor), professional cable management (it is pretty)
- Overclocked CPU (some people don't like to do this themselves)
- Installed software (free labor)
- 3 year warranty (beats the crap out of any warranty the manufacturer will give you
- Super-duper technical support
- Presige at owning a premium 'Falcon' system (if you are into that sort of thing)

The Falcon system is definately worth the $4558 sticker price. The extras, especially the warranty and technical support, more than make up the difference in price.

Of course, that being said, I would still rather take my $4000+ and DIY my own system. But, many people don't want to do this and for those people, this system is not a bad deal (i.e. the price is not overly inflated).
June 14, 2006 9:35:31 PM

Very good point. You have to factor in all of the stuff they include with the computer for "free." I could live without it, but it's nice to be able to wear, drink, chew, and slide your mouse upon the company from which you bought your ~$4500 gaming rig. It's the little things.

Plus, the DOA was taken care of very quickly, and I'm 100% sure it wasn't Falcon's fault it came that way. Are you aware of how stringent their quality control is? And their warranty is basically the greatest thing since the invention of the on-die memory controller.
June 14, 2006 9:37:13 PM

Very good point. You have to factor in all of the stuff they include with the computer for "free." I could live without it, but it's nice to be able to wear, drink, chew, and slide your mouse upon the company from which you bought your ~$4500 gaming rig. It's the little things.

Plus, the DOA was taken care of very quickly, and I'm 100% sure it wasn't Falcon's fault it came that way. Are you aware of how stringent their quality control is? And their warranty is basically the greatest thing since the invention of the on-die memory controller.
June 15, 2006 12:14:25 AM

It is a very nice system, performs well, built professionally and looks good.

I have always preferred to build my own for the same argument of price, and I still do. But considering the meagre difference of only a few hundred dollars here, and all the extras that you're getting, it really is money well spent.

I can remember many times I spent hours/days/nights tooling away at things I shouldn't have - just so that I could save a few bucks here and there.

Time does not have a price, but I would gladly pay $400 to somebody who can take care of all the headaches that come with building a rig and not take away my time.
June 15, 2006 2:59:15 AM

builders are for the mainstream, pretty much everyone in here isnt the mainstream, or u hav a lot of money dont want the hassle, if anything goes rong, jus let them fix it
June 15, 2006 5:59:21 AM

You people sometimes forget Tom needs to feed his stomach too.

,,
June 15, 2006 12:17:06 PM

thank you so much to the person who actually investigated the cost difference! Honestly, what is your time worth to you? Think of how much time it would take to assemble all those components, especially the water cooling! Even if I had the money, I have never touched water cooling myself, it would take me forever to figure out!

I bet if I called Falcon right now I could have a system in shipping to me tomorrow or the day after, and when it got to me I could hook up a few cables, power on, and start using it!

consider paying yourself $20 an hour in chasing down all those individual components dealing with newegg, then the time it would take you to assemble it. Sure, if you've built 20 similar systems in the last month you could probably do it in a couple of hours, but most of us would be mega careful and paranoid assembling $4g's worth of hardware. the savings are not even what they would seem from the earlier post.

that service of pre-installing your games and tweaking them etc is an AWESOME idea. Then, your recovery dvd which comes with the pc means that every time you format (we all know it is necessary from time to time), just pop in the dvd and walk away. Come back from lunch and you can play games again! I'm sure they would charge extra for it, but talk about amazing service.
June 15, 2006 2:17:49 PM

It takes me about 3 hours to assemble a new computer, and I usually have to take a cold shower afterwards ;) 
June 15, 2006 5:34:35 PM

After pricing the PC out on newegg, I didn't even think to go to falcon and check out their pricing, but I decided to go take a look at this today. I have no idea how TH got their price as low as $4500, i tried to price out the same system they got from Falcon and once you add on the fx62, SLI 7900GTX, 2 x 150GB Raptors, it is already almost $6000.

Maybe I am not looking at the right page for this, but I just went to their site and went through their automated system to build a Mach V. They are charging $444 for each of the 2 raptor drives which in my previous post I quoted at $219 each from newegg. Now I can understand a bit of a premium on the upgrades, but that is ridiculous. It would be nice if the author of this article could give us the details on the invoice for this machine.

I found an article (linked to from the Falcon site) about a similar PC review by pcmag.com.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1965699,00.asp

In this article, they built an FX-62 system with 2 7900G2s it came out to $7595. I checked Falcon's pricing and the difference in the higher vid card cost is only $263. But their system was still $3000 more that the TH one. The only other point of price difference I could find was that they mention 2x160GB 15000 RPM drives, but I think this is just a type-o since they also list the system with 300GB total (and I don't think they even make 15k SATA drives). Also, the other article, while not giving complete specs for the system, did not mention a Phys-X card (almost $300) or any water cooling. Nor did they mention if they got their system overclocked (not likely without water cooling).

So, in short, I am taking back my previous comments about how building a PC with Falcon is a good idea until somebody can tell me how to get the price point under $5000. Maybe there is some special on the exact specs that TH bought? Right now, as mentioned above, this article sounds a little fishy.
June 15, 2006 5:42:57 PM

Before all of you praise Falcon for the great value that they are providing their customers, you might want to actually price out the system on the FN website. I did, taking into account the little things like the fact that they included every extra in this system, and it came out to the above amount. And that is with a standard 600 watt Silverstone power supply (not a custom one) and with no mouse pad (they charge $10 for this, it certainly isn't a free perk).

While you certainly get great service when you get a system like this, I think it is fishy as hell that the author said this cost $4558 when it most certainly did not! Not even close.

If if was a small difference, I could think there was a chance this was just an honest mistake.

Edit: I see I am not the only one to do this. Great!!! Now if only Tom himself would respond to this pretty pressing issue regarding Tom's Hardware's credibility, we could get some answers.
June 15, 2006 8:59:37 PM

I got an email today from the owner of Falcon Northest appologizing for the cost of the system in the invoice. Some of the parts did not have prices at the time of shipping. Since the parts / pricing system did not have a price for the pre-released parts, it left the line blank and thus the summation at the bottom of the invoice was lower than it should have been.

We have the cost now at $7,280.18 USD. We will make the adjustment to the article. We are waiting for the server to cycle the new information.

My appologies for the misinformation.
June 15, 2006 9:19:23 PM

One should also note that Falcon NW has a 4 week lead time. That means if you ordered one today, you wouldn't get it until late July...
June 15, 2006 9:35:58 PM

Thanks for the response.

As a larger issue, I see this as these kinds of prices as the biggest issues hampering the boutique builders. Nobody is argueing that their support is not second to none, and these places certainly deserve to make a profit, but a $3000 profit is simply unreasonable (it is probably more as I am sure Falcon gets at least a small discount compared to what a DIYer would have to pay from Newegg). At the very least, if I was going to consider giving a company such a premium for their product, I would expect to be able to choose from any product in the marketplace, and have it put together and custom tuned, not just the paltry number of choices that Falcon and similar builders offers. It's like these places don't know what they want to be. If you want to be a boutique, then the customer expects boutique service, and that includes being able to pick ANY component you want (although even if this were offered I wouldn't pay $3000 for the priveledge). These places want the convenience (for themselves) and cost savings (for themselves) that a limited selection brings, while still charging exorbitant prices.

You can't have it both ways guys.
June 15, 2006 11:59:00 PM

Quote:
I got an email today from the owner of Falcon Northest appologizing for the cost of the system in the invoice. Some of the parts did not have prices at the time of shipping. Since the parts / pricing system did not have a price for the pre-released parts, it left the line blank and thus the summation at the bottom of the invoice was lower than it should have been.

We have the cost now at $7,280.18 USD. We will make the adjustment to the article. We are waiting for the server to cycle the new information.

My appologies for the misinformation.


Thanks for the update. My previous position of this system being overpriced stands then. I can see how a person who has hoards of money lying around buying this system. But for anybody that is a DIYer or even knows a friend of a friend that will put a system together for them for a small fee, this is way too much. I would build this system for my friends in a heart beat, for free (or for anyone else for $100). I might not be able to get the cables as neat as them, or their snazzy case, but it would be vastly cheaper.
June 16, 2006 2:59:43 AM

It's just my opinion, but if Falcon wants to play with the big boys, they need to (a) offer better pricing or (b) offer more of an edge than just semi-exclusive Quad-SLI.

For anyone that has $7,000 available, that's a 6% CD, or 60% of a lease on a new Infiniti G35. This person's probably going to want to consult with someone they know before taking a FNW sales person's word that a Mach V is the ferrari of computers. I'd imagine that most of the time, the advice would be, "Wow that's overpriced. I could build you one for 1/2 that."

My point is that the Barrys of the world will usually seek out the advice of entusiasts, so until Falcon finds a way to convince the techies of their superiority, they're going to need to offer more than good support, an air-brushed case, and a 4-week lead time.

I wouldn't be so harsh on the article if it wasn't so biased. There are downsides to this hardware, yet the author only describes one side of the coin (apart from a paraphrased conclusion). The system is awesome, but as appealing as Quad-SLI is, I believe the article would be more respectable if it provided an objective viewpoint from the perspective of THG's reader base.
June 16, 2006 5:53:28 AM

Quote:


We have the cost now at $7,280.18 USD. We will make the adjustment to the article. We are waiting for the server to cycle the new information.




WHAT?! "cycle the new information" Are you going to change the whole DNS?! Come on!
June 16, 2006 6:01:56 AM

I wish this site would check out a system from overdrivepc.com, they have been blowing away the competion, including Falcon, in benchmarks.
June 16, 2006 6:15:01 AM

You must not be a gamer then, since EVERY PC game mag has a ton of Falcon ads. They have been around since 1992, longer than any high end "gamer PC" company.

They ARE very well known, even though you never heard of them.

As far as a comparison to other machines, look at this THG article

http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/10/12/the_battle_of_th...

Quote:
Now put an Alienware versus the Mach V versus a White-Box FX-62, and you have yourself a killer article

That's EXACTLY what they did, and you never heard of that either. I guess you don't know everything <grin>
edit: fixed typos
June 16, 2006 3:02:49 PM

Quote:
guess you don't know everything <grin>


I never said I did ;) 

I don't read (paper) gaming mags, but I am really in-touch with the gaming community (thanks to MMORPGs :) ). I know a bunch of people who work at gamecrazy and best buy, so that's what I define as 'in-touch' with the community. I don't think reading paper mags is a pre-requisite for being called a gamer, though :)  I tend to troll the likes of THG, VGN, and gamespot for my info.

Thanks for the link. I remember perusing that when it first came out, but I didn't pay much attention.

Having a lot of Ads doesn't mean people will say, "Yeah, a falcon's a good PC." That comes from volume, and that drives sales. I don't want to make this an "Alien-ware" versus "Falcon-ware" debate, but speaking strictly volume, Alienware did almost 200 million last year (credit: google). Falcon's privately held, so I couldn't dig up sales information, but I doubt it was anywhere near that. Again, google turned this up:

Quote:
"Why the potential for a Dellienware and not another? Alienware is widely considered to be the volume leader in gaming, they have scale"

--VoodooPC chief Raul Sood


There was a time when Alienware was on the lips of every gamer, and Falcon NW just hasn't had that kind of publicity (yet). Falcon started in '92, yes, but on that note they had a 4+ year lead on Alienware, yet alienware still surpassed them.

Anyway I'm digressing.

My original point was that it's my opinion that appealing more to the mainstream will help boost the sales of their higher-end products. Providing more Niche features in the high-end would also help. They're not going to appeal to the mainstream until they do something with their pricing and lead time. The problem with targeting a niche (the high-end) is that your marketing capability is limited by your capital, and without having a solid differentiator from your competition, the company targeting the mainstream will have more success penetrating the niche market if they have more industry influence and working capital. This is apparant with the success of Alienware's product line.

They could increase their marketing budget, but the cost and return is usually very linear. I'd like to see them do more than run ads for $7,000 machines that can be built for $4,000 by people with only a mediocre knowledge of overclocking and an online DIY FAQ. The notion of the "no-hassle uber PC" doesn't justify the gross price difference, and only serves to exclude a large portion of the market.

It may pay-off. In 5 years, we may all be drooling over the latest Falcon PC. 5 years is a long time, though, and it's possible someone at Dell could wise-up and flood the market with low-cost high-end PC's because they have the buying power to squeeze the competition into the red. Once Falcon becomes a threat to Dell/Alienware, we're likely going to see that kind of strategy. Falcon needs to do more before Dellienware solidifies and starts targeting direct competition.
June 16, 2006 3:44:09 PM

There's probably someone from Falcon who's gonna read this, so if you're out there, I'd like to drop in my 2c.


(a) Gamers love their cases. It's the most personal part of the PC. This would be a great differentiator that comes at a fairly low-cost if done correctly. Gamers want something as unique as possible that fits them completely. Not everyone like a big-ass eagle on their PC. How about a computer with a "Star-Trek" style front? What about making the case look like the control panel for a nuclear reactor, with programmable lights, gauges, and toggle switches? Offering a WIDE selection of cases, I believe, is a great low-cost differentiator. That'd get me drooling, and you can't get it on Newegg, either.

(b) Not everyone wants tech support. If you want to supply a no-hassle PC to the mainstream, drop your price and sell it without tech support. (I can hear you cringe from here ;) ). It may not fit your business model, but if that's such a great expense, some people might not even want it. I'm sure there are some out there who would pay that extra something not to have to assemble it. The best marketing you can get is through sales, so a break-even strategy on the mainstream would be enough to increase your popularity and keep people drooling.

(c) The PC market is not the automobile market. It seems like you don't want to dilute your image with low-cost PC's, but even Mercedez has seen success with their Mainstream, low-end C-class Kompressor coupe. You need to build your brand with more than advertising and "Ocean's eleven." You really need to hit the mainstream better.

(d) The Talon is weak. The case has to go. Not sure who you're targeting here...

(e) Gamers love to price stuff out. It's the test-drive equivelant of computers. The drop-down boxes just aren't friendly. Flash sites were cool like 5 years ago. They're not "re-visit" friendly, unless you scrap the animations. Forward-cache the content based on cookies. Make the back-button work (it's definately possible). You need to make the site friendlier. How about "Price this PC, save it, and notify me if the price drops?" It'll keep FNW on the person's radar.

(f) Related to [e], you need more options. Allowing a person to view the details of individual components would be great, too. People WANT to justify the cost for something they know they don't need. Help them justify stuff they don't need with specs and marketing.

(g) Why don't you offer vapor-phase cooling? If you're going to go high-end, go HIGH-END. A peltier-plate with liquid-cooling could offer vapor-phase-like cooling at a lower cost.

(h) Be a technology leader. It doesn't seem like you have any in-house R&D or manufacturing. For example, there are a lot of CPU/GPU water coolers, but not a lot out there to really keep the PWM or Video RAM cool (ESPECIALLY is you're liquid-cooling). That might let you offer stable overclocks that others can't do because the tech isn't out there yet.

(i) HTPC is hot right now. Where's your HTPC line? How about coming out with an "XBOX 360 - certified media PC?" What about a PS3-ready HTPC? Console gaming is a big part of gamer's lives now (as is HD TV). Is it different than a normal HTPC? Probably. But it makes people think it is. A lot of people don't realize they can hook their 360 into their computer, or they do but don't know how. Make it easy.

If you can get blue-ray or HD-DVD copy certification for your HTPC line, you'll rocket to the top. They'll never let you do that on a home-grown PC.

(j) Best-Buy has Magnolia hi-fidelity, which is targeted at big-spenders. They have $10,000 plasmas and $3,000 speakers. Get your HTPC in there, and you'll see some real volume and some brand-building in the process.



Just some ideas.... I'm sure I'll have more later since it's on my mind :) 
June 16, 2006 4:15:53 PM

(k) How about an "Overdrive" switch/indicator on the case? Much like a car's turbo, some don't want to reduce the life of their PC by overclocking during casual use. What about being able to increase/decrease clock speeds without going into the BIOS? What about while the computer is running even? You could have a daemon running that automatically OC's your computer when you start a full-screen DirectX app (i.e. a game).

(l) Overclocking software (or software in general) that only works with FNW computer would be a great differentiator that's hard to duplicate.

(m) Give FNW computer custom skins (wincustomize for XP or vista skins).

(n) Ship out dual-boot computers with Linux and Windows. You don't even need a boot-loader. Put each OS on a different volume, and Put a switches the drive boot-order in the BIOS. Even people who don't know linux might enjoy the opportunity to have a stable image built for them that's 'ready-to-go' so they can learn Linux.

(o) Not sure if you do this already, but gamers reinstall. A lot. Make a utility that ghosts a clean install on a hidden partition (or flash disk or something). If someone wants to "re-install", just copy over the factory image from the hidden partition.

(p) If a user has seperate OS and Archive volumes, do them a favor and point the "My Documents" to the archive volume instead of the OS volume (do the whole profile if you want). Again, gamers reinstall a lot. How cool would it be if you reinstalled windows with the suggestion above [o] and you still had everything in your my documents, all of your favorites, etc? I hate losting my favorites. I always forget to back them up :( 
June 16, 2006 4:37:59 PM

Well, IMHO you are way off on a lot of things. First off Best Buy is the WORST place to get the pulse of the gaming community or the PC community for that matter. Most people that buy computers at Best Buy just want an email/websurfer that can play some games. No real gamer would buy a system from Best Buy -EVER- And YES, you DO need to read print game mags or at least READ (not peruse) game websites to be called a gamer.

Alienware sucks. They have the lowest scores of any boutique seller when it comes to support, look at sites that track ratings. Sales numbers mean nothing when discussing quality or 'rep', Falcon has a rep Alienware does not have.

Gamers do like cases, but not the cheap plastic cases from Alienware that look good in pictures but not in real life and fall apart easily.

Their sales have been fueled not buy quality but by marketing, something that hapenens all too often. A catchy name, a "cool case", and semi-serious gamers with more dollars than sense made Alienware big. True hard core gamers, if they ever dreamed of buying a ready made rig, dream of Falcon, esp now that Dell bought Alienware. Even Voodoo has a better rep.

Lastly, I was amused that you thought you could give advice to a company that has been around 14 years. You make them sound like a new outfit. They want to be an EXCLUSIVE brand, like Ferrari. That is part of their marketting plan.
June 16, 2006 5:01:05 PM

That's fine. We just have a difference of opinion.

I wouldn't buy computer parts from best buy if I was paid to, but most of their employees are gamers (including geek squad), and it's a way for me to keep my ear-to-the-ground with regards to market 'buzz.' I'm not advocating best-buy as a source for gamers (unless you're talking console-gaming).

I do read articles, quite thoroughly even. Just ask the THG authors/editors that hate me for my (often overblown) critique :)  I don't read every article ever created and commit them all to memory, however.

I only use alienware to compare because they're the botique market leader, next to Dell. REAL serious gamers don't buy systems anyway, they build them, so your point is flawed. Also, I believe you misunderstood my point. If FNW is targeting the people with money who don't feel like tinkering, Magnolia Hi-Fi delivers the goods. Then the 40-year old VP at your local bank goes shopping, he goes to best buy. The kids build what they can with their part-time job and christmas money. Those are most of your serious gamers. I tend to think that's not who they're targeting.

I don't know what Falcon's marketing strategy is, nor do I pretend like I know. All I'm was trying to do was provide an outside perspective with some ideas (NOT advice). If they want to be an exclusive brand, they need to offer exclusive products. You can't be exclusive if any tom dick or harry can go online and build your product for 2/3 the price.

P.S. I'm glad I amused you :) 
June 17, 2006 6:03:18 AM

Ok someone help me out here.

The ASUS M2N32-SLI board has x16 slot, then a x4 slot, then a x1 slot, then another x16 slot, and the two PCI slots.

Installing two BFG 7900GTX cards blocks the x4 slot and one of the PCI slot. That leaves you with a x1 slot and a PCI slot. Looking at the last picture in pg 5, you can see the Physx card is installed in the last PCI slot, so that must mean that the sound card is installed in the remaining x1 slot....

My question is, how is that possible?

Did Creative release a soundcard that uses the PCI x1 interface?
June 17, 2006 6:57:53 AM

As was stated, FNW has been around for 14 years, they don't need advice on how to sell pc's at a huge markup. They have that down to a science.

There will always be people that have more money than sense. That is their customer base. The "my computer is better than yours cuz it looks cool and cost me 3 times as much.", crowd is alive and well, and is shopping at places like those mentioned in this article.
http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/10/12/the_battle_of_th....
June 17, 2006 4:35:17 PM

I just looked at the article again, and it still says that the system cost $4558! How long does it take to "cycle the new information"? I know this is kinda embarassing for you guys, but you are making it more embarrassing for yourselves by not updating the article.
June 17, 2006 6:11:45 PM

Quote:
Ok someone help me out here.

The ASUS M2N32-SLI board has x16 slot, then a x4 slot, then a x1 slot, then another x16 slot, and the two PCI slots.

Installing two BFG 7900GTX cards blocks the x4 slot and one of the PCI slot. That leaves you with a x1 slot and a PCI slot. Looking at the last picture in pg 5, you can see the Physx card is installed in the last PCI slot, so that must mean that the sound card is installed in the remaining x1 slot....

My question is, how is that possible?

Did Creative release a soundcard that uses the PCI x1 interface?


So can anyone answer my question?
June 17, 2006 6:56:11 PM

Uhm, if you looks at the second page of the review, the picture of the back of the system pretty clearly answers your question.

It looks like they have the first GPU in the first slot, followed by the sound card, followed by the second GPU, with the PhysX card in the last step. (The PhysX card you can barely see below the second GPU)
June 22, 2006 6:20:29 AM

Quote:
I don't know what Falcon's marketing strategy is, nor do I pretend like I know. All I'm was trying to do was provide an outside perspective with some ideas (NOT advice). If they want to be an exclusive brand, they need to offer exclusive products. You can't be exclusive if any tom dick or harry can go online and build your product for 2/3 the price.:) 


Hi.

I have been reading Tom's Hardware and building my own systems for about 6 years now. I am a regular reader of Anandtech, Ars Technica, H|OCP, etc... I have built 6 machines for myself and 4 machines for others. I consider myself an enthusiast and I typically spend about 3000-4000 a year on computer related equipment purchases in order to maintain two desktops at my office and two desktops at my home.

Why do I say all this?

Because according to my tracking number with UPS I will be taking delivery of a brand new Falcon Northwest MachV tomorrow.

Now, I am not poor, but I am not even remotely rich either. I happen to have a job where I must have reliable computers and can write them off on my taxes. In the past I used to use Dell because of their 3yr next business day service. I use IBM for my laptops (now Lenovo). I have found for the last 6 years that it is better for me to aquire the expertise to build and maintain my own, that way I usually have spare parts and the ability to get something back up and running the night it fails.

So why have I gone to Falcon Northwest?

The reason is muti-faceted.

First off, I like to game in my spare time. I like immersive 3D games and a big part of my $$ spent each year is trying to buy graphics cards to keep two machines (the home ones) capable of running the latest 3d games. If I am going to spend the extra 1500$ (in my case) for a pre-assembled machine, I want to make sure it has the best elements for gaming.

But I also need a reliable machine. I need a reliable company, and I need a company that will be available to help me when I require it with a level of expertise that is higher than mine. There are very few objective measures of this, but reputation is one factor, as is reviews, as is personal experience with the company.

Before I made a buying decision, I read every article on the AM2 vs 939 debate, Nvidia vs ATI, single GPU vs SLi vs quad, FX-62 vs X2, overclocking, etc... then I started calling companies. I identified myself as a buyer with a $3900 budget who wanted to play the latest games on a 1920x1200 LCD panel and who needed a rock solid system for business purposes that they were willing to back with a serious warrantee.

Falcon Northwest earned my business. A live person answered the phone. That person did not direct me to anyone else, but began answering every question I had - some that I knew the answers to, and some that I suspected the answers to, and they passed. Then I started getting technical with every part and option in their purchase list. I asked about memory clock speeds vs timing, effective difference of 512k vs 1mb onboard cache, memory controllers, you name it. I never once gave my name, and I never once said I was going to buy their system. Jacob at FNW spent (I kid you not) 1 hour and 45 minutes on the phone with me in the middle of the day without ever once askign to call me back or acting like I was taking up too much of his time.

I then asked if he was a tech, and he said no, he was just a salesman.

I was shocked. Needless to say I did not get the same treatment or knowledge from any of the other certainly good system builders out there.

So I decided that for this next machine I was going to go AM2 (for upgradeability) FX-62 (just 'cause), slower speed RAM 2Gb(because I think this RAM is horribly overpriced and I will be able to buy it at half the price in 4 months), a dual 7900GTX SLi setup, with Sony reader and burner with a SB XFi platinum (because I want the front inputs). For diskdrives I got 3 x WD250's (not the raptors, I have been burned before with the laatest fast/hot drives) in RAID 5 configuration.

I was told there would be a wait for the CPU fans of about 10 days, pushing my system out to about 3 weeks delivered to my door. so I said screw it, and ordered the liquid cooler and told them to moderately overclock the system.

The system was assembled in a week, and on the burn-in process. They called me and told me that one of the 7900gtx's failed testing and had to be replaced. Unfortunately they were short on boards from BFG and would have to delay the system for a week... oh, and, would I like a free upgrade to a pair of 7950's instead since they knew I wanted the system by the end of the week? uh... sure!

The system passed, was benchmarked (I got the benchmarks via e-mail before they even packaged up the system) and it was shipped. Total time from order placement to my door will have been 2 weeks, 4 days; although 3 days were required to redo all the benchmarks and tests after it first failed.

So what am I getting for my $5800? Well... as was noted above, I am paying ~ $1500+ premium to get this system over what I could likely build it for myself.

I am getting tested, well supported parts, made more attractive by the relationship that Falcon NW has with the vendors (like AMD, Nvidia, etc).

I am getting 3 years worth of support for all components, which in my experience is worth probably $500 on an average system that I built over a 3yr period.

I am getting factory waranteed overclocking, albeit only ~5%.

I am getting top notch customer service and a knowledgable staff that will be FAR more likely to help me solve real tech problems.

I am getting excellent fit and finish both inside the case and out.

I am getting top notch hand holding.

I am getting to try out a dedicated high-end gaming machine from a company that is largely considered to be one of the best in its niche.

I am getting pride of ownership - which may not mean much to many of us, but is something that has some value to me.

But most of all, I am getting a hassle-free system that I didnt have to do tons of research and yelling and screaming about whatever part that I got delivered from whatever internet vendor that was broken or maybe not working correctly and has a 15% restocking fee if it turns out to be fine but just incompatable.

Yes it cost me a lot extra. But for now, for this computer, its worth it.

Will I do this again? probably not. But what the heck, I'll at least have done it once!

All just my opinion.

JT
June 22, 2006 8:25:24 AM

Your experience is interesting. Would you mind listing the specific components you picked, and the price, so we can confirm the $1500 premium you say, as that is the only part of your story that doesn't seem right. The system that was built for Tom's cost over $7000, and it seems to be similar to the system you bought.

Why didn't you wait for Conroe!!! It certainly doesn't sound like you needed the system right now for emergency gaming! :D 
June 22, 2006 9:37:18 AM

Quote:
Your experience is interesting. Would you mind listing the specific components you picked, and the price, so we can confirm the $1500 premium you say, as that is the only part of your story that doesn't seem right. The system that was built for Tom's cost over $7000, and it seems to be similar to the system you bought.

Why didn't you wait for Conroe!!! It certainly doesn't sound like you needed the system right now for emergency gaming! :D 


Sure! System specs as shipped to follow...

But first, I *did* need it for emergency gaming! A good friend of mine was spending the night about 4 weeks ago, sleeping in my office, when he heard a thumping coming out of my speakers. He woke up and in the dark room could see light dancing on the wall behind the computer. He checked it out and discovered an electrical fire in the computer's power supply. So he pulled the plug, cracked the window and went back to sleep.

Scratch one computer.

Unfortuantely it was my top-end gaming computer. My wife was outraged when I told her that there was no warantee on a powersupply that I had for over two years and didnt even rememebr what internet vendor I had bought it from. The motherboard, processor, memory, and GPU were less than 6 months old :( 

So... the wife really wanted me to buy my next one pre-made and warranted even though I told her it would cost 1500-2000 more for the level of system I needed. Finally, I needed it in house before the end of the month because my wife is due with our next baby then.

Ok, on to specs:

CASE
Silverstone ICON Aluminum Chassis w/side window
Cold Cathode Light Kit - Blue
Siverstone ST60F 600w modular powersupply
Sanyo-Denki H2o CPU Cooler
Custom cut sound dampners

MOTHERBOARD
ASUS M2N32 SLI Deluxe
AMD Athlon 64 X2 FX-62 Socket AM2
Factory Overclock 5%
Corsair Twin2x-2048-6400C4 w/EPP

GPU
2 x BFG Nvidia Geforce 7950gx2 1024Mb
(note, I only paid for 2 x GF7900gtx, this was a free upgrade because of supply issues)

HARDDRIVES
3 x WD2500KS Western Digital 250Gb SATA II 7200RPM - 16Mb
Factory RAID-5

PERIPHERALS
Creative Labs X-FI Platinum
Sony DRU-820A combo DVD/RW dual layer
Sony 16x DVD-ROM
Sony 1.4Mb Floppy

OS
"Use Customer's Windows XP Copy"
Note, this was a ~$100 delete as I provided them with my previous system's Key

Final price delivered: $5798

One thing to note about Tom's box is that they have a $1100 paint job on it. It is QUITE gratuitous and completely unnecesary in my book as this Icon case, while being somewhat plain looking is a very quality case as you can tell from the aluminum doors and excellent 120mm intake fan cooling on the front.

Also to note, I like my systems clean and professional including the software instals. Falcon NW has NO agreements to package a couple dozen ads on your desktop and they give you only your drivers and OS and thats it. For someone like me, less is definately more in this case.

JT
June 22, 2006 1:42:27 PM

Quote:
Your experience is interesting. Would you mind listing the specific components you picked, and the price, so we can confirm the $1500 premium you say, as that is the only part of your story that doesn't seem right. The system that was built for Tom's cost over $7000, and it seems to be similar to the system you bought.

Why didn't you wait for Conroe!!! It certainly doesn't sound like you needed the system right now for emergency gaming! :D 


Sure! System specs as shipped to follow...

But first, I *did* need it for emergency gaming!

{...}

Finally, I needed it in house before the end of the month because my wife is due with our next baby then.


How is that, if it takes them 4 weeks just to build a system?

I can get parts from newegg overnight.

If I need warranty info/proof, I just e-mail newegg and ask for a transaction history.
June 22, 2006 5:37:37 PM

Whizzard,
I can tell that you are very unhappy with the idea of a company operating like Falcon Northwest. I am sorry that you feel that way. They are clearly a quality company that provides a premium service on state-of-the-art parts for admittedly a premium price.

As to the timeline, My computer died 4 weeks ago, and I needed a computer in house running before the end of june (24th to be exact). Falcon has (as of today) delivered the goods. If you read my entire post you can see that Falcon (even with a failed GPU) only went 2weeks, 4 days from ordered to delivered despite the 4 week time quoted on their site.

As to how long it takes to build a quality system, I have to disagree with you. As I have said before, I have built something like 10 systems over the past 6 years. I have ordered from dozens of vendors and I am *very* familiar with the types of problems that one has building a complete systems from scratch as I seem to have experienced nearly everyone of them myself! :o 

First off, although I do read a bit where new stuff is concerned, unless and until I am building a complete system I rarely have enough information to make a buying decisin concerning the exact board, memory, CPU, GPU, etc. That takes research time. In my case, I spent a week doign research to determine what it was I wanted. Then I had to make a decision between build-your-own (which I have done for my past 6 systems) or ordering from a system maker.


Secondly, if I order everything fron the same place then I will guaranteed pay more than if I carefully research different vendors to purchase from. In addition, rarely are all the parts that I have chosen for my system in stock at the locations I wish to buy from. Some of the vendors will be accross the country from me (SoCal), and other very good vendors I will avoid because I have to pay Cal sales tax on their parts. Overnight shipping is not a very good deal price-wise if I am building my own system so I will usually have to wait for up to 5 days (assuming no stocking problems) for some of my components.

Third, Out of the 10 systems I have personally built, 8 of them had bad parts delivered to me. Once was a graphics card, once was motherboard, twice were bad harddrives, one had a screwed up burner, one had bad memory (and that was a PITA to troubleshoot and get returned) etc, etc. When assembling a brand new system you are talking about a LOT of new parts and its bound to happen that sometimes you get a bad one. Not a big deal, but assembly/dissasembly, bitching on the phone, ordering a new part, mailing the old one back, waiting on the new one all takes time - sometimes a LOT of time - not to mention the agravation factor while my wife moans about it the whole time.

Fourth, about half my systems had compatability issues that I did not notice during my research: things like a certain sound card having issues with a certain chip-set, certain motherboards lot liking certain memory timings, etc. Now these are usually all resolvable, but it takes time to go through each step: Raid configurations, Bios settings, order of driver installations, OS settings, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes things go smoothly, but just as often they dont. And if you end up with a bum part in the middle of it, well, scratch another 3-5 days while you wait on another part from the vendor.

Fifth, OS, application, and data installation takes time. Gone are the days when an application ran off your original disk. Everything needs patched, especially when you are opperating off a very old set of original disks like I am: early release Office 2003pro, pre-service pack XPpro, WOW and their amazing-sized patch, EVE likewise, BF2 the same. I easily spend an entire day doing nothing but try to get everything installed and patched. Then I get to run them all and see if they all work. Admittedly I have to do much of this with a complete factory-built system, but it still takes time.

The point to this is simple. Anyone who thinks that you are just going to order al lthe parts you need one day and then receive them all overnight the next (for hundereds in unneccesary shipping!) and assemble them before midnight for a bang-up self-built system in two days is smokin' something pretty darn good. Is it *possible* to get a system built quickly if everything is in stock, and you get extremely lucky? sure. Is it likely? No way.

Now I submit this to you. Look at my system specs. Go back 3 weeks, more or less. Could I have ordered all these parts? Not a chance. Top-end AM2 board? FX-62? A pair of 7950's? DDR2 memory? Silverstone's bitchin ST60F? Not even close.

The fact of the matter is, Falcon NW builds a solid machine with bleeding-edge parts backed by the best standard warantee in the business using the most knowledgable staff in the industry.

Is it all worth the money? Well that depends on if you need what they offer for the price they offer it. For 6 years the answer was no. For this system, for me, for now, the answer is yes.

JT
June 22, 2006 6:19:46 PM

I don't know man. I priced out the system and it looks right, other than the fact that they don't seem to offer a system w/o OS. It still really doesn't seem worth it. The price premium is at least $2500 (price it on newegg), and you get a nice warranty for that money, and a well assembled system. Again, that's nice, but it really doesn't seem like that much money. If Falcon wants to get any semblance of the upper mainstream of the market (many of who buy relatively high end systems like powerbooks and Dell XPS systems), they are going to have to offer a more reasonable deal. Everybody deserves to make a profit, but the kind of profit that Falcon is making on this system would make Steve Jobs blush.
!