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Homebuilt vs Falcon NW vs. Alienware

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April 11, 2008 6:00:46 PM

BACKGROUNDWell, first off I'm not someone that is overly interested in building my own rig although my technical expertise should allow me to - but I don't want to deal with the time and hassles that could be involved.

I am posting this here because I don't see any real general systems forum, only those for a particular mfg. Also, you guys are the most knowledgable and in particular, my interest in FNW potentially since I can tweak it like a custom-built.

Sooooooo... My last gaming PC came from Dell (and XPS) and although I upgraded some components as soon as I recieved it, it worked for what I wanted and was stable, reliable, etc.

So this time around I thought let me try Dell again. Since they had no Penryn offering, I thought I'd give the XPS 630 a shot. After returning both boxes due to a myriad of issues and just not being happy with the performance vs. cost, I am looking elsewhere unless the XPS 730 comes out in a couple weeks. That said, after my XPS 630 experience, I'm not sure how I would feel about that if I even had the option.

CURRENT-STATE
I'm trying to decide between an Alienware and a Falcon Northwest.

Well to be clear, I don't think this would even be a choice if the FNW had ports in the front of their case for headphones, usb, etc. etc.

The way I see it, Alienware has a cool case if you are 21 and younger but for us old folks, somehow that plastic case is less than impressive. Add to it that Dell now owns them and the HORRENDOUS customer service posts I read all over the internet and I'm not too impressed. Also, Alienware, like Dell, hides what manufacturer you will get for some components.

Falcon Northwest has been around as long (longer I think) and seems to use all best-of-breed top-end manufacturer equipment with nothing proprietary. In fact I can literally go configure their system and take each component and read the reviews on NewEgg. So basically the premium I am paying them is for support (marginally useful at best), warranty (more important), and them assembling and testing the build saving me time. Otherwise, I could just order all the components and build it myself if I had the interest.

The only con for Falcon that I can find is the lack of ports for headphones, usb, etc. I do like that I can pull out components (including MOBO) and upgrade at any time.

So is there anything I'm missing or another vendor to consider?

Yes, I know there are smaller ones but I will not order from someone that does not have a proven, long track record. Voodoo was ok but now they are under HP and I'm not too keen on the Blackbird PCs.

I've not read anything horrid about Falcon's customer service...

April 11, 2008 6:35:25 PM

drunkgamer said:
BACKGROUNDWell, first off I'm not someone that is overly interested in building my own rig although my technical expertise should allow me to - but I don't want to deal with the time and hassles that could be involved.

I am posting this here because I don't see any real general systems forum, only those for a particular mfg. Also, you guys are the most knowledgable and in particular, my interest in FNW potentially since I can tweak it like a custom-built.

Sooooooo... My last gaming PC came from Dell (and XPS) and although I upgraded some components as soon as I recieved it, it worked for what I wanted and was stable, reliable, etc.

So this time around I thought let me try Dell again. Since they had no Penryn offering, I thought I'd give the XPS 630 a shot. After returning both boxes due to a myriad of issues and just not being happy with the performance vs. cost, I am looking elsewhere unless the XPS 730 comes out in a couple weeks. That said, after my XPS 630 experience, I'm not sure how I would feel about that if I even had the option.

CURRENT-STATE
I'm trying to decide between an Alienware and a Falcon Northwest.

Well to be clear, I don't think this would even be a choice if the FNW had ports in the front of their case for headphones, usb, etc. etc.

The way I see it, Alienware has a cool case if you are 21 and younger but for us old folks, somehow that plastic case is less than impressive. Add to it that Dell now owns them and the HORRENDOUS customer service posts I read all over the internet and I'm not too impressed. Also, Alienware, like Dell, hides what manufacturer you will get for some components.

Falcon Northwest has been around as long (longer I think) and seems to use all best-of-breed top-end manufacturer equipment with nothing proprietary. In fact I can literally go configure their system and take each component and read the reviews on NewEgg. So basically the premium I am paying them is for support (marginally useful at best), warranty (more important), and them assembling and testing the build saving me time. Otherwise, I could just order all the components and build it myself if I had the interest.

The only con for Falcon that I can find is the lack of ports for headphones, usb, etc. I do like that I can pull out components (including MOBO) and upgrade at any time.

So is there anything I'm missing or another vendor to consider?

Yes, I know there are smaller ones but I will not order from someone that does not have a proven, long track record. Voodoo was ok but now they are under HP and I'm not too keen on the Blackbird PCs.

I've not read anything horrid about Falcon's customer service...


If you have the gut to build a apc, and you want to go with a high end system, build a pc yourself. those high end systems from dell, falcon or alienware are for those who either do not know how to build a pc or do not care of money.
April 11, 2008 6:53:51 PM

If you can, cost is a big reason to do it yourself. Most of the people here are building their own because they enjoy it, so don't be surprised for a lot of biased opinions.

Benefits of pre-built as you mentioned above:
Warranty - each of your components will have a warranty, and if you're picky you can get very long ones
Support - Marginally important as you mentioned. If you have the ability to build your own, their support won't give you much over what you already know
Time and effort - This is where pre-built shines. If building your own sounds like a hassle, you probably shouldn't. Not dealing with the placement of cables, proper seating of parts and testing can be huge for some (decide that for yourself).

Cons of pre-built:
Cost - Easily the number one argument against. I don't know about Falcon's prices, but you can build an Alienware PC (sans the case) for less than half the cost.
Placement of ports (and general custom looks and experience) - Pre-built limits your choices on how the computer looks and feels. I know Falcon has a box with front ports (Tom's Hardware just reviewed one, it's on the front page), but in general you don't have a lot of choice when it comes to enclosures for your boutique boxes.

You'll have to decide on your own how to weight those issues above, but for many of us it's an easy choice. If you want advice, post your thoughts or desired build here and we can help. If you post a link to the specific machine from Falcon or Alienware you're thinking of, we can part out a better cheaper one for you.

If you decide that route, it helps to post your general location or merchants you'll be using (Newegg, EBuyer, NCIX, Directron, etc..). Finding specific deals at your chosen place of purchase will help you get a more accurate and useful build from us.
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April 11, 2008 7:05:01 PM

If you got the bucks, buy a Falcon NW.

I had a friend that had a Alienware laptop. It was overheating all the time and the videocard actually got so hot it had liquid coming from the memory chips. Alienware refused to do anything for him other that send him a new video card which died with the same problems. He is currently fighting over getting it fixxed with them. This is pretty indicative of Alienwares service as a whole for what Ive seen.

If you dont want to spend a crapload of money, build your own. Look at what parts FNW is using and part your own machine together. Keep in mind that the 10% more performance they are getting over a home built rig is pretty hard to detect without running a benchmark.
April 11, 2008 7:13:14 PM

Thanks litlrabi and Kaldor.

Both good points. I am actually very mechanically inclined and normally LOVE things like building a PC.

But as I've gotten older, I think I don't have the patience for waiting to get a part mailed to me, then wonder why it doesn't work (is it the memory, the mobo, etc.), and then waiting/fighting to get an RMA, etc.

For example, I just don't want to deal with the CPU cooler, the paste/glue and hoping something doesn't mess up, etc. I know it is not rocket science but at the same time, since I saved up some $$$ for the new PC, I almost rather spend it to avoid some headaches.

Of course there are even bigger headaches if your $5k boutique box doesn't work as expect ;) 

And yes, I was tempted to just order the items Falcon NW lists and build it myself but I also like that they share this info with the consumers (even list memory timings - try getting that from Dell, Alienware, etc.) so I sort of want to support them as well.

Also, the Falcon box Tom's reviewed was the Frag Box. I'm not a lan-party guy and want a full desktop. Unfortunately, they have been using that case forever (though it is great and built like a tank - all metal - etc.) and it has no front ports.

So yes, that is one of the tradeoffs for not making your own.

On a side note, does NewEgg or someone sell say a QX9650 or QX9770 with a best-of-breed cooler already attached to the CPU so it removes one of those 'you can't return the CPU now that you have glu/paste all over it' type scenarios?
April 11, 2008 7:31:07 PM

If you got the money go FNW. They've been around a long time, and like you said you get to see exactly what components they use. Dell buying Alienware is definately not a pro for alienware.
April 11, 2008 7:31:42 PM

litlrabi - here is the machine I'm eyeing at Falcon Northwest.

Price came out to $5500 (ouchie, I know) with a 3 year warranty and 1 year of overnight service.

ICON - Brushed Aluminum (case)
ICON Standard Solid (side panel to case)
Silverstone 1000Watt Strider - Modular (PSU)
EVGA 790i Ultra SLI (MOBO)
Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme QX9650 3.0GHZ
Zalman CNPS7000B-ALCU LED (CPU cooler)
4GB (2X2GB) 1066MHZ DDR3 (timings are shown as Latency settings 1066MHz 7-7-7-20)
nVidia 9800GX2 1024MB (worried a bit about how hot I read these run)
Creative Labs X-Fi (XtremeGamer version, not Fatal1ty)
Western Digital Raptor 150GB 16MB Cache
Western Digital 250GB 16MB Cache SATA 2 (I don't care for RAID0 and have a server for more storage)
Lite-On 20X DVD+-RW W/Lightscribe
Plextor 800A DVD/RW Dual Layer
Ultra Flash Media & Floppy Drive

I realize for some reason (maybe because of the move to DDR3) they don't show the memory mfg. but I can call them for that, otherwise yes everything is pretty much available from a retailer.

I live in SoCal so other than NewEgg, Fry's will have some items but not most I fear.
April 11, 2008 8:03:02 PM

Good god. Thats entirely too expensive. You can do a machine what might run 10% slower for $2000 less. Not worth it IMO.

But if you have the bucks to blow, hey its your money. My only caveat is Id rather have 2 8800 GTXs or Ultras in SLI than a 9800GX2.
April 11, 2008 8:03:59 PM

Falcon NW has a wonderful reputation. I would go with them before I would go with Alienware.
a b B Homebuilt system
April 11, 2008 8:17:27 PM

turtle1 said:
Falcon NW has a wonderful reputation. I would go with them before I would go with Alienware.

Agreed. They have #1 for customer service on my list (Although I personally don't own a Falcon, a few of my friends do and they love it)
a b B Homebuilt system
April 11, 2008 8:18:17 PM

litlrabi said:
If you can, cost is a big reason to do it yourself. Most of the people here are building their own because they enjoy it, so don't be surprised for a lot of biased opinions.

Benefits of pre-built as you mentioned above:
Warranty - each of your components will have a warranty, and if you're picky you can get very long ones
Support - Marginally important as you mentioned. If you have the ability to build your own, their support won't give you much over what you already know
Time and effort - This is where pre-built shines. If building your own sounds like a hassle, you probably shouldn't. Not dealing with the placement of cables, proper seating of parts and testing can be huge for some (decide that for yourself).

Cons of pre-built:
Cost - Easily the number one argument against. I don't know about Falcon's prices, but you can build an Alienware PC (sans the case) for less than half the cost.
Placement of ports (and general custom looks and experience) - Pre-built limits your choices on how the computer looks and feels. I know Falcon has a box with front ports (Tom's Hardware just reviewed one, it's on the front page), but in general you don't have a lot of choice when it comes to enclosures for your boutique boxes.

You'll have to decide on your own how to weight those issues above, but for many of us it's an easy choice. If you want advice, post your thoughts or desired build here and we can help. If you post a link to the specific machine from Falcon or Alienware you're thinking of, we can part out a better cheaper one for you.

If you decide that route, it helps to post your general location or merchants you'll be using (Newegg, EBuyer, NCIX, Directron, etc..). Finding specific deals at your chosen place of purchase will help you get a more accurate and useful build from us.

Agreed. Also note that Alienware is actually owned by Dell.
April 11, 2008 9:26:59 PM

Thanks guys for confirming my thoughts. And yes, I realize I'm paying a hefty premium but at least I'm hoping that if I _do_ it, I'll be doing it with some confidence.

I called them for the first time because I was wondering if there are any options for a headphone jack on the front of their chasis.

They reminded me that if needed, unlike other companies they still do all custom stuff so they could do whatever I want but I don't want to pay extra for something that isn't a common practice. He did, however, mention that they get their fair share of questions/concerns over no front headphone jack so I'm not alone.

He added they they are actually producing their own case design now and it's going to be quite intense but also won't be ready/coming out for 'quite some time' so I'm guessing they might roll that out when Intel releases their new flagship platform in the next year.

I could go with the Fatal1ty card vs. just the XtremeGamer basic card and put their thingy in one of the bays and plug in that way so it will shut off the main speakers and also switch the creative software to headphone mode automatically (something the XPS 630 actually did right). But it sucks to pay $1xx more for just that and I need to leave the big front panel open.

Ahhhh us enthusiasts can be so neurotic. I can blame this on being a PC/gaming enthusiast right?

And yeah it was wierd - I call up Falcon and expect this big long menu voice system and I just get this guy right away...and he can answer all my questions in a technical fashion.

Seems that I should need to go through 16 layers of voice dial, 2 transfers, and a harsh foreign accent named "Bob" before I get close to that type of response.

P.S. My all time favorite at Dell was someone who sounded like he was the spokesperson for Al Jazeera network and his name was 'Kyle' ... wtf

P.P.S. I hope my P.S. comments are not too mean, but it is what it is :) 

*dream*
April 11, 2008 9:40:00 PM

Kaldor said:
My only caveat is Id rather have 2 8800 GTXs or Ultras in SLI than a 9800GX2.


well for about 120$ more I could have 2 9800GTX's but...I keep reading how SLI can be really iffy on how much it helps (very game and resolution specific).

And that unless you are running high resolutions, usually the best single card beats 2-tiers down card in SLI mode.

Also, I mostly play MMORPG's with the more demanding stand-alone games here and there and I have a 2232BW 22" in 1680x1050 as my monitor.

So I don't know that even 2 9800 GTX's will help more than the 9800GX2. And I'd avoid any of the issues with SLI (at times) as well.
April 11, 2008 9:58:44 PM

Bah, would cost your about $10 and a 30 minutes or your time to add a front headphone jack. Just would need to make sure to run the cables in a orderly fashion. Rat Shack FTW!
April 11, 2008 10:01:47 PM

I would say 2 8800 GTXs in SLI is alot better tech wise than a cobbled together mess the 9800GX2 is. 9800 GTX's are no faster overall that a 8800 GTX/Ultra. If your running a max res of 1680x1050, a single 8800/9800 GTX will have you covered and leave the door open for SLI in the future.
April 11, 2008 10:14:50 PM

Kaldor said:
I would say 2 8800 GTXs in SLI is alot better tech wise than a cobbled together mess the 9800GX2 is. 9800 GTX's are no faster overall that a 8800 GTX/Ultra. If your running a max res of 1680x1050, a single 8800/9800 GTX will have you covered and leave the door open for SLI in the future.


Yeah I agree the 9800gx2 isn't all that at all from what I've read other than you can OC it a bit easier from reports though the card already allegedly runs very hot (from the same similar reports).

Either way, the video card options are always easy to play with (or with a 790i it won't ever be a concern with Nvidia) but it is the other issue that are difficult.

Also, the headphone jack up front isn't just the running the cable part. I know that is easy. I want it to interact with the hardware/software such that when a headphone plugs in, it automatically cuts off the main speakers and switches the software console into headphone mode with associated settings.

The Dell XPS 630 did this as I think the Alienware's do it as they both customize their MOBO's for it along with a teeny card in the front of the panel. The Fatal1ty with the drive-bay insert also does it.

But no, the issues isn't that I can't plug into the front and need to reach around back. It is everything else that comes with it.
April 11, 2008 10:25:34 PM

drunkgamer said:
well for about 120$ more I could have 2 9800GTX's but...I keep reading how SLI can be really iffy on how much it helps (very game and resolution specific).

And that unless you are running high resolutions, usually the best single card beats 2-tiers down card in SLI mode.

Also, I mostly play MMORPG's with the more demanding stand-alone games here and there and I have a 2232BW 22" in 1680x1050 as my monitor.

So I don't know that even 2 9800 GTX's will help more than the 9800GX2. And I'd avoid any of the issues with SLI (at times) as well.


The 9800GX2 is an SLI setup, its just SLI on a single card versus using two regular cards and a SLI enabled mobo. So if you wanting to avoid ANY SLI issues, you probably do not want to go with that card. If all you are playing is MMORPG then a single 8800GT or 8800GTS would be sufficient. As well as dropping down from the QX9650 to a regular Q9X50 quad core.

Also since your not wanting to deal with SLI you may want to revise your mobo selection as well since you are paying a premium for the 790 SLI mobo. Then again if you drop to a 8800GT you may want to keep the board and have the option of going to SLI later.

You can get a decent rig up and going for well under $1500 or less then a third of the FNW box your looking at.

I recently put together this setup.

Gigabyte P35 Mobo $135
Intel Q6600 $199
4x1 Gig Corsair DDR2 800 $150
2x250 WD SE16 $160
400 WD SE16 $100
Antec 900 $60 Caught a nice sale
Antec Neo 650 $100
BFG 8800GT 512MB $200
Total $1104
Prices include some rebates that I have gotten and catching items on sale.

It runs Vista Ultimate x64 just fine and very quickly.

Short of Crysis, you would be hard press to build a noticable quicker box and you sure as hell wouldn't need to spend $5k to do it
April 11, 2008 10:33:17 PM

i always look at pricing from manufacturers and find that on high end builds i can save thousands of dollars by buying from newegg and building it myself.
April 11, 2008 10:34:15 PM

Yeah, I know that I don't need the box to be as beefy as it is for pure MMORPG games but I also love RTS and the occassional FPS like Crysis for fun.

Of course Crysis is one of the few games that really can cripple any hardware out there (at least for next couple of years) but even many RTS' are much more CPU intensive than other games because of the units involved (gpu to render them but cpu to deal with all the calculations for controlling them, etc.)

Thing is, although $$$ is important to me (trust me, we're still renting), the peace of mind in a strong, solid, scalable, STABLE product is more important. No one will even try arguing about the cost differences, especially the higher-end of a machine one considers.

For the amount of time and energy and $$$ I spent effing around with both XPS 630's before they went back, I would have paid someone 1k on the spot to give me what I had expected, with no issues, etc.

It's not just the 'time is money' aspect, but as you get older, 'headaches is gray hair' also applies :kaola: 

I need to keep my sexiness for those virtual female elves you know!

P.S. As for the 9800G2X, I know the card is basically two lesser cards put together and although one could say they 'SLI'd' them together as a metaphor, there is no actual SLI what-so-ever, and this is especially important at the driver level. But as I also said, the video card in a box (unless you have an older system, small case, etc.) is always the EASIEST part to change/upgrade/decide on. It is also the funnest :bounce: 
Anonymous
a b B Homebuilt system
April 11, 2008 10:36:09 PM

wow... my only problem with prebuilts is price... you can build basically that exact same system, for about 3000 dollars less.... maybe closer to 3500, 4000. Homebuilding is easy, and if you play your cards right with the companies, than you don't need to worry about support. Just do a couple different, and simple tests when something goes wrong, report it and then spam the heck out of the company =D
April 11, 2008 11:15:22 PM

Drunkgamer,
Very simple..
Building your own pc will be one of the most rewarding things you will go through. Especially your first build. I really cannot emphasize it enough. Ask any of the veterans on here and they'll vouch. If you are mechanically inclined then you are way ahead.
Very simple..

Step 1.
Introduce yourself to Newegg.com
Read the reviews. One page of reviews is worth much more than you can possibly imagine.

Step 2.
Get comfortable with what monitor you wish to be looking at for extended periods of time and build your computer around the resolution.

I just saw benchmarks from a 790i / DDR3 2000 Crucial Ram / QX9770 / 3 Ultras SLI. This build will cost about $3,000-$4,000 if you build it yourself and $6,000-$9000 if FNW or Alienware get it to you and will perform on average about 20-30% over this build:

680i
2g DDR2 1066 PC2-8500
Q6600
8800GTX
750 quad PSU

*board / ram / cpu / gpu - are all overclocked

Now, the first system mentioned is THE top of the line currently available to consumers and some will argue that the 8800Ultras are not as good even though their bandwidth is higher than the 9800GTX in SLI or 9800GX2 etc.. (there is a marginal difference in these cards)
I can build the second system for around $1,250.
The point is that everything is cheap and you can learn in 2 months.

My friend in two months (maybe 4) Nvidia will introduce the G200 architecture and those brand new 9800's that just came out will be garbage. Nvidia screwed up bad and they know it which is why the whole 9800 line is being sentenced to death.

You won't regret it.. any questions you can email me at this address
JKCase11@hotmail.com

April 12, 2008 12:08:23 AM

Wow, thanks for the great response.

I have NO doubt it would be a very rewarding experience. Anything I've build (or developed, etc.) with my hands and mind is always very fulfilling.

I just wish this was a 1.5k effort instead of the 3k-4k one as I am looking to put together the best of what is out there currently. It might not make sense to all, but I had the same crap azz gaming PC for almost 4 years and couldn't even run some of the new titles at ANY resolution/setting.

Luckily since I was more into MMORPG's, I was able to get by - barely.

So this PC is a 'reward' PC as I waited so long and also saved up. But it is also why I need a sure thing and don't want to learn some of the lessons of assembling the hard way on the more expensive components I'll be using.

I also realize this isn't rocket science but given the issues I had with the two Dell's and I assume they tested to hell the compatability of hardware, drivers, etc. I can only imagine what one might encounter doing it all from scratch - if things go wrong [though the Dell haters will says 'uh, they design and test their systems?' to which I'd say 'well, I'm not sure anymore - ask "Bob" or "Kyle" :cry:  '].

BTW, one of the reasons I _do_ want to build my own is the control of course...and because on each successive upgrade or complete new system, I don't have to wait until a company has the flavor of what I want in a system before I buy it. But lets say I have my $350 mobo and my $1300 CPU and nothing fires up. Is it my mobo or CPU or memory or... Unless I have some extras to swap around and isolate variables, what do I do? The mobo guys can blame it on the CPU being faulty, intel can blame EVGA, and somewhere the ________ will get blamed due to illegal immigration, etc. Do you see the chain of events that can happen? Actually, I'm calling Oliver Stone...

*5 minutes later*

Ahhh, I can now afford 2 Falcon's!
Anonymous
a b B Homebuilt system
April 12, 2008 12:57:39 AM

because its a reward pc, its even smarter to build it yourself, save a couple g's and save it even more for when you really need it
April 12, 2008 1:01:21 AM

I'd think about going FNW for a couple of reasons. I just built my own and in-terms of the hours it took me to build, configure, fix the niggles, route cables properly etc did add up. Plus I had a faulty component which was another few hours back to the shop to get it replaced etc... I did enjoy it but got a lot of time on my hands at the moment.

If I was back in work, as I shortly will be, I'd seriously ask myself if I'd want to take a couple of full weekends out to do it myself. You will pay more for the same buying a FNW, but if you earn more per hour working than you would save in terms of doing it yourself, then take the hassle out of the equation and get a pre-built FNW.

The real question is how valuable your time is to you.
April 12, 2008 5:25:37 AM

Well, I think some of my fears, especially since I will be using more top-end gear, is that I'll do something like:

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/250189-31-damage

I was thinking, when reading the poor guys situation, is 'duh, even I'd know not to leave a fan off' and then I thought there are 1000 other situations where I'd not know to do what might seem common sense to others who have built a few boxes but not to me at the time.

As I'm sure this guy thought (at the time) he'd would just try leaving the fan off for a bit and...now his simple situation just turned much less simple and much more costly. _Next_ time he knows better but for the next x hours and x dollars, he has to deal with it.

So yeah, I guess I'll inquire further with FNW and when I have an opportunity to build a cheap simple one but still has all the same overhead involved, I'll try.

At least I have a good site to come to for help (all you guys).

The funny thing is I probably built PC's before most people on here owned one and now I'm on the other side of the fence.

I used to work at a small computer store when I was young. There were no big stores and barely anyone owned personal PC. The big thing was still commodore, apple, and some atari.

I was an Atari fanboi and at this time the 1030ST was big...if I remember the model right *hic*. The 8088 was also gaining some ground and I put together my first Intel-based PC.

Only back then, there were NO standards and compatability guidelines. But because IBM PC's cost about what my used car cost at the time, there was no choice but for me to assemble my own. In fact, if I remember right, we called any non-IBM machine (i.e. not build by IBM) a 'clone'. So there was IBM and everything else was a clone. Heh. Funny times and memories. At least the ones the resin and hops allow me to remember.

I'm trying to remember the hard drive standards at the time. This was before IDE existed if I remember right but I can't remember the choices at the time. Something that started with an M or N or something. Big nasty ribbon cables. The hard drives were so big I remember handling them with awe and revere since I started with a tape drive on my atari, went out to play football, and came back in preying for no CRCs after waiting for an hour. The good 'ole days :) 

Anyyyyway it was good times and I loved it.

Now, I',m a wussie with this stuff :) 

<-- old man with the dog and shaking knees you see at the Haunted House ride at Disneyland in SoCal :p 
April 12, 2008 5:49:00 AM

1799406,1,128828 said:
BACKGROUNDWell, first off I'm not someone that is overly interested in building my own rig although my technical expertise should allow me to - but I don't want to deal with the time and hassles that could be involved.

i own a falcon northwest Mach 5 from 2004 and it's still running excellent. i've used their service/support several times since buying it and it's excellent. they crossshipped me a seagate sata 1 hdd 80gig that went bad during the first 3 months of buying it. they even gave me a new replacement; not refurbished like you get if you deal directly with seagate at times.

the only thing is the mach 5 system have a 3 year warranty and talon systems have 1 year warranty.

another thing is they don't outsource their tech support like dell, alienware, vodoopc, etc..

if you look on www.resellerratings.com at falcon, dell, alienware, etc, you'll see that falcon gets the highest ratings over all the others that you were concerned with.

suggestion; i'd buy only the computer box from them and not a monitor unless they have an excellent price. if i was buying today i'd probably pick the talon series with one year warranty.

another thing is they don't install extra bloatware on the system either like so many other companies do. the restore disc they send with it is very nice. also, make sure you test the actual operating system disc you get during the first 30days to make sure that it's good. they do give you an actual os disc that's not tied into your particular model of computer like dell does for example.

i've built my own computers since 1987 and sometimes it's nice to buy something like a falcon. i have bought newer components off of newegg.com last year and used a very reliable onsite computer person to build it for my wife, work out the bugs, and install the operating system for about 70.00 total after i got the parts. i didn't have time to build the computer so i found a longtime veteran that owned a computer store local to me for 10+ years and he's been doing computer stuff for 15+ years. most brick and mortar stores local to me charge a tremendous amount more for building a computer than what this onsite computer person did. not only that i researched a lot on newegg.com about the parts i wanted and asked the computer person that was going to build it in his spare time to research things too.

since many people may not have local computer professionals to build them a system off say newegg for example and actually work out all the bugs, etc. and are very reliable then something like a say a falcon is worth it.

you don't actually save much by building it yourself. in addition, you have to troubleshoot and provide service/support with each manufacturers components that you buy.

anyways, i wish you best of luck in whatever you decide.





a b B Homebuilt system
April 12, 2008 6:49:58 AM

I'm sure Dells are better, but I can tell you I work for a school district, we have 1100 machines roughly, mostly Macintosh, but we have a few Dell systems, many of them have had to have motherboards replaced, hard drives, etc etc. Man, you will have probs with any of them. Get yourself a grounding wristrap, build it dude. You'll have more fun, and you will learn. And you'll know that good components are going into it, and knowing that, you'll probably have less problems. But don't think just because you buy a prebuilt you will have a sure thing. Also, remember when you buy components you should get a warranty on each component. If you have video card or motherboard go bad, you can send it back and return it. It's just your warranty is on each piece, not the whole deal.
April 12, 2008 7:07:46 AM

If your going to build a high end system, then it's best to build your own. As far as the "hassle," it takes about 2 hours from opening the boxes to playing a game (If all goes well). It only take me an average of 1-2 hours to build one and have it up and running. Sometimes you can run into some problems that might tank that timeline, but overall with highend parts, will go together with less issues. The 2 areas where I won't let people skrimp is on Motherboard and Power Supply. Go for it and build it yourself, you'll have more pride in knowing you built itl Not to mention if your buy retail parts you will have 3-5 year warranty and tech support.
April 12, 2008 7:31:49 AM

You know that the case that FNW uses is just a slightly modded, Silverstone Temjin series, SST-TJ03, u can buy a window panel if u want, heck u could save roughly a few thousand dollars by building ur own higend ssytem with fornt usb and mic/audio ports, and is a beautiful case!

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

the black one is my favorite at the item i was doing my first x2 3800 90 nm, build, i was looking for a nice case, and went with an ultra aluminus which is nice, but this is the true flagship case it absolutely beautiful!

I just could not afford the $300 price tag at the time, but now its like $230 after MIR, so if u are interested look into it.
April 12, 2008 8:12:38 AM

MFM drives, usually using a Seagate controller card, and for me they always seemed to ignore the correct configuration the first dozen or so times but would work fine after that. That always took many hours.

I think the biggest I saw was 40MB, but I never got more than 30MB drives. Low level formatting, drives that would just spin up for no apparent reason and stall everything until they came back down.. I don't miss them.

Anyway, see if they'll build using a custom case. Most motherboards have the headers for front panel stuff, so it'd just take having someone who knows slightly more than their assembly-line parts to plug it all in.

I like this case. Two USB, firewire, and audio ports in front. I've never had a heat problem. I did replace the 120mm fan and added an intake fan for the HDDs, but those things weren't really necessary.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
April 12, 2008 8:39:30 AM

only reason i mentioned the TJ03 is b/c the guy obviously likes the classy high end look, heck who doesn't? but it costs quite a it, but he can save way more just building using a TJ03 case, b/c thats what falcon northwest uses, they call it an icon case and they have specialty paintings, and modification's for it, but its costs an arm and a leg.....

i don't think he going to want an average econo-case....
April 12, 2008 9:24:30 AM

jalek said:
MFM drives, usually using a Seagate controller card, and for me they always seemed to ignore the correct configuration the first dozen or so times but would work fine after that. That always took many hours.

I think the biggest I saw was 40MB, but I never got more than 30MB drives. Low level formatting, drives that would just spin up for no apparent reason and stall everything until they came back down.. I don't miss them.


Ahhh heh yeah MFM. I knew it started with an M. Yeah, thing is now that Im having flashbacks, for those involved with custom builds waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back then, the truth is it was easier in spite of there being few standards, etc. Mainly because there was no internet *shock* and no large retailers really, just a few medium sized ones. And no national chains.

So your options on buying the parts were...what you had access to. Of course all the compatability/driver issues really didn't exist either since games were only so demanding. No video cards :)  No sound cards :/  And dos was not too hard to get working... BSOD might have been a punk band but nothing more.

I can't even remember the small chains out here in SoCal. I think HW Computers was one here in Los Angeles. Also I think there was a chain called ITC Electronics I used to go to a bunch though they sold small parts as well as electronic components. Business Land (?) was also a chain I think. Radio Shack was also very big and I guess national? Don't remember. I still want to punch that Tandy computer in the neck, chest, and eye area. Funny I have these wierd images in my head of driving to all these places to get my parts in joyful, kid-like glee. I guess things don't change ;) 

Sigh. I feel like the sheriff in No Country for Old Men [and I'm only in my late 30's]

"The system building you see now, it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this custom job. But, I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He'd have to say, "O.K., I'll be part of this custom build."
April 12, 2008 6:06:34 PM

SST-TJ03 ftw!!!!

:lol: 
April 12, 2008 6:48:43 PM

Man shure is alot to read here,
I was like you 2 years ago and went with Falcon,paid 3400.00 for a sweet system,7900gtx SLI and thats not even the best proc>amd 4000+ The best would of added an additonal 900.00>FX60..man expensive.Well anyway I was happy and my system never had any issues.Eventually I started tinkering with overclocking and next thing I know I was upgrading the memory then the CPU then the video cards as the technlogy improved.It then became more of a homebuilt than Falcon.I now build my own and save a hell of alot of money.My advise to you is build your own and get more for your money.
Also if you want front panel mic and head phones here is a new card that will allow that
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/ite...
April 12, 2008 11:19:10 PM

FrozenGpu said:
i don't think he going to want an average econo-case....


I guess you haven't picked up one of these Antecs, other than the plastic front panel, they can double as furniture. They're as heavily built as an IBM XT.
April 12, 2008 11:27:35 PM

drunkgamer said:
No video cards :)  No sound cards :/  And dos was not too hard to get working...


I don't think I saw parts in any chain store, I had to either order them through the HUGE Computer Shopper magazine or a couple of local electronics wholesalers.

If you missed out on the fun that was Sound Blaster under Windows 3.1, you missed a lot. I built many using Pro Audio Spectrums, which took two (or three for full SB compatibility) IRQ's and two DMA channels. Once you were done allocating port addresses and IRQ's, then you had to map upper memory to get all the drivers loaded and leave 610kb or so of conventional memory so programs would run.

I ran a 3 line BBS under Windows 3.11 with 8MB of RAM. I could even run a flight sim without significant lag, as long as not all three were downloading. You can't even load Word in 8MB now.
April 13, 2008 12:00:45 AM

OK go too Frys or micro center tell them what you want and thy will build it for you for a 100 bucks or so 3k in parts and you have enough for a nice screen
April 13, 2008 12:27:19 AM

You could go to voodoo, or get the blackbird 002 with voodoo dna, it has front mounts and its upgradble, or you could just buy the compnents go to a local computer shop and have them hook up compnents and software and give you the box when its done
April 13, 2008 12:28:33 AM

jalek said:
I don't think I saw parts in any chain store, I had to either order them through the HUGE Computer Shopper magazine or a couple of local electronics wholesalers.

If you missed out on the fun that was Sound Blaster under Windows 3.1, you missed a lot. I built many using Pro Audio Spectrums, which took two (or three for full SB compatibility) IRQ's and two DMA channels. Once you were done allocating port addresses and IRQ's, then you had to map upper memory to get all the drivers loaded and leave 610kb or so of conventional memory so programs would run.

I ran a 3 line BBS under Windows 3.11 with 8MB of RAM. I could even run a flight sim without significant lag, as long as not all three were downloading. You can't even load Word in 8MB now.


Haha no I remember all that, trust me. But before the first sound cards came out (and then Vodoo a long time ago making the first real acceptable mainstream video cards, etc.) but I mean back in the daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

And yeah I thought about it again after I posted and said it was easier to build a PC back then and realized I'm gonna flop. It was harder in different ways, and mainly info gathering. I used some semi-illegal BBS' back then for info (and pirated software I'm not too pleased to admit).

I guess though nowadays there are SO many options and the higher end is still more expensive today than high end back then. Today though there is 20x the range from low end to high end.

I guess I might do what one person did above and that is maybe get a FNW and then over time use it as my sandbox to upgrade and build with each component over time.

The problem I had with the Dells is that the MOBO was always proprietary so I never bothere with CPU/mobo upgrades or seating in a new PSU, etc.
April 13, 2008 12:31:32 AM

reconviperone1 said:
You could go to voodoo, or get the blackbird 002 with voodoo dna, it has front mounts and its upgradble, or you could just buy the compnents go to a local computer shop and have them hook up compnents and software and give you the box when its done



I looked into the Vodoo because HP has made quite a turnaround, but from many posts it seems there are some issues with some of them (growing pains or just normal distribution, not sure) and the customer service and response from Voodoo has been quite crappy.

Who knows if the HP name pushed more units out than the Voodoo guys can support, they were always ghetto, or just tons of issues. Also it seems no one in HP knows much about the blackbird from a support standpoint according to the complaints, and some 'reps' didnt even know what the blackbird was. So you have the HP name on it but the smallness of Voodoo to support it (for now).

Maybe in a year or two things will be smoother there. And this is not from personal experience, just from reading blogs/message boards.
April 13, 2008 12:34:19 AM

build ur own and use the TJ03 case....brushed aluminum...is a no brainier!

:lol:  :lol:  :lol: 
April 13, 2008 12:37:24 AM

drunkgamer said:
Yeah, I know that I don't need the box to be as beefy as it is for pure MMORPG games but I also love RTS and the occassional FPS like Crysis for fun.

Of course Crysis is one of the few games that really can cripple any hardware out there (at least for next couple of years) but even many RTS' are much more CPU intensive than other games because of the units involved (gpu to render them but cpu to deal with all the calculations for controlling them, etc.)

Thing is, although $$$ is important to me (trust me, we're still renting), the peace of mind in a strong, solid, scalable, STABLE product is more important. No one will even try arguing about the cost differences, especially the higher-end of a machine one considers.

For the amount of time and energy and $$$ I spent effing around with both XPS 630's before they went back, I would have paid someone 1k on the spot to give me what I had expected, with no issues, etc.

It's not just the 'time is money' aspect, but as you get older, 'headaches is gray hair' also applies :kaola: 

I need to keep my sexiness for those virtual female elves you know!

P.S. As for the 9800G2X, I know the card is basically two lesser cards put together and although one could say they 'SLI'd' them together as a metaphor, there is no actual SLI what-so-ever, and this is especially important at the driver level. But as I also said, the video card in a box (unless you have an older system, small case, etc.) is always the EASIEST part to change/upgrade/decide on. It is also the funnest :bounce: 
Im a older gamer too, except i only get to play a few hours a month, how in the hell do you find time to play seversl mmorg's

April 13, 2008 1:20:22 AM

drunkgamer said:
The problem I had with the Dells is that the MOBO was always proprietary so I never bothere with CPU/mobo upgrades or seating in a new PSU, etc.


Dell/HP/etc. have their place, if you're rolling out an office of machines then they make sense but they make compromises that you end up dealing with if you're looking to upgrade later.

I don't think high end's more expensive, those 20-40MB MFM drives were $1000+ (in 80's dollars) for quite a while and it wasn't long ago that $1/meg was a deal in IDE drives, and $10/meg for RAM.

There're definitely more options now, but the upside is that if you go with standard parts, most solutions should be fine. Upgrade paths are the biggest question, and with Intel dropping four new chipsets in a year, there is no right answer there other than wait, but eventually you have to pull the trigger.
April 13, 2008 4:52:45 AM

reconviperone1 said:
Im a older gamer too, except i only get to play a few hours a month, how in the hell do you find time to play seversl mmorg's


1) Was single (though always dated) for a while so once I came home, it was all me and orcs baby!
2) Now I'm engaged but no kids - once that hits, I'll have to google MMORPGs to remember what they are
3) I don't watch much TV except for sports so my free time is online instead of infront of the a glowing box
4) If I play enough MMORPGs, maybe just like the movie TRON, I can one day... *hic* uhhhh *hic* nevermind
April 13, 2008 5:43:29 AM

O.K...A lot of people are not going to like this; but, this might be n option.
Why don't you try costco.com...they have free s&h on most comps and if u aren't happy return it to the store and they will give u a full refund. You have 90days to try it out.
I returned mine only because I decided I wanted to build my own and wanted certain parts. But dollar value, it costs about the same to buy from newegg than to get it at costco. Just go under desktops, then gaming comps.
The selection isn't that great right now, but they do change there products...just another option.
April 13, 2008 6:19:28 AM

raydog said:
O.K...A lot of people are not going to like this; but, this might be n option.
Why don't you try costco.com...they have free s&h on most comps and if u aren't happy return it to the store and they will give u a full refund. You have 90days to try it out.
I returned mine only because I decided I wanted to build my own and wanted certain parts. But dollar value, it costs about the same to buy from newegg than to get it at costco. Just go under desktops, then gaming comps.
The selection isn't that great right now, but they do change there products...just another option.


Oh trust me, I checked. I'm not sure if most people reading this have a Costco in their state but I check them for _anything_ I buy before I go elsewhere. Besides having the best return policy, period, they also have the best prices for any item if they carry it, period.

They had the Samsung 226BW back in the day and at one point, the price was the same basically as newegg yet I could walk in there, buy one, check the panel, and if bad...at least I stand in line, return it, and try another.

But yeah, until they carry the Blackbird or similarly configured high-end machines, nothing there for now for the level I want.

But yes, good idea and valid point.

The wierd thing about Costco is you'd think they would never carry really high-end items. Last week I saw an 80k diamond ring their with GIA certs! I once bought a pair of $400 Maui Jims when they used to carry the higher end stuff. Better glasses and price than I could find in the any sunglass store in Bevery Hills ;)  I've had the glasses for almost 6 years now and except for my computer and car, best purchase I ever made.

Plus their $1.50 combo pizza slices *hic* are the best.
April 13, 2008 7:51:27 AM

I will build you a computer including 21" monitor for $1800 and it will smoke any solution from another brand thats under 3k.

That falcon $5500 is LOL.

The new 45 Nm chip clock to 3.6 easily running very cool.
9800 GTX is the pretty cheap and really fast.
DDR2 ram is DIRT cheap
And onboard sound and lan on the motherboards is really good nowadays.
The gigabtyle P35 DS3-L? I believe, its like $84 and can overclock almost as good as a $300 X48 board.

Medium level system is like $900 with everything, and top of the line is like $1600.

I can;t imagine dumping huge money on a pre-made system. Build it yourself. I am in the LA area, you want to pay me to come teach you and assemble it right there?

LAAkuma
April 13, 2008 7:51:51 AM

i suggested to the original poster that he find a local brick and mortar store; since i believe he's in los angeles county that will service/support his high end custom rig. where i live there are these type of stores that do know how to build a gaming rig with special order components; not only that several stores like these local to me have built 50,000+ computers and tons of custom high end gaming computers.

i suggested he have them order a quality power supply like pc power & cooling and that it's very important to have that. basically a Tier 1 quality type.

if you look on www.resllerratings.com for example you'll see that lifetime ratings on www.dell.com, www.gateway.com, etc.. aren't good. these are just a few examples of companies that would be sold at costco or bestbuy, etc.. plus with lower end pc's you don't get big enough quality power supplies for power hungry high end components like 9800gx2, etc.. not only that if you poke around enough on review sites of things like gateway you'll find that the 700watt power supply gateway includes on it's high end gaming machine isn't good quality like a Tier 1 would be.








April 14, 2008 5:50:07 PM

Ok, you guys did it!

Both my ego, curiosity, desire for a challenge, and general boredom have pushed me to the edge. I'm going to build it!

It's not as much because of the $$$ as it is that no one has a configured box that really meets my need. Falcon is the closest but there are just a couple things I wish were available/different and the price is just high enough that if FOR ANY REASON things don't work perfectly...then I'd be dissappointed.

I'd wait to see what the Dell XPS 730 (if it comes out) is like but after my XPS 630 experience, not sure it even makes sense to wait and see - especially since I need something by May 20th - Conan Online release date :p  In fact, I can't start ordering parts until Dell receives my second XPS 630 that is still in transit and then credit me back my $$$ (wonder how long that takes :/ )

So I'm going to do it!

Now here is the scary part. I can't find a good guidance/suggested approach/parts FAQ on any site.

Basically, I found a good thread (and now lost it) for example for Tier 1, Tier 2, etc. PSU's.

Is there a thread anywhere that would help answer some of these questions? For any of these, I never worry about $$$ as much as good quality and functionality - since you usually always get what you pay for.

1) Upper-tier cases? I would like a very well constructed case with great cooling/high fan quality. No bling bling needed, just damn good functionality. Do most upper-tier cases come with enough fans or do most people always have to add extra fans?

2) CPU cooler? When I buy the CPU (tempted to try the QX9650), do you first power up without glueing on the cooler (tempted to get Zalman XNPS7000B-ALCU LED one unless there is a better best-of-breed air one?) in case there is a problem and you need to return the CPU? How long can you try the system before it is dangerous to run the CPU without a cooler?
Which of these top-4 listed would you use? http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

3) PSU. Anyone have the link to the tier-classification for PSUs I've seen floating around? Since I will likely always just stay with the fastest single GPU vs. SLI anytime soon, is there any real reason to go for 1000watt vs. 750watt if I will have 1 GPU, 2 hard drives, and 2 DVD/equivalent drives?

4) Mobo/memory - For Penryn processors, it seems most upper-tier system builders are going with 790i because of the SLI support. Since I only will likely ever have 1 GPU, any reason to not consider the X48 boards? I also notice NewEgg has more reviews on 790i boards vs. X48 boards - and since both require DDR3 - I guess I'll stick with 790i because then at least I have the SLI potential should I decide to use it one day. Also, who is the best DDR3 mfg? I know for DDR2 (back a ways now), Corsair was king...but who is it now?
Considering: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
P.S. Does the 790i support the ESA software from Nvidia to monitor temperatures, control fans, etc?

5) GPU - Still have not decided but whether I go 9800GTX, 8800Ultra, or 9800GX2 - I don't think there are any considerations I need to make for the rest of the system when using these other than SLI if I use more than one which I am not (right?) [well besides the PSU and I'll probably go 1000 watt just for the SLI potential one day]

6) Sound card - Going with Fatal1ty Platinum since this is the only way that I know of being able to have front-headphones automatically cut off the main speakers AND have the creative console software switch to headphone mode. I realize I can put a jack up front to use headphones with regular XIFI cards but it won't switch over automatically, cut off the main speakers, etc.
Considering: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

7) Hard drives - nothing strategic here to consider as I'm not going raid... 1 Raptor and 1 250 or 320 gig storage drive as I already have a Windows Home Server I set up that stores most everything else.

8) Bluetooth - I mostly need this for my pocket pc phone (6800 from Verizon) to synch up without a cable... What is best option?

9) Any other key considerations? I'm most worried about common pitfalls people don't consider until the parts arrive and you're like 'crap, why didn't someone tell me?!?' i.e. anything about returns to know or consider, other assembly/compatability issues, etc?

THANKS!
April 14, 2008 7:36:37 PM

I've returned to the thread at the perfect moment.

Great choice on building your own. What is your desired budget (I know you were looking at a $5k+ FNW box but the amount can change when you build your own).

If you're not going to SLI, get an Intel board. The NVidia ones run hotter, and the Intel boards are supposed to overclock better.

Don't run without a cooler, ever. Use thermal paste every time as well. Clean up is <5 min (some rubbing alcohol and a coffee filter will do the job).

I'll have to look at the higher end products for some of the items, but I can give you immediate advice on a few parts.

Case: Antec P182 (or P182SE). I love it. Very clean lines, very cool, wonderful to work with. Possibly the P190, but I haven't done enough research to let you know.

PSU: Hmm, it appears the PSU Tier list I had bookmarked is gone. There is one on Tom's Forums as well, but I don't have that link.
Corsair 620HX. If you don't SLI, you don't need more. The HX is modular as well.
If you decide to use multiple GPUs, get the PC P&C Silencer 750W X-Fire edition because it has the PCIE 8 pin connectors for newer/future video cards.
If you get the Antec P190, it comes with dual power supplies, so ignore this section.

CPU Cooler: Thermalright IFX-14, Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme or Xigmatek HDT-S1283.

Hard Drives:
Raptor or WD 640GB (WD6400AAKS). The 640GB actually beats the Raptor in places, and is cooler and quieter.

Motherboard:
I would go with X38, and DDR2 ram at this point. DDR3 just doesn't give you the benefit.

Sorry for the varied links, this was a quick search for linkable info on items I know about.
I can say the Xigmatek is easy to install and works wonderfully, the P182 is gorgeous (if you like that look), quiet and cool, and the WD 640GB is worth it. I've only had these parts for a short time, but I couldn't be happier.

I'll edit with more info once I find it.
!