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Falcon Northwest TLX Laptop: Gaming Domination (Benchmarks)

By Christopher Coke on January 28, 2020 | General Articles | 0

Welcome back to our series on the Falcon Northwest TLX. We introduced this outstanding gaming laptop last month in our “I’ll take the RTX 2080 to go, please” feature. While that article was focused on my first impressions, this week we’re digging into gaming performance. How does the combination of the i7-9750H, 32GB of 2666 MHz DDR4, and an RTX 2080 Max-Q perform in modern AAA games? Let’s dig in.

Before we begin, a little reminder on specs:

Specifications

  • Pricing: Starting at $2271 USD (Falcon Northwest Store)
  • Display: 16.1” 1920x1080 144Hz WVA Panel (Matte)
  • CPU: Intel i7-9750H (6-core/12-thread)
  • Memory: 16-32GB 2666MHz SODIMM
  • Video Card: RTX 2060 6GB, RTX 2070 8GB, RTX 2080 (Max-Q Variants)
  • Networking: Intel Wireless AC 9560, Bluetooth V5
  • Storage:
    • Operating System Drive (NVME): Intel 660p (512MB - 2TB), Samsung 970 EVO (500GB - 2TB), Samsung 970 PRO (512GB - 1TB)
    • Data Drive 1 (Optional):  Intel 660p (512MB - 2TB), Samsung 970 EVO (500GB - 2TB), Samsung 970 PRO (512GB - 1TB)
    • Data Drive 2 (Optional): Samsung 860 EVO (500GB - 4TB)
  • Operating System:
    • Windows 10 Pro (Standard)
    • Windows 10 Home (-$32)
  • Optional Add-ons:
    • LG 8x DVD Writer
    • Pioneer 6x Blu Ray Writer
    • External SSD: Samsung T5 (500GB - 2TB)
    • Surge Protector: APC Performance SurgeArrest 11-Outlet
    • Additional AC Adapter
    • Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium
    • Mouse, Keyboard, Headset, Speakers, and Monitor Selection
  • Warranty: 1 to 3 years (1-year included with one year or Falcon Overnight Service)

This is an article I’ve been excited to write for more than two weeks. As I mentioned in my first article, the TLX has completely changed my gaming life. I’m an atypical case: a guy with not one, but two powerful gaming PCs and yet I still find myself turning to my TLX more than either of those machines. Why? Because when it comes to noticeable, real-world performance this machine lets me take that same high-end game experience with me anywhere. Whether it’s kicking back on the couch at the end of a long day or breaking it out on my lunch break to get some video edits in, the TLX has become one of my very favorite things and justifies its price more than almost anything else I’ve covered here.

Before we go further into performance, temperatures, and comparisons, in the interest of disclosure, I’d like to quote an important paragraph from my initial article explaining how this series came to be and why it’s not a review akin to what we would typically write.

Usually, in the case of a whole system, we would take a look for a few weeks and then return it, but since Falcon Northwest wanted us to configure the system exactly for us, and since it would offer value to you, our audience, we settled on another approach. Instead of writing a review, we’ll be taking you along on my journey from a desktop to a laptop gamer and creator. You can consider this series sponsored as it is a clear partnership and not a review. However, Falcon Northwest is as confident as they come and create hand-assembled custom laptops to major celebrities like Nathan Fillion, Chloe Dykstra, and Joel McHale. They haven’t asked to see this before you do, haven’t specified anything they want us to share, haven’t told us to “stay positive” or downplay anything. In short, they’ve helped me customize the PC, submitted the order, and followed up to ask if I was having fun.

With that out of the way, let’s dig in.

Gaming Performance

Our system came configured for high-end gaming and content creation. It’s outfitted with the standard i7-9750H (6c/12t), 32GB of DDR4 running at 2666MHz, and an RTX 2080 Max-Q. It’s also running on a 2TB Samsung 970 EVO NVMe SSD for fast load times and transfers. The TLX is available in lower configurations, so your results will vary if you choose either the 2060 or 2070 Max-Q variants.

Since the TLX comes with a 1080p screen, I expected to see good results but I’m blown away at just how powerful it is. I tested the games in my round-up at their highest settings with only a few exceptions which are noted in the chart. I also tested three of the titles with RTX enabled to see how far a gaming laptop could get with gaming’s current cutting-edge technology. Have a look for yourself.

The TLX is a powerhouse. The RTX 2080 Max-Q is clearly able to push games beyond 60 FPS without sacrificing details. Enabling ray tracing brings the predictable performance hit but still maintains playable frame rates. Additionally, I was able to push my FPS in each of those titles by turning down other features. For my part, I don’t find ray tracing to be make-or-break, so I mostly turned it off.

This level of performance is all the more impressive when you remember just how thin and lightweight the laptop is. The TLX is less than an inch thick and weighs 4.6 pounds. Compare that to laptops even a few years ago and its easy to see just how far technology and GPU design has come.

I was curious to see how the RTX 2080 Max-Q compared to a full-size RTX 2080, so I ran a second series of tests with a Founders Edition I was able to borrow. This is an apples to oranges comparison, but this was a pervasive question of my own throughout the years - how do the laptop versions of powerful GPUS stack up to the desktop versions? Here’s how it worked out.

(RTX 2080 Founders Edition tested in my R9 3900X system, 32GB Memory, Gigabyte AORUS Master Motherboard, and Gigabyte AORUS 2TB NVMe SSD)

The RTX 2080 Max-Q is a lower voltage and slightly slower RTX 2080, so a performance delta is completely expected. On average, the RTX 2080 Max-Q performs at 71.8% of the speed of a full-size RTX 2080. That’s not bad at all - but again, we’re talking completely different ballparks.

The Max-Q design also offers another major benefit: battery life. Depending on the game, I was able to get 90 minutes to two hours of battery life before plugging in. Given the level of horsepower and componentry under the hood, I expected less so this was a pleasant surprise. Still, if at all possible, I would still recommend plugging in when gaming. There’s nothing like being in the middle of a match and needing to AFK to find an outlet. With the TLX, you’ll have a good long while before needing to do that, though, which is great if you like to game on your commute.

Temperatures

One of the biggest challenges gaming laptop manufacturers make is managing temperatures. That thin design is excellent for portability but presents some major challenges in keeping things cool. Falcon Northwest includes a full-featured management suite pre-installed that allows you to manage power modes, fan noise profiles, and speed curves.

This turned out to be very useful not just for thermals but for managing how loud the fans can become (like most laptops, they can get loud). When just browsing, the laptop is near-silent. The minute you load up a game or start a video render, the CPU and GPU fans spin up and turn the stylish metal body into a wind tunnel. The two fans reported in the software can spin all the way up to above 6000 RPM, so it’s not surprising but also means tweaking is in order.

In my case, I also picked up an IETS GT300 cooling pad. It was pricey but worth it, significantly dropping my temperatures.

In the Performance power profile, the TLX gets toasty. In speaking to Falcon Northwest, these temps aren’t unusual or anything to worry about. Preparing for this article, I researched competing laptops with these hardware configurations (or as close as I could come) and found that to be true. There’s some variance, but you should expect your laptop to be warmer than your desktop. It comes with the territory of putting all that expensive hardware into such a small space.

The addition of the cooling mat made a noticeable, immediate difference.

As you can see, there’s a solid temperature drop across the board simply by setting the laptop on the mat and giving it a boost of cool, moving air. Recently, I picked up the OPOLAR side-exhaust cooler, which drops temps by another 2-3C, though it’s noticeably louder than the GT300.

Ultimately, you don’t need a cooling mat for the TLX. Its performance is right in line with its competition and is well under TJ MAX temperatures. At the same time, a laptop of this caliber is an investment and spending a little extra to keep temperatures cooler is a smart move.

Final Thoughts

The TLX is a gaming powerhouse. When Falcon Northwest offered to send me on, I expected to have to turn settings down. Instead, it’s able to maintain 60 FPS or more in everything I tried and often far more. Battery life is also surprisingly good, which means you could game the length of a long commute without fear of the battery going dry. For my part, it’s made the transition from desktop to laptop painless and honestly a ton of fun.

There’s only one thing left to do: try it with streaming and content creation - coming up in our final installment.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer.


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight