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Falcon Northwest 20th Anniversary Edition Talon Review

A Masterpiece Of PC Building

Joseph Bradford Posted: May 6, 2020 12:00 PM
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

 Falcon Northwest has been one of the top boutique PC builders for the past few decades, essentially founding the gaming pre-built market in the early 90s. The Talon, Falcon’s premier desktop model, just celebrated 20 years on the market, and to commemorate the achievement, the team at the Oregon-based PC company released a brand new 20th Anniversary Edition for consumers to enjoy.

Falcon Northwest has cornered the high-end PC market, creating eye-catching and - most importantly – incredibly performant products. The 20th Anniversary Talon is no exception to this rule, as Kelt Reeves, the founder and President of Falcon Northwest, spent the better part of two years designing what would eventually become the celebration of two decades of powerful, built-to-order desktop PCs.

We had the chance to check out one of the 20th Anniversary Talon’s for review – and let me say upfront: This PC is, full stop, the best PC I’ve ever used. But, it makes sense, given Falcon’s history of building powerful PCs, as well as the specs our review unit shipped with. Here are those specs in their full glory:

  • Chassis: Talon 20th Anniversary Edition
  • Chassis Logo Insert: RGB Light
  • Side Panels: Tinted Glass Side Panels
  • Fan Pack: ARGB Lighted Fan Pack
  • Power Supply: EVGA SuperNova G3 750W
  • Motherboard: Asus ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming
  • Processor: Intel Core i9-9900K 8-Core – 5.0GHz Max Turbo
  • Processor Cooler: Asetek Liquid Cooling 680LS 280MM
  • Memory: Skill TridentZ RGB 32GB (2x16GB) – 3200MHz
  • Video Card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11GB
  • Sound Card: On-board
  • Networking: On-Board
  • Operating System Drive: Intel 660P 2TB – M.2 SSD – PCI Express
  • 64-Bit Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Pro
  • Rescue Drive: USB Rescue Drive
  • Warranty: 3 Years Parts and Labor
  • System Price as configured (without custom artwork): $4,492 USD

First Look and Initial Impressions

When the boxes for this PC arrived, I was actually shocked to see how much care was put into packaging not just the PC, but also the accessories and goodies Falcon NW sends a long with each of their systems. The PC was carefully secured in sturdy foam, perfectly forming around the chassis of the PC itself to hold it snugly in the box and absorb any shock from the road. Most PCs, when shipped, have foam and more stuck inside the case of the PC itself, yet I was actually surprised to see that the Falcon did not. Nor did it need it – the Talon didn’t have a single screw or part loose when setting up the desktop for the first time.

Falcon also includes an extensive checklist showcasing every part of the inspection and burn-in testing done on the PC before it leaves their facility. This level of detail is great, especially for the price tag. It really makes the Talon feel bespoke instead of something off an assembly line floor. The packet also details initial set up instructions, including ensuring the liquid cooling system is running properly for those specifically not familiar with what could happen to those systems during shipping. It’s a first impression that I didn’t forget, and truly reinforced the premium feel of the package itself.

The 20th Anniversary Talon chassis itself is a labor of love from Kelt himself, spending the better part of 2 years just designing the case to get everything just right. And it paid off – the chassis is meant to keep hot components cool with optimal airflow. Kelt told me that his team went through an “insane number of possible cooling fans,” with tons of smoke testing and thermal imaging while designing the case that would ultimately house the 20th Anniversary Talon.

Some of the fans tested for the Talon Chassis

Airflow map of Falcon Talon Chassis

This level of detail shows in the performance of the PC itself. Even equipped with an Asetek 280MM Radiator to cool the system down, the system under load is surprisingly quiet. By comparison, my personal PC is equipped with a Corsair 100i 240MM radiator and it sounds like a jet engine under the same load. I really appreciate this, especially as someone who is constantly recording audio or streaming – having a quiet, yet powerful PC quietly hum in the background was a dream.

The design of the PC case itself on the outside, as well as the materials being used to craft this piece of engineering, scream premium as well. From the LED logo of Falcon Northwest on the top of the case illuminating whenever you turn the PC on down to the incredibly sturdy construction of the case itself, it’s a joy to look at. It’s also built like a tank, being built out of sturdy and durable metal versus the gaudy plastics most gaming cases are made out of today.

All of the Plastic inside the 20th Anniversary Edition Talon

Opening the case to get a look inside is a breeze as well – simply pop a finger under the side panel and pull the door open. That’s it. No latches, screws or whatnot to worry about – it definitely makes it easier compared to every single PC case I’ve ever owned which was typically a hassle to get the side panels off. Taking apart the side of my Lian Li O11 or even the simple latch on my old Corsair Carbide case is an ordeal - the Talon is a breeze.

Customizing your own Talon

Our review unit also showed off the art services provided by Falcon Northwest as well. Emblazoned with the key art from Bethesda’s upcoming Greymoor chapter of their award-winning MMORPG, The Elder Scrolls Online, it really makes me want to explore the tundra of Skyrim once again. The artwork itself was done via UV-LED printing, meaning that this PC doesn’t have a single drop of paint on it. However, the artwork stands out, instantly drawing my eye to it whenever I’ve walked into my office. Falcon added the option to do the UV wrap printing on their PCs last year, but before when an art job such as the Greymoor art selected for this PC came along it was hand painted using liquid automotive paint. This service is still available as well, but it’s time consuming. However, the results are incredible, as you can see in this Tweet by Star Citizen's Chris Roberts showing off his custom Falcon PC.

This obviously adds to the cost of the overall PC, with Falcon offering some pre-priced options on their website when customizing your own rig. However, the team is available to quote commissioned pieces, either via the UV method or even hand-painted artwork. The price varies based on the request, but the custom printing job allows you to make the PC truly stand out and unique should you choose to do so. Having the Greymoor artwork on this PC makes my Razer Lian Li 011 Case on my main rig feel barren, even with the Chroma RGB providing some character.

Performance

Yet we aren’t spending close to $5K on a PC just to look at it – the rig needs to perform. And perform it does. While the configuration we reviewed has the 9th-gen Intel processor, the Talon will have the new 10th Generation Core desktop processors announced back on April 30th for those looking to take advantage of that later this month. Suffice to say, though, during performance testing and real-world use for the last two weeks, I wasn’t complaining about the power the 9900K offered.

I ran the gamut of the standard synthetic benchmarks, at their defaults to get a snapshot of how the PC performs when pushed. Running TimeSpy for DX12 testing, FireStrike for DX11 – I even ran Port Royal, the new 3DMark benchmark test for ray tracing performance. Here are the graphs for your viewing pleasure.

The PC can literally do it all – from handling multitasking like a champ, to easily playing some of the most recent games on their highest quality settings. Games such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey run particularly well fully maxed out, especially when you consider how insane these games look and how complex their systems are – especially in the crowded cities of Greece in the latter title. RTX-enabled games like Remedy’s Control also feel distinctly next gen with ray tracing enabled thanks to the powerful Nvidia 2080 Ti on deck. This machine is a gaming beast, one that will tackle any game thrown at it without seemingly breaking a sweat.

When paired with a G-Sync enabled (or compatible) monitor, these titles feel extra smooth – I didn’t want to stop gaming on this PC. In fact, Red Dead Redemption 2 felt like a new game, having spent about 10 hours on the Xbox version, and even a few on PC. I could easily get the title running around 60 FPS when I turned down anti-aliasing, making me want to dive headlong into Rockstar’s world for more. I had the same feeling when testing out Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, another title I’ve picked up but set aside for the past few months. Being able to play without worrying about performance issues had me enjoying my time with it again even more, something that cannot be understated.

I was even more impressed when streaming from the Talon. For the last two weeks I’ve testing streaming from this beast, and each time I was impressed at how effortlessly the PC handled the stress, most recently streaming Grand Theft Auto V, playing the game at 4K while streaming at 1080p. Normally on my own rig this wouldn’t be possible and would result in skipped or dropped frames during the stream, yet the Talon 20th Anniversary rig held up admirably, streaming easily with very little loss in quality on the stream itself. For those looking to up their streaming-game, the 20th Anniversary Talon can definitely help there. And since you can configure it how you want, you can even look at a Ryzen CPU if you want to opt out of an Intel option with your rig.

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The Falcon Northwest 20th Anniversary Talon is a high-end PC at its very core. From the sheer amount of trial and error in testing the chassis to the performance of the parts Kelt and his team selected to create the best PC out there they could for this review, I’m left blown away by the result. It’s hands down the best PC I’ve ever personally used. And my PC isn’t a slouch – yet this rig made it incredibly hard to hook mine back up after testing.

However, it is pricey. At over $4,000 as customized (without the custom artwork), it’s definitely not a machine everyone will be able to afford. That said, the money, should you choose to configure one for yourself, would be well spent. I’ve always been impressed by the engineering of Falcon’s PCs from afar, having tested a Tiki a few years back at a friend’s house. Testing one up close, in my normal environment, I’m convinced I won’t find another PC this excellent unless I check out another Falcon.

The Talon is a tank, it’s one of the cleanest builds I’ve seen with no wasted space inside the PC, and the case itself, especially with the custom art job, adds even more polish to the package. It's hard to find any flaws, really, with the Talon. It's built incredibly well, it performs under pressure while remaining cool to the touch, and is insanely quiet while doing so - a testament to the engineering that went into the PC.

Could you buy a cheaper PC? Sure – you can likely build one cheaper as well. But part of the package here is the care and detail put into making a truly excellent product – one that Falcon will back up with a 3-year warranty. For those who don’t want the hassle of building a rig, or are simply looking for the one of the best PCs you can buy, I can’t recommend the Talon enough.

Conclusion

The 20th Anniversary Edition Talon from Falcon Northwest is a beast. From the incredibly well-designed and thought out chassis to its ridiculously good build quality, the Talon from Falcon Northwest feels premium in every way. The ability to add custom artwork to your PC (or a pre-designed wrap on Falcon’s website) gives you a chance to make your PC feel truly unique, and the whole process from unboxing to finally taking the PC for a spin is effortless. While it can have a high price-tag if you’re configuring with the latest and greatest components, it’s hard not to recommend the rig if you’ve got the money. The 20th Anniversary Edition Talon is hands down the best performing PC I’ve used – something I definitely do not say lightly.

10.0Masterpiece
Pros
  • Whole Package Screams Premium
  • Performs Outrageously
  • Custom Art option can make your Talon truly unique
  • Quiet under heavy load
  • Multitasking beast
Cons
  • Might be too pricey for some


lotrlore

Joseph Bradford

Joseph has been writing or podcasting about games in some form since about 2012. Having written for multiple major outlets such as IGN, Playboy, and more, Joseph started writing for MMORPG in 2015. When he's not writing or talking about games, you can typically find him hanging out with his 10-year old or playing Magic: The Gathering with his family. Also, don't get him started on why Balrogs *don't* have wings. You can find him on Twitter @LotrLore