Falcon Northwest Talon review: The ultimate gaming machine

An unstoppable and unbreakable gaming rig for those who demand only the best.

Falcon Northwest Talon with Windows Central UV printed on glass
(Image: © Falcon Northwest)

Windows Central Verdict

Powerful by design and designed to outlast you, we couldn't find anything to not like about this over-engineered gaming marvel, provided you have the budget to spend. Falcon Northwest's Talon checks off all the boxes for a dream performance gaming rig, and the desktop's solid construction is unlike anything you've seen before in the PC market.

Pros

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    Powerful PC with unrivaled craftsmanship

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    Tasteful RGB lighting doesn't detract from design

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    Solid metal construction

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    Easy to upgrade

Cons

  • -

    Price

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Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg, Steam’s Gabe Newell, and Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney are passionate about technology. But these industry titans also share another common trait: They are all devoted clients of Falcon Northwest, a boutique PC manufacturer in Oregon that singlehandedly created the custom, pre-built gaming desktop market in 1992. With such a storied history, we were delighted to check out the company’s most powerful desktop yet: the Talon, an unstoppable gaming rig without rival.

The Talon is impeccably crafted, meticulously over-engineered, and extremely powerful by design. Unlike some competing desktops, Falcon Northwest built the Talon from the ground up with its custom sculpted all-aluminum case, elegant cable management, and a thermal and cooling system that would make aviation geeks swoon. The Talon is a precision-engineered desktop designed to exude performance. The latest iteration of this desktop, which was released initially as a beige box to take on IBM’s desktops at launch, takes flight with some of the most powerful silicon on the market in its more modern matte sandblasted black metal finish. 

Falcon Northwest Talon: Pricing and availability

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

Acquiring the Talon, however, is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to spend at least $3,878 for an Intel configuration, and upgrading your build with better components quickly adds to the cost. An AMD Threadripper Pro configuration starts at more than $8,000, but that model comes with an insane 64-core processor.  

Our fully configured Intel review unit ships with custom UV-printed glass door panels, which adds $300 to the cost. And because we wanted both tinted glass and solid aluminum panels to swap between, we had to add $80 to the build — which is well worth it if you see the thickness of the extruded metal on these doors. Creatives who don't care for RGB lighting will likely want to stick to the non-see-through aluminum panels, which adds a stealthier aesthetic to the Talon.  

(Image credit: Falcon Northwest)

We've also upgraded to a better motherboard, added more RAM for a total of 64GB, chosen a more powerful 1200W power supply unit, and opted for the best Intel Core i9-12900KS and NVIDIA RTX 3090 Ti silicon available. Our premium build totaled just under $7,000 before shipping costs.

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SpecificationsReview configuration
OSWindows 11 Pro with USB recovery key
Processor12th Gen Intel Core i7 to Core i9-12900KS
GraphicsNVIDIA RTX 3090 Ti Founders Edition
Processor coolerFalcon Northwest Liquid Cooling 280mm
MemoryG.SKILL Trident Z5 RGB 64GB
System drive2TB Samsung 980 Pro
Power supplyEVGA SuperNova P2 1200W PSU
MotherboardAsus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero WiFi

For a fully loaded build, workstation users and pro audiences can also double our RAM choice and add up to three additional SSDs, two 2.5-inch drives, and two 3.5-inch HDDs. You can configure all aspects of the Talon using Falcon Northwest's PC builder tool. Nvidia's RTX A-series graphics is also an option as well as dual-GPU configurations. 

With similar upgrades to the side panels as our review configuration, a premium build with AMD’s Threadripper Pro with a 1600W PSU, 64-core CPU, 512GB of Micron Server memory, RTX 3090 Ti graphics, and a single 2TB SSD would cost nearly $17,500 before adding the cost of a secondary data drive to the unit.

(Image credit: Falcon Northwest)

The components you choose are only part of the equation when building your own PC through Falcon Northwest. Each PC comes with a detailed checklist, and each rig is inspected, tested, and validated before it even gets shipped to ensure you get the performance you’d expect. Falcon runs several benchmarks on each system, like 3DMark, PCMark, and FutureMark, before shipment.

Falcon Northwest Talon: What you’ll love

(Image credit: Falcon Northwest)

The company's restrained approach to design and meticulous attention to detail set the Talon apart from other gaming PCs on the market. If this stealthy black-clad desktop came in a fairer grey hue or a silver finish, you could easily mistake this PC for a gaming Mac desktop. With its 4mm thick aluminum frame and solid metal construction — unless you opt for the glass side doors — the Talon stands as one of the few PCs that can rival the Mac Pro’s build quality. This makes the Talon a natural choice for discerning gamers with a big budget and game designers working at studios like Epic Games and Oculus. 

Falcon Northwest says its customer base is evenly split between consumers and corporate clients. For consumers, the nice part about ordering from a small operation like Falcon is that the company is extremely responsive. 

(Image credit: Falcon Northwest)

I had complained about paint chipping issues because of the hinge mechanism on the doors of the prior 20th Anniversary Edition of the Talon a few years ago, and the company immediately invested $11,000 to retool its processes to fix the problem. This level of service and responsiveness is practically unheard of when dealing with a larger PC OEM, and Falcon’s attention to detail is second to none.

Fit and finish is top notch, as expected from a $7,000 system. And while Falcon’s competitors may claim that their cases are also constructed from metal, they're encased in sheet metal and none come with the 4mm-thick panels of aluminum that are present on the Talon. This heft and durability take the Talon from digital battle station to feeling like a real-world tank. Every detail is thought out — including a foam headliner on the inside top of the case to dampen noise — to make the Talon feel like a luxury car. This is the Bentley of gaming PCs.

The Falcon is slightly more compact than Apple's premium desktop in all dimensions at 8.75 x 15.5 x 17.25 inches (222.3mm x 393.7mm x 438.2mm). The Mac Pro, for comparison, measures 20.8 x 17.7 x 8.58 inches. And as a mid-sized tower, the Talon’s dimensions are closer to that of Digital Storm’s Redux gaming PC. Both desktops share similar measurements, but the Talon’s use of extruded metal in the construction gives it a heftier feel and a more sophisticated aesthetic when compared to the Redux’s use of a plastic front plate with RGB-lit fan design.

This current iteration of the Talon has grown slightly bigger in volume over the prior 20th Anniversary Edition. Falcon Northwest founder Kelt Reeves says this increased space is used to accommodate larger GPUs, like the RTX 3090 Ti that’s loaded on our review system, and larger motherboards to support AMD’s Threadripper Pro.

(Image credit: Falcon Northwest)

Given our RTX 3090 Ti GPU's weight, Falcon did a terrific job securing the graphics card to the frame while not using expanding foam packs during shipment. The company had built in retention mechanisms that can accommodate larger cards like our 3090 Ti to help protect the GPU during shipment and also prevent GPU sag over time without having to resort to gimmicky solutions, like EVGA’s string that hooks on to the top of the case or ASUS’ use of a jack placed on top of the power supply shroud to keep the card in place.

And despite its compact stature, the Talon can handle a dual-GPU setup, but with NVIDIA dropping support for NVLink on all but the most premium 3000-series cards, Falcon doesn’t recommend going with a multi-GPU configuration unless you’re stepping up to professional workstation RTX A-series graphics.

(Image credit: Falcon Northwest)

Another big change coming off of the prior 20th Anniversary Edition is that this current iteration ships with an additional fan on the rear near the GPU. This gives the Talon a total of five fans, effectively reducing internal temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius. In use, the added fan didn’t produce more audible noise, and with the extra cooling, I was able to squeeze up to 10 extra frames out of more intense games while the GPU was under heavy load.

“The actual PCBs on the Ampere generation of NVIDIA cards are really pretty short,” Reeves explained. “And so that fan near the back is actually kind of the primary fan, but it's the furthest from the fans at the front where most of the fresh air is coming in on most systems. So we just decided to kind of play with it. And normally in case design, you don't ever want to point fans at each other because they will just basically create dead air. So you'll notice that fan in the back has a really low RPM and is super quiet for just a little bit of added intake. And normally we vent all those slots in the back end anyways, so the [graphics] card will be able to pull from its own fan, but that little rear fan gives that an extra little kick as well. But, we've been designing our cases to intake from the back for a while now.”

(Image credit: Falcon Northwest)

The fan is optional, however, and the system will perform fine without it. With the fan installed, you won't be able to install additional cards inside the Talon, like a dedicated sound card.

Reeves showed me prototypes of Talon case designs in the past, some with cutouts on top, which in theory would be a good idea for additional ventilation. However, in practice, those additional top vents produced the opposite effect, which means that particular prototype never made it to production. Reeves used his pilot background and his aeronautics engineer degree to design airflow in the Talon and allow this desktop to soar over the competition.

One thing that’s carried over from the previous major Talon redesign is the option to have solid aluminum doors or glass doors, which are mounted on rear hinges that allow the panels to open from the front and swing outwards. If you opt for both types of doors, swapping out is extremely easy — you just need to lift the door up and off the hinge.

Befitting the desktop’s name, the Talon looks like a bird ready to take flight when the doors on both sides are open. For added customization, Falcon also offers UV-printing options on either or both doors and the front panel for an added cost, and we chose to have the Windows Central logo on our tinted glass doors while keeping the front clean. We can pop on the metal door for a more discrete workstation if we want a more subdued desk-side aesthetic.

(Image credit: Chuong Nguyen)

In battle station mode, however, the glass door is the better option, allowing Falcon’s recent embrace of RGB lighting to shine through. Unlike competing systems, the implementation of RGB lighting is more restrained, and the thoughtful execution gives the Talon a more sophisticated and refined look. RGB can be haphazardly applied on cheaper rigs, and the result can appear garish.

Keeping in line with the Talon’s premium aesthetics, all the ports are neatly arranged to maintain the desktop’s minimalist design. Quick access ports are aligned at the top towards the front of the unit, and here you’ll find two USB-A ports, a USB-C port, and a headphone jack along with a power button. On the rear, you’ll find additional audio, USB-A, and USB-C ports, two Thunderbolt ports, a 2.5G Ethernet jack, and video ports for connecting to displays.

Given the wide-swinging doors and the large case size, there is plenty of space to make upgrades in the future. Accessing the internals does not require tools, and the door is held shut when closed via magnets. Like the case, cables are also stealthily wrapped in black braided fabric. All the cables are well organized to keep things tidy, and you’ll be able to appreciate the thoughtful cable management work through the right door.

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BenchmarkRedux PC (Core i7, RTX 3080)Falcon Talon (Core i9, RTX 3090 Ti)
Geekbench 51,9352,230
Row 1 - Cell 0 14,58621,502
CPU-Z797882
Row 3 - Cell 0 9,29611,993
Cinebench R231,9452,254
Row 5 - Cell 0 22,96729,145
PCMark 108,5769,503
3DMark Time Spy21,23623,412
3DMark Fire Strike35,21343,201
3DMark Port Royal13,00815,002

With a 12th Gen Intel Core i9-12900KS with 16 cores of processing power and NVIDIA's top-of-the-line GeForce RTX 3090 Ti graphics, the Talon delivers insane performance levels. Gamers who want better bang for the budget can step down to an RTX 3080, which typically sits about 10 to 20 percent slower than the beefy 3090 Ti but shaves off nearly $1,500 off the build cost.