Size doesn’t matter. At least that’s what Falcon Northwest is saying with its latest entry into the micro-tower war, the Tiki, which offers full-size tower performance in a teeny, tiny case.
In case you don’t know, the micro-tower war is the place to be right now. Traditionally, slim micro-towers (as opposed to the typical Shuttle-style shoe-box form factors) have been bereft of performance. That all changed earlier this year when Alienware hit the market with its X51. Just bigger than a typical first-generation console, the X51’s innovation was a desktop-class GPU and CPU for a decent price. While groundbreaking, the X51 made some compromises, such as forcing you to choose between a hard drive or SSD, and offering only midrange GPU options (currently) and no ability to overclock.
The Tiki makes no such compromises, as one peep at the spec sheet makes clear. The Tiki we received packs a 3.5GHz Core i7-3770K overclocked to 4.2GHz, two 512GB Crucial M4 SSDs in RAID 0, a 3TB HDD, and a powerhouse GeForce GTX 680 card.
Given its superb performance, the Tiki deserves to be placed on a pedestal—luckily, it comes with one.
So how does the Tiki perform? Compared to our newly minted zero-point reference system, it takes a back seat. As good as Ivy Bridge is, a quad-core can’t beat a hexa-core in multithreaded tasks: The Tiki gets punched in its petite nose in our Premiere Pro CS6 test, as well as in the x264 HD 5.0 runs. A single GeForce GTX 680 can’t touch the GeForce GTX 690 in our zero-point, either. But it’s not a total loss. The efficiency of the newer 22nm Ivy Bridge cores comes through in our Stitch.Efx 2.0 and ProShow Producer 5.0 benchmarks, which can’t exploit all the threads in a hexa-core.
More important, though, is how well the Tiki does against the X51. We ran our older benchmark suite to find out, and it wasn’t pretty. The Tiki crushed the X51 in all of our performance tests by double digits, and in one—Stalker: CoP—by triple digits. The Alienware X51 hit back in a very important benchmark, though: Wallet Mark 2012. Though far slower in most benchmarks, the X51 weighs in at $950. The Tiki reviewed here tilts the scales at $4,126. Falcon defends its price and says the config you see here was picked to show off the full-tower capabilities of the micro-tower. The company points out that the Tiki can be had in basic configurations for $1,700, but if you want fangs-out performance (and cost) you can get that, too. Plus, company officials say, the Tiki is aluminum and steel rather than plastic and steel and comes complete with that cool-looking polished granite stand.
The heavy stand, by the way, is designed to keep the Tiki from tipping over, which can happen when systems get this thin. Unfortunately, the stand and the airflow of the unit also mean it can’t be run in a horizontal position, which is one of the most pleasing aspects of the X51.
We were also quite keen on the X51’s support for Nvidia’s Optimus technology, which seamlessly switches between the integrated and discrete graphics. Only Alienware has that power-saving feature today. In the Tiki’s defense, though, the power efficiency of Nvidia’s magical GeForce GTX 680 lets the Falcon sip just 65 watts at idle, which isn’t that far from the X51’s 50 watts at idle.
Yes, the Tiki wins on a lot of fronts, but we honestly don’t think the machine takes out its intended target. The X51’s price is mighty enticing, and the fact that it slides horizontally into a media center cabinet makes it fairly unique. Still, we have to give the Tiki props—it’s the fastest tiny machine we’ve ever tested.
Falcon Northwest Tiki
Battleship the game
No‑compromises performance in a micro-tower.
Battleship the movie
Doesn’t lay flat; very pricey
Intel 3.5GHz Core i7-3770K @ 4.2GHz
Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe
GeForce GTX 680
Two 512MB Crucial M4 SSD, 3TB Western Digital Caviar Green HDD
Optiarc BC-5650H Blu-ray combo drive
Case / PSU
Custom / 450‑watt power brick
Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)
Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)
ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)
x264 HD 5.0 (fps)
Batman: Arkham City (fps)
Our current desktop test bed consists of a hexa-core 3.2 GHz Core i7-3930k @ 3.8 GHz, 8GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, on an Asus Sabertooth X79 motherboard. We are running a GeForce GTX 690, an OCTZ Vertex 3SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.