A lunch-box computer that eats the lunches of bigger PCs
You know when a little person shows up in a Ben Stiller movie he’s gonna whoop some ass. Sometimes that’s not just a comedy film cliché. Take, for example, Falcon Northwest’s size-challenged Fragbox II.
You’d think this Halfling PC would have a hard time competing with full-tilt, big-ass gaming rigs, but Falcon brings its A-game to the table by managing to stuff an overclocked Core i7 into the wee chassis.
This is the third Fragbox II we’ve seen in recent years and it’s also clearly the fastest. With its overclocked 2.93GHz Core i7-940, 6GB of DDR3/1066, Lite On Blu-ray burner, Seagate 1.5TB Barracuda, and a pair of GeForce GTX 285 cards in SLI, this PC is hardly wanting.
Think of the Fragbox II as Hervé Villechaize mixed with Samuel L. Jackson.
The Fragbox II didn’t set any Lab records in benchmarks. The majority are still held by Velocity Micro’s Raptor Z90, which we reviewed in our Holiday 2008 issue. With its larger and cooler-running desktop case, the Raptor Z9 packed a 3.2GHz Core i7-965 overclocked to 3.66GHz. That’s enough to keep the Falcon’s slightly overclocked 3.06GHz Core i7-940 at bay.
Falcon does keep things competitive, however, by enabling Turbo Mode, which takes the proc to 3.3GHz in some applications. That’s enough to embarrass some far more extravagant rigs. The most glaring example is the $10,000 Hardcore Reactor PC we reviewed in February. The tiny Fragbox II manages to pull even with that monster in our Premiere Pro CS3 benchmark and speeds past the Hardcore in MainConcept Reference encoding and ProShow Producer. Interestingly, the two GeForce GTX 285 cards in the Fragbox II leap ahead of the tri-SLI based Hardcore in Unreal Tournament 3. Why? The Core i7 in the Fragbox II is faster than the Core 2 Extreme in the Hardcore and we run our test at a “low resolution” of 1920x1200. Tri-SLI needs ultrahigh resolutions to overcome its inefficiencies in less GPU-intensive games.
The Fragbox II doesn’t just ace outdated Core 2 Extreme PCs, either; it also manages to put a dent in Gateway’s FX6800, which we reviewed in April. The Fragbox II turns in better scores in Premiere Pro, ProShow, MainConcept, and both gaming tests since it, surprisingly, has higher specs than the larger Gateway. There’s one area where the Fragbox II falls short, though: storage. The Fragbox II’s single 1.5TB drive can’t keep pace with the SSD and RAID 0 Velociraptors elsewhere, and it gets spanked in our drive-intensive Photoshop benchmark. Falcon does sell an uber SSD version of the Fragbox II, but didn’t sample it to us. Pity.
Obviously, you can’t cram the same ton of parts in an SFF box that you can with a full-size desktop machine. But it’s not something that should take anyone by surprise, so we can’t ding the Fragbox II for that. Noise is a different matter. To keep all this hardware cool requires fans. Given the Fragbox II’s size, that means smaller, shriller fans. The Fragbox II isn’t unacceptably loud, but you won’t keep it running in your bedroom at night. You might even notice it if it’s in the room next door. Still, the biggest negative is the price. At $4,632, this rig is hardly budget.
It is, however, smaller and faster than a lot of the gaming machines we’ve seen recently. Heck, it’s even cheaper than some of them too.
Falcon Northwest Fragbox II
Faster than big, bad gaming desktops and almost fits under an airplane seat.
Slightly noisy and could use faster disk I/O for the price.
Intel Core i7-940 (2.93GHz overclocked to 3.06GHz)
DFI JR X58-T3H6 microATX using Intel X58 chipset
Two GeForce GTX 285 in SLI
Seagate Barracude 7200.11 1.5TB
Lite-On PLDS IHES206 Blu-ray burner
Custom / Silverstone 1000 Watts
Falcon Northwest Fragbox II
Premiere Pro CS3
613 sec (+106%)
168 sec (-11%)
556 sec (+154%)
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 RAM on an EVGA 680 SLI motherboard. We run two EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode, Western Digital 150GB Raptor and 500GB Caviar hard drives, LG GGC-H20L, Sound Blaster X-Fi, and PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750 Quad. OS is Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit.