Falcon Northwest FragBox review: Tiny gaming PC, big performance

Falcon Northwest FragBox (2023): the ultimate high-performance portable gaming PC

Falcon Northwest FragBox SFF Gaming Computer: $5,489 (as tested)

The Falcon Northwest FragBox takes the crown as the fastest pre-built PC we’ve tested to date, even with its relatively small and portable form factor.

warm apartment

  • The fastest hardware money can buy
  • Impressive thermal management
  • Low sound levels
  • Premium fit and finish
  • Additional space and wiring for upgrades
  • Excellent warranty support

not flat

  • price premium
  • Minimum additional extension

hothardware editors choice 103
As we revealed the day Intel officially launched the world’s first 6GHz processor, the Core i9-13900KS, the folks at Falcon Northwest hooked us up with one of their compact FragBox PCs equipped with this new processor. We broke the cover of our FragBox review unit to give people a taste of what the Core i9-13900KS could do, but now we’re back with our full review of this awesome little machine. The FragBox we tested not only features Intel’s best mainstream processor, but also NVIDIA’s high-end GeForce RTX 4090. Pair these two powerhouses with 32GB of DDR5 RAM, a 2TB PCIe 4 M.2 SSD, and a 1000W power supply, pack it all into a portable chassis, and you’ve got a powerful package ready for some serious LAN party action.

The FragBox dates back decades, with Falcon Northwest marketing materials proudly displaying images of the FragBox in hardware magazines from the early 2000s. Despite this history, we’ve somehow never reviewed one of these systems during the same duration of our publication. That said, we have reviewed and distributed several versions of Falcon Northwest’s Tiki and Talon gaming rigs. After being impressed with these systems over the years, we were eager to finally get our hands on a FragBox for review.

Falcon Northwest FragBox Features and Specifications

The FragBox makes a good impression right off the bat, arriving in a large, well-packaged box that should protect it from any damage in transit. The system also comes with a manual and checklist that walks through the entire process of installing and configuring Falcon Northwest hardware and software before shipping.

Falcon Northwest Fragbox Front Angle Review
Once out of its packaging, the FragBox appears and feels solid and well put together. There is absolutely nothing chintzy about the fit and finish of the machine. The top of the case features an arched handle that makes it easy to pick up the system without obstructing airflow from the hex-patterned ventilation below. We really appreciate the added utility of the handle, especially since it feels like a natural part of the case design, although we note that we found the handle to be best for simply lifting the FragBox.

When carrying the system by the handle for an extended period, the metal edges tend to dig into your hand, quickly making it an uncomfortable experience. Thankfully, the FragBox is still relatively light for a desktop PC at 27 pounds, making it simple enough to lift the box by the handle and then carry it in your arms. This level of portability makes us want to seek out LAN parties, unlike our heavy and unwieldy full-size tower PCs.

falcon northwest fragbox frontal examination
The Falcon Northwest logo is affixed to the front of the case and illuminated by RGB LEDs. This lighting area is customizable and syncs with the internal component LED lighting, which shines through vents on both sides of the case. The illuminated Falcon Northwest logo accents the otherwise uniformly black solid aluminum chassis. It may be noted that the FragBox isn’t as flashy or fancy as some other systems, but we like the more understated design. This system seems to mean business, which befits its name.
falcon northwest fragbox front top button ports review

Above the Falcon Northwest logo and to the left, we find a power button, two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, a 3.5mm combo audio jack, and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port. We like that the FragBox has a selection of different ports on the front for easy access. While many manufacturers are moving to USB Type-C as the universal standard, many useful accessories and devices, especially in the PC gaming space, still use USB Type-A and auxiliary ports.

falcon northwest fragbox rear review
An even wider selection of ports can be found on the rear, including two sockets for a dedicated antenna for wireless connectivity. Between eight USB Type-A ports and two USB Type-C ports of various types, buyers should hopefully meet all of their USB needs. The motherboard’s port selection also includes an HDMI 2.0 port and a DisplayPort 1.4 port, both driven by the Core i9-13900KS’ integrated graphics. However, most buyers won’t need to use those two ports when the powerful GeForce RTX 4090 offers one HDMI 2.1 port and three DisplayPort 1.4a connections.

Besides the ports, Falcon Northwest hides a bit of bling on the back of the FragBox in the form of a custom polished plate bearing the buyer’s name. We’d also like to point out the nifty little thumbscrews that secure the side and top panels to the case. These captive screws are built into the panels with metal retainers that hold the screws when loosened so you can’t misplace them. We love neat little touches like this.

falcon northwest fragbox top open review

Removing the top panel, we find Falcon Northwest’s custom all-in-one (AIO) CPU water cooler. This cooler also performs a dual function, pushing hot air powered by the PNY RTX 4090’s fans up and out of the case. In our testing, we found the 280mm radiator and twin fans to be enough to cool the power-hungry CPU and GPU and prevent thermal throttling, which is pretty impressive considering the small form factor. of the FragBox.

falcon northwest fragbox left side open review
The top of the AIO cooler is aided by a pair of smaller fans mounted on the left side of the case which draw in cool cool air to help keep internal temperatures down. It’s also worth noting here that the ability to remove not only both sides of the case, but also the top, makes cleaning and tinkering with the FragBox easier than you might expect given its compact size. . Placing the 280mm cooler to the right of the GPU creates a window through which one can remove and replace the graphics card without further disassembly.

This kind of direct access to a commonly upgraded component over the life of a PC makes the system more buyer-friendly. That said, if the growth in graphics card sizes continues, you may not be able to install an upgraded GPU through the access window provided. Some vendors’ graphics card shrouds are already so big that we’re concerned they won’t fit the FragBox very well.

falcon northwest fragbox right side open review

Meanwhile, the right side of the FragBox is quite spacious, with the microATX motherboard leaving some room near the front of the case. Additionally, the choice of a water cooler over a large heatsink and fan tower allows the power supply to sit almost directly above the CPU. The power cables are also sized and well routed so as not to take up too much space. Luckily, the FragBox comes with plenty of extra cables for those who want to add drives or swap out components and reroute cables.

Falcon Northwest Fragbox review of two loose motherboard screws
Overall, we’re quite impressed with the form factor, build quality, and attention to detail of the Falcon Northwest FragBox. The only real concern we had during our physical inspection of the system was caused by a rattling noise we heard while moving the system. We removed one of the side panels and found two loose screws slipping around the bottom of the case. Luckily, the motherboard was still securely attached to the chassis by the remaining screws, so no damage was sustained during shipping. After finding the two screws loose, we simply put them back in place, tightened them and have had no issues since. Nevertheless, we hope that loose screws are not a common problem among FragBoxes and other Falcon Northwest products.

That said, let’s fire up the FragBox and see what it can do…

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