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Boutique PC builders: When you want the very best

By Bill O'Brien
November 16, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Falcon Northwest

Another elder of boutique builders, Falcon Northwest was founded in 1992. In those days, games such as flight simulators placed tremendous demands on a PC's CPU and graphics card. Falcon picked up the ball and has been running with it ever since.

Boutique Builders
Falcon Mach V

Falcon's current lineup consists of the Mach V, Talon and FragBox desktops, accompanied by Falcon's portables: the DRX, TLX and netbook-esque I/O.

The Mach V brand has been in production since 1992. With a 3-GHz Intel Core i7 850 processor, 6GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTS 450 graphics card and a 500GB hard drive, the base $1,903 unit is hardly a slouch. You can bump it up to a Core i7 Extreme processor, 12GB of memory, dual ATI HD 5970 graphics cards, two hard drives and an SSD; the grand total for that is $6,897.

To really impress your buds, you can add a full-on custom paint job or one of Falcon's own designs. The cases are hand-painted using high-quality automotive paint. For example, the Flames motif will set you back another $1,250. My favorite, the Red Rain paint scheme, almost looks three-dimensional and costs $900.

According to Falcon Northwest founder Kelt Reeves, the company recently completed a customized FragBox -- a small form-factor PC measuring 8 x 10.75 x 14.75 in. -- with a purple flame paint scheme and a price tag of $17,000.

Falcon's laptops come with displays measuring 17 (DRX), 15.6 (TLX) and 13.3 (I/O) in. Size and heat restrictions limit the base $1,459 I/O, a 13.3-in. notebook that's the "baby" of the group, to hard drive upgrades (up to a 500GB hard drive or 256GB SSD).

The 17-in. DRX, however, which starts at about $4,200 for a Core i7 950 (3.06-GHz) CPU, 6GB of memory and a 320GB hard drive, lets you upgrade to a Core i7 Extreme CPU and as much as 12GB of memory for about $5,400 in total. It's a power-hungry portable that will go through a 12-cell lithium-ion battery in about 45 minutes of DVD playback. A dual battery pack option ($169) will add another 45 minutes, for a total battery life of 90 minutes.

A 30-day money-back guarantee covers computer purchases. While the Talon and the laptops have only a one-year warranty, the Mach V and the FragBox come with coverage for three years. In addition, the Mach V, the FragBox and the laptops come with one year of overnight service, including parts, labor and overnight shipping on the systems for the duration of the Falcon Overnight service period.

At a Glance

Falcon Northwest

Phone: 1-88-FALCON1
Business start date: April 1992
Desktop lines: Mach V, Talon, FragBox
Laptop lines: EDRX, TLX, I/O
Warranty: Mach V and FragBox: three-year parts & labor; one-year overnight shipping. Talon and laptops: one-year parts, labor and shipping.
Refund policy: 30-day money-back guarantee; restocking fee for special-order items

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