Falcon Northwest FragBox Review: Tiny Gaming PC, Big Performance

Falcon Northwest FragBox (2023): The Ultimate Portable, High-Performance Gaming PC

falcon northwest fragbox front angled illuminated review

Falcon Northwest FragBox SFF Gaming PC: $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.

hot flat
  • The fastest hardware money can buy
  • Impressive thermal management
  • Low noise levels
  • Premium fit and finish
  • Space and extra cabling for upgrades
  • Excellent warranty support
not flat
  • Price Premium
  • Minimal Additional Expansion
hothardware editors choice 103

As we revealed on the day Intel officially launched the world’s first 6GHz CPU, the Core i9-13900KS, the folks over at Falcon Northwest had hooked us up with one of their compact FragBox PCs bearing this hot new processor. We broke cover on our FragBox review unit to give folks a taste of what the Core i9-13900KS coul do, but now we’re back with our full review of this impressive little machine. The FragBox we tested features not only the best consumer-class processor that Intel has to offer, but also NVIDIA’s top of the line GeForce RTX 4090. Pair those two powerhouses with 32GB of DDR5 RAM, a 2TB PCIe 4 M.2 SSD, and a 1000w power supply, arange it all into a portable chassis, and you’ve got one potent package primed for some serious LAN party action.

The FragBox dates back decades, with Falcon Northwest’s marketing material proudly displaying images of the FragBox in PC hardware magazines from the early 2000s. Despite this history, we’ve somehow never reviewed one of these systems over the similarly lengthy run of our publication. That said, we’ve reviewed and given away multiple versions of Falcon Northwest’s Tiki and Talon gaming rigs. Having been impressed by these systems over the years, we were eager to finally get our hands on a FragBox for review.

Falcon Northwest FragBox Features & Specifications

The FragBox makes a good impression right from the get go, arriving in a large, well-packaged box that should protect it from sustaining any damage during transit. The system also comes with a manual and a checklist that runs through Falcon Northwest’s entire hardware and software installation and setup process prior to shipping.

falcon northwest fragbox front angled review

Once out of its packaging, the FragBox appears and feels sturdy and well-put-together. There’s absolutely nothing chintzy about the machine’s fit and finish. The top of the case features an arched handle that makes the system easy to pickup without obstructing air flow from the hexagon-patterned venting below. We very much appreciate the added utility of the handle, particularly given that it appears as a natural element of the case design, though we’ll note that we found the handle to be best for simply lifting the FragBox.

When carrying the system by the handle for any extended period, the metal edges have a tendency to dig into your hand, quickly making it an uncomfortable experience. Fortunately, the FragBox is still relatively light for a desktop PC at 27 pounds, making it fairly non-strenuous task to lift the box by the handle, then carry it in your arms. This level of portability makes us want to seek out LAN parties, while our heavy and unwieldy full-sized tower PCs do not.

falcon northwest fragbox front review

Falcon Northwest’s logo is emblazoned on the front of the case and illuminated by RGB LEDs. This lighting zone is customizable and syncs with the LED lighting of the internal components, which shines through the vents on both sides of the case. The illuminated Falcon Northwest logo accents the otherwise uniformly black chassis made of solid aluminum. One might note that the FragBox isn’t as flashy or fancy-looking as some other systems, but we like the more subdued design. This system looks like it means business, which befits its name.

falcon northwest fragbox front top buttons 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, one 3.5mm combination audio jack, and one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port. We appreciate that the FragBox features a selection of different ports up front for easy access. While many manufacturers are transitioning to USB Type-C as a universal standard, many useful accessories and devices, particularly in the PC gaming space, still use USB Type-A and aux ports.

falcon northwest fragbox rear review

An even larger selection of ports sits around back, including two jacks 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 have all of their USB needs met. The motherboard’s port selection also includes one HDMI 2.0 port and one DisplayPort 1.4 port, both of which are driven by the Core i9-13900KS’ integrated graphics. However, most buyers won’t need to make use of these two ports when the beefy GeForce RTX 4090 offers one HDMI 2.1 port and three DisplayPort 1.4a hook-ups.

Aside from the ports, Falcon Northwest hides a little 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 thumb screws that secure the side and top panels to the case. These captive screws are integrated into the panels with metal retainers that keep hold of the screws when loosened so you can't misplace thesm. 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 double duty, pushing hot air propeled by the fans of the PNY RTX 4090 up and out of the case. During our testing, we found that the 280mm radiator and twin fans were sufficient to cool the power-hungry CPU and GPU and prevent thermal throttling, which is quite impressive, given the FragBox’s small form factor.

falcon northwest fragbox left side open review

The AIO cooler up top is aided by a pair of smaller fans mounted to the left side of the case that suck in fresh cool air to help keep internal temps down. We should also note here that the ability to remove not only the two sides of the case, but also the top, makes cleaning and tinkering with the FragBox easier than one might expect given its compact size. The placement of the 280mm cooler to the right of the GPU makes for a window through which one could remove and replace the graphics card without any further disassembly.

This kind of direct access to a component commonly upgraded in the life of a PC makes the system more buyer-friendly. That said, if the growth in the size of graphics cards continues, you may not be able to fit an upgraded GPU through the provided access window. The shrouds on some vendors’ graphics cards are already so big we’re afraid they would prove to be a very tight fit inside the FragBox.

falcon northwest fragbox right side open review

Meanwhile, the right side of the FragBox is quite roomy, with the microATX motherboard leaving quite a bit of room near the front of the case. Additionally, the choice of a water cooler over a large heat sink and fan tower allows the power supply to sit almost directly above the CPU. The power cables are also sized and routed well so as to not take up excess space. Thankfully, the FragBox came packaged with plenty of extra cables for those wanting to add drives or swap out components and re-route the cables.

falcon northwest fragbox two loose motherboard screws review

Overall, we are quite impressed with the form factor, build quality, and attention to detail exhibited by Falcon Northwest’s FragBox. The only real concern we had during our physical inspection of the system was elicited by a rattling sound we heard while moving the system around. We removed one of the side panels and discovered two loose screws that were sliding around the bottom of the case. Fortunately, the motherboard was still well attached to the chassis by the remaining screws, so no damage was sustained during transport. After finding the two loose screws, we simply returned them to their appropriate places, tightened them down, and haven’t had any issues since. Nonetheless, we hope that loose screws aren’t a common problem among FragBoxes and other Falcon Northwest products.

With that said, let's fire up the FragBox and see what it can do...

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