Falcon Northwest Talon (2021) Review: Alder Lake Takes Flight

The Bird Of Prey Gets A Hearty Intel 12th Gen Core Platform Update

falcon northwest talon alder side
It hasn't been long since we last took a look at the 2021 version of the Falcon Northwest Talon, and found it to be impressive. However, it’s finally time for Intel’s Alder Lake 12th Gen Core processor launch and we all know what that means -- a deluge of reviews with tons of charts and opinions for you to digest. Of course, we've got you covered, too, with our in-depth review of the Intel Core i9-12900K and the Core i5-12600K, for everyone wanting to sink their teeth into the finer points of Intel's new platform.

However, this launch also marks a chance for OEM system builder refreshes, and that's what we’re digging into with this new gaming PC. The latest from Falcon Northwest is its newly-minted Talon system, and it's all about that Alder Lake platform. In fact, it literally screams Intel. Typically with these systems, most builders either go jet black or pick a popular, flashy color from a few options. However, with this incarnation of the Talon, Falcon has partnered with Intel for a custom aesthetic and Intel branding that is anything but subtle. The top of the case is devoid of any ventilation, but has one of the largest Intel logos we’ve ever seen on a computer chassis.

falcon northwest talon alder open

The front of the case is solid with a delightful Falcon logo that is backlit and RGB controllable for those not quite into Intel blue. The side panels are hinged at the rear and swing open like doors, which makes accessing the interior extremely simple. Extra care was taken with the assembly of the system, with the stock power supply cables getting a nice upgrade with custom sleeving. Overall the case is compact, well laid out, and assembled with care. But we all know what makes a high-end gaming rig really tick, and it’s not the case...

Beauty Is Skin Deep. This Falcon Was Raised On Alder Lake

The Talon we received came packed with the Intel Core i9-12900K. That’s Intel’s latest flagship 12th Gen Alder Lake CPU built on the Intel 7 process node. What makes the i9-12900K so interesting is its hybrid architecture, consisting of 16 cores with 24 logical threads for processing.

falcon nw alder lake specs
falcon northwest talon alder backside

12th Gen Core chips achieve this asymmetric core / thread count by leveraging 8 Performance cores with HyperThreading support, in conjunction with an additional 8 smaller cores, called Efficiency cores, that are single-threaded. Paired up with Falcon's semi-custom 280mm AIO cooling unit, the Core i9-12900K is able to run at peak performance while keeping thermals in check. Unfortunately, despite the otherwise ultra-high end nature of the system, full custom liquid or hardline cooling is not offered.
falcon northwest talon alder memory

The new Talon's motherboard is high quality as well, and we like that boutique builders like Falcon Northwest don’t lean towards proprietary components. The choice here was the ASUS ROG Hero Z690. This board is feature-packed with plenty of rear connectivity, including two Thunderbolt ports. We should note that we were informed by Falcon Northwest that they might switch to using the ROG Strix Z690 due to increased availability. That board has a similar feature set, but lower price, which could result in some savings for the buyer.

When it comes to storage, this bad boy serves it up well. You’ll find no spinning rust here, but instead a single Seagate Firecuda 530 4TB NVMe Gen 4 drive, which offers up to 7,000 MB/s of sequential throughput at low latencies for a super-responsive feel, no matter what workload you throw at it.

falcon northwest talon alder rear io

With a 1000 Watt Seasonic power supply you know there’s plenty of power to feed the last crucial piece of the puzzle, the EVGA GeForce RTX 3090. We also want to mention just how glad we are to see Falcon using a rear graphics card support in this rig, so not only is there no GPU sag to be found, it’s also much safer for shipping. When we first took the Talon out of the box, we were temporarily concerned, because it didn't seem like there was anything special holding that beastly (expensive) GPU in place. The box was packaged amazingly well with layers of soft-cell foam, but it seemed there was nothing inside the case keeping the graphics card stable. But there it was; the rear of the graphics card was affixed to a bracket and sturdy rack, which held it stable. More of this please.

falcon northwest talon alder rtx 3090

Letting The Falcon Fly: How We Tested

So, what kind of performance did we get out of this fully loaded config? Overall, the FNW Talon, with its Intel Core i9-12900K and GeForce RTX 3090, didn't disappoint. We should also note that though our system shipped with Windows 10 Pro, which isn't specifically optimized for Alder Lake, Falcon Northwest informed us that this was intentional. Falcon will be offering the system with both Windows 10 Pro and Windows 11, leaving the option up to the buyer. We went ahead with testing as the system was delivered to us, on Windows 10 Pro. We will revisit this at a later date and see if Windows 11 makes a substantial impact on performance.

A Falcon's Vital Signs - Power Consumption, Thermals And Acoustics

To measure idle power consumption, we let the Falcon Northwest Talon boot to the Windows desktop and settle for a few minutes. Once the value on the Kill-A-Watt stabilized, we recorded that value as the idle consumption. The loaded figure represents perhaps a slightly unrealistic scenario in which the system is tasked with running both Prime95's Small FFT test and a 2560x1440 Furmark stress test simultaneously. This desktop PC was plugged directly into our Kill-A-Watt meter for all measurements, so only its total system power draw is being measured here.

power falcon alder lake

When resting at idle the system pulled around 83 watts which isn't bad, considering the amount of horsepower on tap here. Under full load, however, the system pulls just about 620 watts from the wall. At first, that seems quite high, but in it is in line with other high-end gaming PCs.

While under load, we also tracked the system's thermals. The cooling in the Talon consist of a custom 280mm AIO cooler with a pair of aRGB 140mm fans attached to the radiator, a single aRGB 140mm exhaust fan, and three axial fans on its graphics card. Our results were pretty solid, all things considered...
Falcon NW Talon thermals

In this stress test, the Talon's CPU temperature ticked up to the 90°C mark, with its CPU clock speed dropping to about 4.35-4.4GHz after about 15 minutes. The EVGA GeForce RTX 3090 sat between 84-85°C during this test. These are decent thermals considering the somewhat compact nature of the Falcon Northwest's chassis.

Overall, it's a good showing for the Talon and resting thermals are solid as well, with the CPU sitting near ambient room temperature at 24°C and the GPU at the 37°C mark with its idle fan stop feature. In terms of acoustics, under a full gaming workload we measured about 43db a few inches from the side window of the case, which is also tame and respectable.

Storage Subsystem Benchmark Quick-Take

Running the ATTO Disk Benchmark allows us to gauge the speed of the boot drive in the system. In this case, the boot drive is a fast and spacious 4TB Seagate Firecuda 530 NVMe (Gen 4) SSD. Unlike SATA-based SSDs, NVMe drives shuttle data through the PCIe bus for potentially much faster throughput. This particular drive is rated to deliver up to 7GB/s of sequential reads and 6.3GB/s of sequential writes.

Falcon northwest talon atto

The Seagate Firecuda 530 PCIe Gen4 SSD is fast. It may not reach its maximum rated performance in this ATTO Disk Benchmark, but the numbers it does reach are impressive. Over 6,000 MB/s in both reads and writes is plenty of throughput and is among the best we've seen from a boot drive on any of the gaming systems we've tested.

Cinebench R20 Benchmarks

With our disk speed sanity check out of the way, we can move on to assessing general system performance. The first stop is Cinebench R20. This test is based on Maxon’s Cinema 4D modeling software that is used in movie production studios.

cine falcon alder lake

The Alder Lake-powered Falcon Northwest Talon jumps to the top of the chart in our Cinebench R20 tests. The combination of high clocks and Intel's latest Performance Cores in the 12th Gen Core i9-12900K put up some impressive single and multi-threaded numbers here.

Speedometer 2.0 Benchmarks

BrowserBench.org's Speedometer test takes a holistic look at web application performance. This test automatically loads and runs several sample webapps from ToDoMVC.com using the most popular web development frameworks around, including React, Angular, Ember.js, and even vanilla JavaScript. This test is a better example of how systems cope with real web applications, as opposed to a pure JavaScript compute test like JetStream. All tests were performed using the latest version of Chrome.

speedometer falcon alder lake

The latest Falcon Northwest Talon also tops the charts in Speedometer. Alder Lake's hybrid architecture is particularly well suited to lightly threaded, bursty workloads as well, and it shows in this test.

PCMark 10 System Benchmarks

UL Benchmarks' suite of tests have been the go-to system benchmarks since the late ‘90s. We ran the Alienware Aurora R10 through PCMark 10, which is designed to gauge the system performance in everyday use case scenarios with GPU acceleration-enabled.

pcmark10 falcon alder lake

The Falcon Northwest Talon put up the second best overall score of the bunch in PCMark 10. While its performance is strong, it's not quite as strong as what we saw in our standalone Core i9-12900K review. Windows 11 should help this result, however. Once we've completed re-testing this rig post-update, we'll revisit some of these benchmark scores.

3DMark Time Spy Graphics Benchmarks

3DMark is a synthetic GPU benchmark for assessing graphics (GPU) and physics (CPU) performance. 3DMark supports both DX11 and DX12, depending on the particular test being run, which makes it handy for testing GPUs of various performance levels. We used the Time Spy benchmark, 3DMark's DirectX 12 test, to push the Falcon Northwest Talon. This test has multiple presets, but the standard Time Spy test is fairly taxing and we have a plethora of reference data, so that's what we stuck with.

3dmark falcon alder lake

3DMark Time Spy also had the newest Falcon Northwest Talon finishing at the top of the heap. The EVGA RTX 3090 and Core i9-12900K make for a potent combination, that should offer killer performance in gaming and graphics workloads.

Middle Earth: Shadow Of War Game Benchmarks

Middle Earth: Shadow of War is a fun and beautiful title set in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings universe. To test the game's performance relative to other systems, we set the resolution to 2560x1440 and turned the visuals up to the Ultra preset.

sow1 falcon alder lake

This is a solid showing from the new Talon with a nice uplift over the previous generation.

sow falcon alder lake

Gaming at 4K is far more GPU bound, so the deltas separating the system are smaller here. Still, the new Core i9-12900K and custom EVGA GeForce RTX 3090 have enough horsepower to push the Talon to the top of the chart.

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider Benchmarks

The finale in the rebooted Tomb Raider trilogy, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is easily the best-looking of the bunch. It's the latest installment in the series for heroin Lara Croft, driven with a revamped DX12 game engine. SotTR also supports visual effects like Ambient Occlusion, Depth of Field, Dynamic Foliage, Bloom shaders, Tessellation and more.

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Shadow Of The Tomb Raider benefits both from Alder Lake's newer, higher-performing CPU core architecture and its increased core counts. Couple the Core i9-12900K to an RTX 3090, and its no surprise this latest Talon outruns all of the previous-gen systems we've tested.

Metro Exodus Benchmarks

Metro Exodus is based on author Dmitry Glukhovsky's series of Metro novels that started with Metro 2033 back in 2005. That first installment in the series was followed by Metro Last Light and later, Last Light Redux. Like other games in the series, Metro Exodus follows a post-apocalyptic story line that takes place in the former Russian Federation. The game features advanced graphics and visuals and also supports NVIDIA’s RTX and DLSS technologies.

metro1 falcon alder lake

When run using its Ultra Quality preset at a high resolution, Metro Exodus is completely GPU bound, hence the similar performance from all of the RTX 3090-powered rigs here.

metro2 falcon alder lake
The same hold true when enabling Ray Tracing and DLSS. Though the visuals are enhanced with more realistic lighting, and DLSS boosts performance, ultimately the game is still GPU bound. Though, the Falcon Northwest Talon still technically lands at the top of the chart.

Falcon Northwest Intel 12th Gen Core-Themed Talon Final Thoughts & Conclusion

Falcon Northwest was excited to get the new and updated version of the Talon to the market, and for good reason. The previous version of this gaming desktop was very well-received for many of the same reasons we like this update -- it's a high-performing, attractive, well thought out package. From its tried and true EVGA GeForce RTX 3090 GPU to its brand new top-of-the-line Intel Core i9-12900K -- and all the platform enhancements that come with it like PCIe Gen 5, DDR5 and WIFI-6E -- Falcon Northwest left no stone unturned. The inclusion of its massive and snappy 4TB Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD was a welcomed addition as well.

falcon northwest talon alder final desk
Find The New Falcon Northwest Talon At Falcon-NW.com

While all of the powerful gear in this rig obviously commands a premium, keep in mind that Falcon Northwest also offers a wide array of customization options. Our review system is about as high-end as they get, and it's got a customized chassis to boot. Opt for some lower end hardware and one of the standard chassis options, and the price will drop considerably. But we digress...

Overall, our experience with this system was very satisfying right from the get to -- from the opening of the double boxed packaging, to the multiple layers of soft-cell protective foam, to the clear, concise set instructions for newcomers. The Talon's immaculate custom cabling job and bracket-secured graphics card are more of those little touches that really add to the premium experience. In fact, the Talon's chassis is so well-constructed it makes many aftermarket options feel cheap in comparison. Yes, the internals consist mostly off-the-shelf parts, but they're assembled and cable managed with such care that everything seems like a perfect fit.

falcon northwest talon alder front quarter

The only concern with this system is going to echo our earlier complaints from our coverage of the previous-gen  Talon, and that's its lack of custom water cooling options. The included 280MM AIO is nice, with tasteful aRGB rings around the fans and a prominent Falcon Northwest logo on the CPU pump/block, and it performs well too. This system's thermals were good, but when you're looking for an exotic high-end boutique system like this, some users might want a custom hardline cooling option as well.

Regardless, if you're willing to throw down the cash for a Falcon Northwest Talon -- our top-end, custom config costs a cool $6,795 -- you'll be treated to a premium experience from beginning to end. In short, if you're considering a high-end pre-built gaming PC in these crazy times that aren't exactly conducive to building your own, Falcon Northwest's new Talon is a fantastic option that's attractive and highly customizable.
hothardware recommended
  • Excellent Build Quality
  • Top-Notch Performance
  • Backed By One Of The "OG" Premium System Builders
  • Great Component Selection
  • Good Thermals And Acoustics
  • Premium Pricing On Top-End Configs
  • No Custom Liquid Cooling Options

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