Falcon Northwest FragBox review: Small gaming PC, big performance

Falcon Northwest FragBox (2023): The ultimate high-performance gaming laptop

falk northwest fragbox front angled lighted review
Falcon Northwest FragBox SFF Gaming PC: $5,489 (As Tested)

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

warm flat

  • The fastest hardware money can buy
  • Impressive thermal management
  • Low noise level
  • Premium fit and finish
  • Space and extra cabling for upgrades
  • Excellent warranty support

not flat

  • Price Premium
  • Minimal additional expansion

hothardware editor's choice 103
As we revealed on the day Intel officially launched the world’s first 6GHz processor, the Core i9-13900KS, the folks at Falcon Northwest had hooked us up with one of their compact FragBox PCs with this new, new processor. We broke cover on 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 impressive little machine. The FragBox we tested has not only the best consumer-class processor that Intel has to offer, but also NVIDIA’s best GeForce RTX 4090. Pair these two powerhouses with 32GB of DDR5 RAM, a 2TB PCIe 4 M.2 SSD, and a 1000w power supply, set all into a portable chassis and you have a powerful package ready for serious LAN parties.

The FragBox dates back several decades, with Falcon Northwest’s marketing materials 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 during our similarly lengthy publication run. That said, we’ve reviewed and given away several versions of Falcon Northwest’s Tiki and Talon gaming rigs. Having been 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

FragBox makes a good impression right from the start, and comes in a large, well-packaged box to protect it from being damaged during transport. The system also comes with a manual and a checklist that walks through Falcon Northwest’s entire hardware and software installation and setup process prior to shipment.

falcon northwest fragbox front angled review
Once the FragBox is out of the packaging, it appears and feels solid and well put together. There is absolutely nothing chintzy about the machine’s fit and finish. The top of the case has a curved handle that makes the system easy to retrieve without obstructing the airflow from the hexagonal patterned ventilation below. We really appreciate the added utility of the handle, especially given that it appears as a natural element of the case design, although we will note that we found the handle to be the best for simply lifting the FragBox.

When carrying the system by the handle for an extended period of time, the metal edges tend 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 lifting the box by the handle and then carrying it in your arms fairly effortless. This level of portability makes us want to seek out LAN parties, whereas our heavy and unwieldy full-size tower PCs don’t.

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 can be customized and synchronized with the LED lighting of the internal components, which shines through the vents on both sides of the case. The illuminated Falcon Northwest logo highlights the otherwise plain black chassis made of solid aluminum. One may note that the FragBox is not as flashy or fancy as some other systems, but we like the more subdued design. This system looks like it means business, befitting 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, a 3.5mm combo audio jack and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port. We appreciate 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 a universal standard, many useful accessories and devices, especially 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 on the back, including two connectors for a dedicated antenna for wireless connectivity. Between eight USB Type-A ports and two USB Type-C ports of different types, buyers should hopefully have all their USB needs covered. The motherboard’s port selection also includes one HDMI 2.0 port and one DisplayPort 1.4 port, both of which are powered by the Core i9-13900KS’s integrated graphics. However, most buyers won’t need to use these two ports when the powerful GeForce RTX 4090 offers one HDMI 2.1 port and three DisplayPort 1.4a connections.

Aside from the ports, Falcon Northwest hides some bling on the back of the FragBox in the form of a specially 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 fixing screws are integrated into the panels with metal holders that hold the screws when they are loosened, so you can’t misplace them. We love nice little details 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 does double duty, pushing hot air driven by the PNY RTX 4090’s fans up and out of the case. During our testing, we found that the 280mm radiator and dual 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 on top is aided by a pair of smaller fans mounted on the left side of the case that draw in fresh cool air to keep internal temperatures 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 fixing the FragBox easier than one might expect given its compact size. The placement of the 280mm cooler to the right of the GPU provides a window through which to remove and replace the graphics card without further disassembly.

This type of direct access to a component that is often upgraded during a PC’s lifetime 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 access window that comes with it. The sleeves on some vendors’ graphics cards are already so large that we’re afraid they’ll turn out to fit very well into 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 space near the front of the case. In addition, the choice of a water cooler rather than a large heatsink and fan tower means that the power supply can sit almost directly above the CPU. The power cables are also dimensioned and routed well so that they do not take up excess space. Fortunately, the FragBox came packed with plenty of extra cables for those looking to add drives or replace components and reroute the cables.

falcon northwest fragbox two loose motherboard screws review
Overall, we’re pretty 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 prompted by a rattling sound we heard while moving the system around. We removed one of the side panels and discovered two loose screws sliding around the bottom of the case. Fortunately, the motherboard was still firmly attached to the chassis by the remaining screws, so no damage was sustained in transit. After finding the two loose screws, we simply returned them to their correct locations, tightened them down, and have had no problems since. Still, we hope that loose screws are not 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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