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Review: Falcon Northwest's console-sized, 18-core micro PC is gloriously overkill

Gordon Mah Ung | May 28, 2015
Size doesn't matter: Falcon packs a 36-thread CPU, GeForce Titan X and the fastest NVME SSD into a PC not much bigger than a game console.

Size doesn't matter. Nothing proves that more true than Falcon Northwest's new Tiki, which packs the most power per cubic inch I've ever seen in a PC.

One look at these specs will have you crying nerd tears of joy. Falcon jammed an 18-core Xeon E5-2699 V3 CPU inside the Tiki's 4-inch wide case. And yes, that CPU has Hyper-Threading, so be prepared to feel your jaw slap your face after it has bounced off the floor when you pull up the Task Manager in Windows and see the Tiki's thread count: 36.

It doesn't stop there though. Falcon taps none other than Nvidia's beastly GeForce GTX Titan X for graphics. Besides being able to play many of today's games at 4K resolution by itself--though you'll still want a G-sync panel in my opinion--it's also a tour de force of specsmanship with 12GB of RAM and a GPU core with 3,072 shader units.

That thud was your jaw hitting the floor

Jaw not on ground yet? It won't resist this: For storage, the Tiki packs none other than Intel's cutting-edge 750-series NVMe SSD, and for kicks, a 6TB hard drive and Blu-ray burner.

Remember: The Tiki does packs all that firepower into a chassis 4-inches wide, 13.25-inches tall and 13-inches deep. Impossible! After all, you're thinking, you can't get an LGA2011-V3 CPU into such a small machine, much less an 18-core Xeon.

That may have been true last year, but this spring Asrock released its crazy X99E-ITX/AC motherboard, which did what others told me was impossible: Put a massive LGA2011-V3 socket into a tiny Mini ITX motherboard. You see, the X99 chipset and its big-boy CPUs feature quad-channel memory controllers, and that means you need four pieces of RAM.

Besides the LGA2011-V3 socket being physically larger than the typical consumer LGA1150 socket, also including support for four pieces of full-size DDR4 modules is the (theoretically) impossible part. But Asrock thought outside the box and decided to simply leave two of the memory slots out.

There's a cost to this in memory bandwidth though. Rather than quad-channel, you end up with dual-channel RAM. I measured an X99 system with quad-channel DDR4/2400 RAM at 55GBps of bandwidth. The Tiki is has less than half that, at 26GBps using DDR4/2133. 

Falcon Northwest's console-sized PC may give up memory bandwidth, but at least it has plenty of memory capacity. Despite its size, the Tiki I received for testing had 32GB of ECC RAM in it, and Falcon just certified 64GB ECC modules.

The real star is the CPU

The real star of the show is the CPU though: The 18-core Xeon 2699 V3 chip with a base clock frequency of 2.6GHz and a Turbo clock speed of 3.6GHz. Although it clips into the standard LGA-2011 V3 socket, it's actually physically larger, no doubt to accommodate the extra cores.

 

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