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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.

If you have the threads, CineBench will use them. As you can see from the chart, the 18-cores in the Tiki slaughter the quad core. Although it's not twice the performance of the eight-core Haswell, it still opens up a sizeable performance lead. Let me remind you that the eight-core chip is moving along at a brisk 4GHz while the 18-cores are closer to 2.7GHz, so this isn't bad.

The problem is, finding applications to exploit those cores is tough. Professional workstation applications will utilize the Xeon CPU to its fullest but anything pedestrian will fall short.

For example, we ran our Handbrake encoding test with the same machines as above, plus the six-core MicroExpress B20. The Tiki comes in first again, easily beating the quad-core--but the performance gap between it and the eight-core and six-core box is a lot closer than you'd expect.

That was a shocker because I've never seen Handbrake not eat a core it could see. Part of my problem may be from the workload: a mere 1080p high-bit rate MKV file. Anandtech's Ian Cutress saw a 14-core Xeon V3 chip walk away from all others but only when doing a "double 4K" video load encode with Handbrake.

The take away: To really use hardware this extreme, you better have extreme tasks. Professionals--you know who you are--don't have to worry about it, but average power users might have a problem putting this Xeon to work. 

The cost

You knew there was no way too tip toe around this topic: the cost of the Tiki is as astounding as the specs and performance. You're looking at $9,196 for the lower-end configuration with "just" 32GB of DDR4/2133 RAM. Taking the 64GB option adds $800 to the price tag. Ouch.

It's no surprise, but much of the cost comes from the components inside. The CPU itself (which oddly doen't have a list price on Intel's website) pushes $4,300, I'm told. Still, that puts the Tiki with one Titan X near the price of a system with three Titan X cards in it. Falcon said cost-averse buyers can shave half the price off by going with an six-core chip and lower-end SSD.

Bottom line

For the average power user, the Tiki is overkill.

For the person who knows how to exploit it, though, you'd be hard pressed to find more hardware in a smaller box today. It's practically a small form factor workstation. And don't think Apple's Mac Pro will give it a run for the money. The Mac Pro, believe it or not, still uses an Ivy Bridge CPU and tops out with 12-cores. I didn't test the Mac Pro, but 18 Haswell cores will eat a 12-core Ivy Bridge machine, and the Titan X against three-old FirePro GPU is no race at all.

Overall, the Tiki is an amazingly compact overpowered PC, but anyone who buys it better know why they need it and what they'll use it for.

 

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