Falcon Northwest Tiki review 2022: Mini PC gaming, perfected

Falcon northwest tiki review 2022 08

Falcon Northwest Tiki

MSRP $3,208.00

“The Falcon Northwest Tiki is an ultra-fast gaming PC that gets just about everything right.”

Pros

  • Blazing 4K gaming performance
  • Fantastic thermal design
  • Top-notch build quality
  • Accessible upgrades
  • Standard three-year warranty
  • Limited fan noise

Cons

  • Limited Intel configurations

Ten years ago, Falcon Northwest introduced the Tiki — a small form factor PC that aimed to pack premium components into the smallest case possible. A decade on, the Tiki is on the same mission to be the best gaming PC for its size. But how does a case optimized for hardware that’s several generations old hold up with the increasing power demand of modern components?

Just as well as it did all those years ago, it turns out. Although the options for Intel configurations are slim, the Tiki still stands out as one of the best desktops you can buy due to its top-notch cooling potential, quiet operation, and fantastic out-of-the-box performance. Expensive as it is, the Tiki feels like a steal for how much it has to offer.

Design

Falcon northwest tiki pc washed in led lights.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The Tiki is remarkably small. It’s small overall, absolutely, but it’s remarkable because it manages to feel like a full-sized gaming PC without taking up that amount of space. Short of an Intel NUC, I’m not aware of any smaller gaming PCs unless you build one yourself.

For specifics, the Tiki is 4 inches wide, 13 inches tall, and 13.6 inches deep — minus the hefty base plate. By comparison, the Tiki’s most direct competitor, the Corsair One i300, is nearly 8 inches wide, 15 inches tall, and 7 inches deep. The Tiki is even smaller than a PlayStation 5.

Despite being so small, nothing in the Tiki is proprietary. It still uses an SFX power supply and a mini-ITX motherboard, so you can upgrade in the future. And unlike the Corsair One, opening the Tiki case won’t void your warranty.

Aesthetically, the Tiki strikes a nice balance. The Falcon Northwest logo on the front lights up with bright RGB, but the case is otherwise a black box. It’s an expertly designed black box, though. There is a bevy of small touches, like captive thumbscrews that are leveled by a spring and a metal plate inside the case that shows your name and manufacturing date, that make the Tiki feel a step above other small form factor options.

The stock build looks great, but Falcon Northwest includes plenty of customization options in its configurator. You can swap the RGB logo out for a flat color — useful for a work setup — and you get UV printing around all sides of the machine. Falcon Northwest has done custom builds for Unreal, Jack Black, and a slew of video games, and all of those same customization options are available to you.

It’s no doubt the Tiki looks great, but small form factor builds live and die based on their thermals and fan noise. Falcon Northwest clearly has both front of mind. Starting with the GPU, I ran FurMark to put as much pressure on it as possible. While drawing the full 350W the RTX 3080 Ti is capable of and even boosting toward 1,900MHz, the GPU never went above 65 degrees Celsius.

The Tiki manages to stay quieter than even a lot of mid-towers.

The CPU was a bit hotter, going up to 86 degrees during an all-core Cinebench run. That’s more on the processor, though. Even with a 240mm all-in-one liquid cooler on an open-air test bench, I saw the exact same peak temperature with the Ryzen 7 5800X3D on its own.

The bigger news is the fan noise. The Tiki certainly ramps up under load, but it manages to stay quieter than even a lot of mid-towers. The Asus ProArt PD5, for example, is much louder than the Tiki despite using less powerful hardware and a case that’s more than double the size. As I’ve said, using the Tiki feels like using a full-sized desktop, and a lot of that comes down to its thermal performance.

What’s in the box?

Extras included with the falcon northwest tiki.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

I normally don’t cover the extras included with gaming PCs, but the Tiki includes too many goodies to ignore. For basics, you get all of the extras that would normally come with the parts in the machine — extra SATA cables, antennas for the Wi-Fi, etc. But once again, Falcon Northwest goes further.

The machine comes with a folder full of detailed support documentation, from starting and maintaining your PC to a detailed dossier of exactly how your PC was configured (even down to the drivers Falcon Northwest installed). Falcon Northwest includes its own USB recovery drive, too, with its own magnetic case.

It’s a call-back to a time when being a system integrator meant more than just building a PC. The Tiki could have shown up on my doorstep without any context and I would have all of the materials I need to start, maintain, and understand the machine without ever touching a search bar. That’s a hell of a lot more than most gaming PCs can say.

Falcon Northwest also includes a branded mug and bag of its very own Falcon Fuel with each order. I’m not considering that as part of my review, of course, but it’s pretty good coffee regardless.

Specs and pricing

CPU AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D
GPU Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti Founder’s Edition
Motherboard Asus ROG Strix B550-I Gaming
Case Falcon Northwest Tiki micro tower
Memory 32GB G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3200
Storage Crucial P2 1TB NVMe SSD
Power supply SilverStone SX SFX-L 80+ Titanium 800W
USB ports Front: 2x USB 3.2, 1x USB-C / Back: 4x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 1x USB-C
Networking 2.5G Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6

Falcon Northwest makes the cost worth it, but there’s no denying that the Tiki is expensive. The cheapest configuration available runs just over $3,200 for a Ryzen 7 5800X3D, RTX 3060 Ti, and 32GB of DDR4-3200 memory. You could spend well over $5,000 for a top-spec machine, though, and even more if you dive into Falcon’s custom case options.

My configuration would run you about $4,230. That’s about $700 more than the mid-tower Maingear Vybe but not much more than other small form factor options. The Corsair One i300, for example, is only around $300 cheaper with a similar configuration.

The difference, for me, is that the Tiki is more than a grab bag of the cheapest parts. You don’t get an OEM-only PSU; you get a SilverStone 80+ Titanium power supply. The RAM modules aren’t the cheapest options for a rated speed; they’re the sought-after TridentZ RGB DIMMs. And things like a three-year warranty that companies like MainGear charge $200 for are included as standard.

There’s no denying that the Tiki is expensive, but Falcon Northwest makes it feel like every dollar goes further. You don’t need to look further than the HP Omen 45L to see that even the best gaming desktops cut corners to hit a lower price. But not Falcon Northwest, and considering how much extra you’re getting for a relatively low premium, the Tiki is beyond worth it.

On the flip side, the Tiki’s focus on a premium build limits the options available, particularly for CPUs. On the Intel platform, for example, you only have access to a Core i9-12900. The AMD options are a bit more forgiving, but Falcon Northwest still restricts the selection to the top parts in the Ryzen 5000 range. The upside is that you have access to things like Nvidia’s Founder Edition cards, which are extremely hard to find in prebuilt PCs, let alone on their own.

Internals and upgradability

Falcon northwest tiki with the side panel off.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Small form factor builds have to sacrifice function for form, but the Tiki once again impresses by sacrificing very little. There are some concessions, such as the AIO cooler sitting directly on top of the CPU and a separate chamber in the top to house the GPU. But you can still access everything in the Tiki and perform upgrades with minimal effort.

The case only opens from one side, and you can see most of what you need from there. You could swap the GPU, RAM, storage, and CPU without dismantling the entire build — and that’s not common for machines as small as the Tiki. The only hurdle is the cooler, which is mounted to the side panel you have to take off. If you’re servicing the machine, I’d recommend dismounting the cooler to avoid tugging on the lines.

Falcon Northwest sets you up for success for upgrades with the Tiki.

Looking inside the machine shows how Falcon Northwest is achieving such excellent thermal performance. Part of it is the vents scattered around the case, providing clear airflow. Two 120mm fans mounted next to the GPU help push the air along, guiding it out of the case instead of just drawing more air in.

It’s hard to upgrade any small PC, and the Tiki is no different. Falcon Northwest sets you up for success, though, with clear access to everything you need and an internal layout that promotes airflow. We usually get one or the other, but the Tiki does both.

Performance

Components lit up inside the falcon northwest tiki.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The Tiki is a gaming PC first, and that’s clear from my processor testing. Before getting to my results, keep in mind that the Ryzen 7 5800X3D isn’t particularly well-suited for CPU-intensive tasks — it’s the best gaming processor, not the best processor overall. Configuring the Tiki with a Ryzen 9 5900X or 5950X would result in much higher productivity performance.

Falcon Northwest Tiki (Ryzen 7 5800X3D) Maingear Vybe (Ryzen 9 5900X) HP Omen 45L (Core i9-12900K)
Cinebench R23 multi-core 14,067 20,802 23,068
Cinebench R23 single-core 1,450 1,597 1,893
Geekbench 5 multi-core 10,633 12,724 15,685
Geekbench 5 single-core 1,599 1,718 1,910
PugetBench for Premiere Pro 880 956 1,025
Handbrake (Seconds, lower is better) 70 N/A 51
Blender Monster 2,809 2,630 N/A
Blender Junkshop 1,600 1,283 N/A
Blender Classroom 1,375 1,476 N/A

In CPU benchmarks like Cinebench and Geekbench, the higher core counts on the Ryzen 9 5900X and Core i9-12900K are clear winners. The good news for the Tiki is that it’s not thermally limiting the Ryzen 7 5800X3D. My results with the Tiki are nearly identical (well within the margin of error) to the results I recorded with this CPU and a 240mm AIO liquid cooler.

Basically, you’ll get the full performance of the processor of your choice inside the Tiki. The problem is choice. Falcon Northwest offers the Intel Core i9-12900 as an option, but you can’t configure it with a 120mm AIO like you can with AMD’s chips. Instead, you’re limited to Intel’s stock Laminar RH1 cooler.

Although I haven’t had the chance to test this configuration, I have tested the Core i9-12900K. And I can tell you, even at stock frequencies, it will get much hotter than any of AMD’s competing chips. Combined with less powerful cooling, an Intel-configured Tiki is sure to run hotter. In short, stick with AMD if you want to pick up a Tiki.

In GPU-bound productivity apps like Blender, though, the Tiki shines. It was able to exceed the same card inside the Maingear Vybe in two of the three renders, in fact. Although the Ryzen 7 5800X3D isn’t an ideal choice for productivity, the Tiki offers enough bandwidth and power to support long render times and intense non-gaming applications.

Gaming performance

A big pain point for small form factor builds is constrained performance due to thermals, but the Tiki consistently reinforced that it can go toe-to-toe with machines more than quadruple its size in my testing. Even the HP Omen 45L’s dedicated Cryo Chamber cooling doesn’t give it an edge over the Tiki in gaming performance.

Synthetic gaming performance for the falcon northwest tiki.

Starting with synthetic performance in 3DMark, the Tiki shows off the power of the Ryzen 7 5800X3D. Even with the same GPU as the Maingear Vybe, the Tiki is able to outpace the older 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X. The Core i9-12900K and RTX 3090 inside the HP Omen 45L provide some competition in Time Spy, but the Tiki took the crown in Fire Strike.

In real games, the Tiki still impresses. The thermal design allows it to compete with much larger machines, showing the full power of the hardware inside. Although the results aren’t exciting — the vast majority of my tests were within a frame or two of the others — they showcase that the Tiki is able to take advantage of what you put inside it.

Gaming performance in the falcon northwest tiki.

Forza Horizon 4 and Cyberpunk 2077 show the clearest differences, with the extra cache on the Ryzen 7 5800X3D allowing the Tiki to hit higher frame rates even when constrained by the GPU. It’s important to keep in mind that the Omen 45L isn’t available with this chip, and you can pack an RTX 3090 into the Tiki to match HP’s machine.

The Tiki is an awesome gaming machine, matching machines that are much larger without getting louder or hotter. I’d recommend sticking with the Ryzen 7 5800X3D configuration if you’re primarily interested in gaming — it’s cheaper, and it blows AMD’s other options out of the water.

Software

The falcon northwest tiki set up next to a gaming monitor.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There’s nothing to report here. Falcon Northwest clearly respects its customers more than large brands like Asus and HP, and it doesn’t include any bloatware. It doesn’t include any software at all, in fact. Even the Nvidia driver is a stand-alone installation apart from GeForce Experience.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the Tiki runs much faster as a result. Boot times are almost instant because there aren’t any startup apps outside of the ones included with Windows, and you don’t have to constantly monitor your task manager to see what’s sucking down power in the background. The Tiki feels like a machine you built yourself, and that’s hard to come by.

Beyond the software inside Windows, Flacon Northwest has all of the optimizations you could need enabled — XMP is turned on, ReBAR is enabled, and all of the drivers and Windows updates are the most recent (assuming a new one doesn’t come out during the shipping process, of course). The only thing Falcon Northwest messes with on the software side is setting a background and your default browser page to its website.

Our take

The Tiki is an expensive mini PC that earns every dollar Falcon Northwest asks for. You can pick up a cheaper option with the same components and get similar performance, but it’s Falcon Northwest’s attention to detail, excellent component selection, and thorough build process that make it stand out.

Are there any alternatives?

Yes, but none as well-built as the Tiki. The most direct competitor is the Corsair One i300. Maingear offers its Turbo and Origin PC offers the Chronos as small form factor options, though neither of them is nearly as small as the Tiki.

How long will it last?

With premium hardware inside, the Tiki will last several years. Falcon Northwest offers a standard three-year warranty, as well, and assuming you can fit the components inside, you can upgrade the Tiki down the line if you want.

Should you buy it?

Yes. There isn’t another small form factor PC that walks the tight rope like the Tiki does, offering flagship power, a super small footprint, and thermal performance that rivals desktops two or three times its size.

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