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Falcon Blaze FX review

James Archer
3 May 2016
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
500
inc VAT

The Falcon Blaze FX performs mostly well and includes plenty of nice extras, but its upgrade potential is low

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Specifications

Processor: Hexa-core 3.5GHz AMD FX-6300 Black Edition, RAM: 8GB DDR3, Front USB ports: 2x USB2, 2x USB3, Rear USB ports: 6x USB2, 2x USB3, 1x USB3.1, 1x USB Type-C, Total storage: 240GB SSD, Display: None, Operating system: Windows 10

Buy the Falcon Blaze FX now from Falcon Computers

Credit where it's due, the Falcon Blaze FX does an awful lot to create a greater sense of premium quality than its budget status might suggest. For starters, it comes equipped with those two biggest symbols of gaming PC opulence: a transparent side panel and bold LED lighting, which runs around the two front case fans as well as a strip down the motherboard.

Another nice touch is that, by using a couple of switches at the front of the case, you can both toggle the lighting and either slow down or shut off the fans – good for basic, low-demand usage where you can sacrifice the extra airflow in exchange for much quieter running noise. I don’t recommend this for more intensive tasks, however, as one notable omission is a rear outtake fan, so heat could soon build up while gaming or watching high-definition video.

Frame work

Speaking of gaming, the Blaze FX managed a respectable – for the price – 21fps in Metro: Last Light Redux at 1,920x1,080 and Very High settings. Of course, this isn’t really playable, but dropping down some of the graphical settings a level (turning quality down to High, switching off SSAA, reducing texture filtering to AF 4X and lowering tessellation to High) produced a much better 46fps, which is a fine balance between fidelity and performance for such a demanding game.

By contrast, the Dirt Showdown benchmark only returned an average of 34fps. While this isn’t entirely unplayable, I expected better from a system with a 2GB GeForce GTX 950, 8GB of RAM – single-channel though it may be – and a hexa-core, 3.5GHz processor.

I’d be inclined to blame the age of the relatively geriatric AMD FX-6300, but it’s not like this PC is slow in general. Quite the opposite, in fact; in our tough 4K benchmarks, the Blaze FX scored 74 for image editing, 72 for video encoding, 53 for multitasking and 63 overall. That’s about the same as the five-star-winning Palicomp AMD Shockwave that’s spent the past few months in our Best Buy section, and shows that Falcon’s effort will cope decently well with the odd bit of media editing, provided you don’t push it too hard or expect constant ultra-responsiveness.

If you do decide that you need more horsepower down the line, the motherboard includes a spare PCIe x16 expansion slot – though unlike the one already occupied by the GPU, this one only runs at x4 speed – as well as two PCI and two PCIe x1 slots, albeit with one of the latter obscured by the graphics card. Rather brilliantly, it also features an M.2 slot, for an ultra-fast SSD.

Confined space

On that note, this PC is a rarity at the £500 mark in that its sole storage drive is a 240GB SATA SSD; more common mechanical hard drives or hybrid HDD/SSD drives have been forgone completely. This will certainly be a boon for anyone who likes their system to boot quickly and their apps to load without delay, and the OCZ drive in question is acceptably nippy with an overall AS SSD score of 648. The benchmark tool also recorded sequential a sequential read speed of 503.56MB/s and sequential write speed of 199.07MB/s.

Next to a mechanical drive, those are some tempting speeds, but having nothing but a fairly small SSD to store everything on also causes some concerns. Without a larger HDD to fall back on, that 240GB drive will rapidly become stuffed with high-definition movies, AAA games or anything else a regular user might want to save, and I'm not entirely convinced that the superior performance is worth having to repeatedly delete files in order to make room.

I have similarly mixed feelings about the case. Despite the bells and whistles, it does feel a bit plasticky around the front, with a very loose mesh cover on the top. More importantly, the inclusion of two vertically-stacked fans at the front has a disastrous effect on upgradability, leaving just two dual-purpose 2.5in/3.5in drive bays, one of which is already occupied. The existing SSD is also housed alongside the PSU underneath an internal cover, so you’ll need to remove the other side panel to access those as well. This compounds the lack of storage space, as adding any drive besides an expensive M.2-compatible one is going to be a pain.

Case closed

More positively, the PSU cover does help keep the Blaze FX’s innards looking beautifully tidy, and there is at least space for a 5.25in optical drive in addition to the installed DVD R/W drive – another welcome inclusion.

There’s an excellent variety of available ports, too. Around the rear, you’ll find not just six USB2 and two USB3 ports, but one speedy USB3.1 and USB Type-C port apiece, as well as an S/PDIF connector for high-end audio devices, rear speaker and C/SUB sockets, three standard audio jacks, an Ethernet port and a PS/2 connector. There are two extra USB2 and USB3 ports each at the front of the case, next to the mic and headphone input jacks, and the GPU offers single HDMI, DisplayPort, dual-link DVI-I and dual-link DVI-D outputs. All in all, a great array for £500, especially the USB3.1 and USB Type-C ports.

Overall, I appreciate the Blaze FX’s strengths more than I worry about its weaknesses, even if it isn’t really lacking in either. Its showings in Metro: Last Light Redux and our own benchmark tests arguably overshadow its stumbling in Dirt Showdown, and while the lack of drive bays is a concern, it does allow for a PC that’s as pleasant to look at as it is to use. Feel free to add one star to the score if you don’t plan on any upgrades for a while. For more options see our Best PC 2016 rundown.

Buy the Falcon Blaze FX now from Falcon Computers

Core specs
ProcessorHexa-core 3.5GHz AMD FX-6300 Black Edition
Processor socketAM3+
RAM8GB
Memory typeDDR3
Maximum memory16GB
MotherboardGigabyte GA-970-Gaming
Motherboard chipsetNorth Bridge: AMD 970, South Bridge: AMD SB950
Ports and expansion
Front USB ports2x USB2, 2xUSB3
Rear USB ports6x USB2, 2x USB3, 1x USB3.1, 1x USB Type-C
Other portsM.2, S/PDIF
NetworkingEthernet
Case typeATX
Case dimensions HxWxD505x202x473mm
PCI (free)2 (2)
PCIe x1 (free)2 (2)
PCIe x16 (free)2 (1)
Serial ATA (free)6 (4)
Memory slots (free)4 (3)
Drive bays 2 1/2" (free)2 (1)
Drive bays 3 1/2" (free)2 (1)
Drive bays 5 1/4" (free)2 (1)
Storage
Total storage240GB SSD
Memory card readerNone
Optical drive typeDVD R/W
Graphics
Graphics card2GB Asus STRIX OC GeForce GTX 950
Graphics/video ports1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, 1x dual-link DVI-I, 1x dual-link DVI-D
Sound
Sound cardOn-board
Sound card outputsRear speaker, C/SUB, headphone in, mic in, speakers in
SpeakersNone
Display
DisplayNone
Native resolutionN/A
InputsN/A
Other hardware
KeyboardNone
MouseNone
ExtrasBatman: Arkham Origins game disk
Software
Operating systemWindows 10 Home
Operating system restore optionWindows 10 restore
Buying information
Warranty3 years labour, 2 years labour
Price including delivery (inc VAT)£500
Price excluding monitor (inc VAT and delivery)£500
Supplierwww.falconcomputers.co.uk
Detailswww.falconcomputers.co.uk
Part CodeFalcon Blaze FX

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