Just before Christmas, a special package arrived on my doorstep: the Falcon Northwest TLX custom gaming laptop. I’ve been a desktop gamer for the last decade but when Falcon Northwest agreed to let me take one of their laptops for a spin, I jumped at the opportunity. The TLX is thin, powerful, and beautiful and has completely changed my gaming life. Read on for the first in our three part series exploring my journey from desktop to laptop gamer and why this outstanding laptop should be at the top of your wishlist.
- Pricing: Starting at $2271 USD
- Display: 16.1” 1920×1080 144Hz WVA Panel (Matte)
- Memory: 16-32GB 2666MHz SODIMM
- Video Card: RTX 2060 6GB, RTX 2070 8GB, RTX 2080 (Max-Q Variants)
- Networking: Intel Wireless AC 9560, Bluetooth V5
- Operating System Drive (NVME): Intel 660p (512MB – 2TB), Samsung 970 EVO (500GB – 2TB), Samsung 970 PRO (512GB – 1TB)
- Data Drive 1 (Optional): Intel 660p (512MB – 2TB), Samsung 970 EVO (500GB – 2TB), Samsung 970 PRO (512GB – 1TB)
- Data Drive 2 (Optional): Samsung 860 EVO (500GB – 4TB)
- Operating System:
- Windows 10 Pro (Standard)
- Windows 10 Home (-$32)
- Optional Add-ons:
- LG 8x DVD Writer
- Pioneer 6x Blu Ray Writer
- External SSD: Samsung T5 (500GB – 2TB)
- Surge Protector: APC Performance SurgeArrest 11-Outlet
- Additional AC Adapter
- Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium
- Mouse, Keyboard, Headset, Speakers, and Monitor Selection
- Warranty: 1 to 3 years (1-year included with one year or Falcon Overnight Service)
For more than a decade, I’ve explored the laptop market as a passerby, content with my desktop PCs and big monitors. When I bought my first house, everything changed. I was lucky enough to get my own office but that meant time away from my family whenever I wanted to play video games or create YouTube videos. My kids missed me, and being alone in the office started to feel lonely, and, before long, I started gaming on my PC less and less. As a diehard PC gamer, that was hard to swallow but investing in a gaming laptop just wasn’t in the cards.
When the opportunity arose to work with Falcon Northwest on their TLX gaming laptop, I jumped at the chance knowing that it could change my gaming and work life. As a writer and content creator as well as a gamer, having a machine that would let me get work done anywhere – whether that was a game review or cutting together a new video edit – the TLX offered an incredibly fun tool with huge potential to offer more to you, the reader, and our YouTube subscribers, while also allowing me to get that done in the company of my loved ones and whenever, wherever, I was.
Usually, in the case of a whole system, we would take a look for a few weeks and then return it, but since Falcon Northwest wanted us to configure the system exactly for us, and since it would offer value to you, our audience, we settled on another approach. Instead of writing a review, we’ll be taking you along on my journey from a desktop to a laptop gamer and creator. You can consider this series sponsored as it is a clear partnership and not a review. However, Falcon Northwest is as confident as they come and create hand-assembled custom laptops to major celebrities like Nathan Fillion, Chloe Dykstra, and Joel McHale. They haven’t asked to see this before you do, haven’t specified anything they want us to share, haven’t told us to “stay positive” or downplay anything. In short, they’ve helped me customize the PC, submitted the order, and followed up to ask if I was having fun.
In this article, I’ll be sharing my first impressions of Falcon Northwest and the TLX. Next week, we’ll look at gaming performance, including benchmarks. The week after that, we’ll look at how it holds up for content creation. Can a laptop actually replace a desktop? Let’s get into it and find out.
PS: Stay tuned after that because you might just have a chance to win a custom Falcon Northwest PC of your own!
Falcon Northwest is the OG of the custom performance PC world. They’ve been making high-performance computers since 1992 when your friendly author was making his way through first grade. Over all that time, they’ve never strayed from their purpose: enthusiast and custom PCs for enthusiast users. Without knowing a word of that, you could look through their catalog and come to the same conclusion: this is a company that believes your gaming PC should be a showcase of raw power.
What really struck me was how the company does business. Falcon Northwest stands apart from every other PC vendor I know, building and testing all of their systems by hand, including laptops. That also means that if anything goes wrong, they’re able to fix it fast and get the PC back in your hands in no time at all. If you’ve ever tried to RMA a system through one of the major production-line brands, then you already know the multi-week wait that comes standard and roll of the dice on whether your computer will be fixed. Every Falcon laptop comes with a free year of Falcon Overnight Service. If anything goes wrong, they’ll pay to have it overnighted to them, repaired, and overnight shipped back to you all at their expense. That’s incredible.
I was also impressed by how scalable their systems were. Initially, we discussed the DRX model, which is their desktop replacement line. I have never seen a truer example of “desktop replacement” than Falcon’s DRX laptop. It’s big and heavy can support all the way to an Intel-9900K, 64GB of DDR4, a full-size RTX 2080, and up to a 4K display (not to mention massive amounts of storage).Their TLX models are slightly more locked down to accommodate their thin and light design but still offer a huge amount of customization. If you want 32GB or DDR4 and 6TB of SSD storage, it’s right there at your fingertips.
What may be their most unique feature is their custom paint work. Falcon Northwest has one of the most advanced custom paint systems I’ve ever seen. You can choose from a wide array of premade options or upload your own custom artwork to be printed on the chassis. This has recently been expanded to their desktop line and looks absolutely stunning. It does take a little bit longer to prepare your PC when you choose a custom paint job but the results speak for themselves.
The process of getting our TLX took a little under two weeks. After explaining what we would be using it for, Falcon suggested a configuration that included the i7-9750H, a 6-core/12-thread powerhouse that clocks all the way up to 4.5GHz; 32GB of 2666MHz DDR4; 2TB of NVME storage with the Samsung 970 EVO (for video editing performance); and the Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q, a lower voltage variant of the RTX 2080 that opens the door to powerful gaming laptops that are also thin and lightweight. The days of carrying around an 8-pound back-wrecker of a laptop are over. They also outfitted it with a custom Cherry Red lid with a silver falcon logo. It looks even better in person than it does in the picture.
Falcon includes a ton in the box. Every TLX and DRX ships in its own custom laptop bag. Inside the bag is the user manual, care guide, Windows 10 card, and the laptop/AC adapter itself. As a thank you, they also throw in a free t-shirt, mouse pad, coffee cup, and custom Falcon Fuel coffee blend. It was a nice surprise to find along with the laptop.
I was surprised and impressed to find an extensive QA certification in with the documentation. In a status update, they mentioned to me that my PC was undergoing “burn in.” I see what they mean. Enlarge the picture above and take a good look at everything they prepare, test, and perform before a system ships out, including loading the latest graphics drivers, configuring them for quality, running two different games, and guaranteeing that the display is pixel perfect. They also supply a rescue drive, so if you ever need to restore the computer to factory condition, it’s a simple process that saves you from hunting down drivers and praying nothing goes wrong.
To say that I was excited about the TLX would be an understatement. I’d felt my gaming life stagnating and knew this could breathe fresh life into it. The first thing I did after booting up (which is fast thanks to the 970 EVO), was download Steam, Battle.net, Origin, and start pulling games from the cloud. That first night, I spent hours on the TLX coming to grips with it.
Let’s start with the basics. At 16.1 inches, it’s about the perfect size. My last “gaming” laptop was a 17-inch behemoth and was frankly too big. The screen here feels spacious without forcing the body of the PC to be unnecessarily large. I The extra inch boost from the average gaming laptop also allows the keyboard to be a bit bigger and accommodate a full number pad. I also love that they used a VA panel because the colors are rich and make content look great.
There are so many small touches that easily make it better than any laptop I’ve used previously – and though I haven’t owned them personally, I have used quite a few in testing over the years. The keyboard, for example, feels amazing. It uses scissor switches that have just enough travel and tactility to make it satisfying and free from annoying typos. The three-zone customizable RGB also looks great and makes gaming in the dark a breeze. The speakers are louder and bassier than most I’ve heard so you don’t need to swap to a headset to watch movies. The touchpad is also large and by far the smoothest and nicest I’ve ever used. Then there are the little things, like the bits of carbon fiber trim and the smart placement of the power button out of reach from accidental presses, and the overall design language that’s at once edgy and elegant.
Gaming on the TLX absolutely blew me away. The first game I played was Battlefield V. On ultra settings, with ray tracing enabled, I was able to hold 55 frames a second. On a laptop. I’m not huge on ray tracing, however, so I disabled it and was able to play consistently above 90 FPS. Apex Legends and Overwatch were locked to the triple digits and because the screen has a 144Hz refresh rate, I was able to fully enjoy the power of the RTX 2080 Max-Q.
The TLX powering WoW for my recent TCL photoshoot
Even with all of that horsepower, the game I was most excited to get back to was World of Warcraft. With my office situation, my MMO gaming has taken the biggest hit of all over the last year and I was absolutely primed to dive back in to prepare for Shadowlands. I stopped playing around Warlords of Draenor and thanks to the TLX, I’m now marching through Legion.
One thing that did surprise me was just how much cooling this kind of power requires and the noise it would generate. Inside that thin chassis are high-powered fans for the CPU and GPU. I’m not sure of their exact RPM but as you can tell from the picture above, when turned to maximum, they’re both topping 6000. I’m glad to see it because heat is the enemy of PC components, but the noise isn’t the nicest out of the box. I dialed in a custom fan curve which quieted them down some, but I found the biggest different came when I bought a nice cooling pad. On its own, the CPU would often hit 85C while gaming. The additional pad dropped that to 75-80C while also lowering the noise profile. The GPU, on the other hand, tends to be reasonably cool, usually sitting in the mid 70s.
I’ve been gaming on the TLX for a good few weeks now and can honestly say that it’s changed my gaming life already. I have lots of testing still to do, but the level of power in this system is astounding for how thin and lightweight it is. Being able to take my Steam library with me anywhere, from my couch to my day job, is absolutely revolutionary for how I’ll approach my work here at MMORPG and create content in the future.
Next time, we’ll look at a whole bunch of games and really dig into the performance side of things. For now, you’ll have to excuse me as I grind out another level in WoW.