Apple Mac Pro vs Falcon Northwest Talon: Which is the better super-charged desktop?

mac pro vs falcon northwest talon macprovsfalcon

Falcon Northwest, founded in 1993, is among the most experienced high-end PC makers in the world. The company’s reputation among gamers is almost legendary, but not every system shipped from the company’s Medford, Oregon office ends up in a mancave. Some live more productive lives as powerful, easy-to-upgrade workstations.

This made us wonder; can a Falcon Northwest system stand up to the revamped Mac Pro? To find out, we decided to pit the Talon, which we recently reviewed and loved, against Mac’s tiny black cylinder. Here’s how they stacked up against one another.

The Combatants

Judging desktop PCs can be tricky because high levels of customization are common. An incredibly powerful, high-end version of one system could dominate a competitor, yet it could also offer less value if it’s priced too high. To keep this contest fair, we targeted a $3,000 price point, as this is the price of a base Mac Pro and the price of the Talon we recently reviewed.

Processor: Talon wins

Even the cheapest Mac Pro comes with an impressive Intel Xeon quad-core CPU boasting a base clock speed of 3.6 GHz and a maximum Turbo Boost clock of 3.8 GHz. This is one beefy chip, and since it’s a Xeon, it represents Intel’s best.

However, the Mac Pro’s Xeon processor can’t be overclocked, and the Mac Pro would make a poor platform for overclocking even if it were possible. Falcon Northwest, on the other hand, makes will tack on an extra $50 charge for shipping you a Talon with an overclocked CPU. This affordable service bumped our test system’s Core i7-4770K processor from a maximum clock speed of 3.5 GHz to 4.5 GHz, giving it a clear performance advantage.

This contest would be tight if the Talon’s CPU ran at stock speeds, but overclocking turns this close race into a blowout that favors Falcon in this round.

Video card: Talon wins

The Talon we reviewed boasted an Nvidia GTX 780 Ti, one of the most powerful single-GPU video cards ever produced. The Mac Pro, on the other hand, uses a pair of FirePro D300 video cards.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

These are different cards, built for different purposes, running on different operating systems, so a direct comparison is difficult to make. Still, there are a few specifications we can use to see how these competitors stack up.

Apple wins in the raw memory department, as the FirePros pack 2GB of GDDR5 RAM each, which adds up to a gigabyte more than the 3GB found in the GTX 780 Ti. But there’s a catch; the FirePros have a narrower memory interface, so while they offer more raw memory, their throughput of 160 GB/s can’t match the GTX 780 Ti’s 336 GB/s.

The Talon’s video card also offers just over five teraflops of single-precision compute performance, while the FirePros manage just under 2.2 – a big gap, to be sure. The GTX 780 Ti even serves up 210 gigaflops of double-precision computer power, 50 more than the D300’s 160 gigaflops. While the Mac is no slouch, the Talon clearly has an advantage here.

Storage: Talon wins

One of the Mac Pro’s best features is its PCI-Express solid state storage, which can exceed transfer speeds of 1GB/s. That’s astoundingly quick, but it comes with a big downside; limited space.

The standard $3,000 Mac comes with a 256GB SSD. That’s laughably small, and will force most users into the hassle of connecting one or more external drives to it. You can configure the Mac Pro to ship with a 1TB PCI-Express SSD, but that isn’t enough for anyone who regularly works with large image files or HD video, which is precisely the market that Apple target with the Mac Pro.


Falcon’s Talon, on the other hand, can be configured in a variety of ways from a storage standpoint. Our review unit came with two 240GB SATA SSDs and a 3TB mechanical drive, for a total of about 3.5 GB of storage. You could also outfit a Talon with a multitude of storage combinations, like a single SSD and a pair of large mechanical drives, or you could go hog-wild and buy the biggest of everything, which gives you about 10 GB of total storage straight from the factory.

No, the Talon can’t match the Pro’s transfer speeds, but it is possible to offer too much of a good thing. The Mac’s lack of internal storage is easily its biggest handicap.

Memory: Talon wins

The base model Mac Pro comes with 12 GB of RAM, while our Talon shipped with 16 GB of RAM , giving it an obvious advantage. Both can be upgraded to a maximum of 64GB, but buying additional RAM for the Talon is less expensive.

Design and ease of upgrade: Talon wins

One look at the Mac Pro’s futuristic, cylindrical shape tells you that it’s something special. Apple somehow managed to cram the hardware normally contained by a two-foot-tall tower PC into a tube that’s barely 10 inches tall and 6 inches wide, and they did so with only a single system fan, which means that the Mac produces very little noise.


That’s amazing, but again, the Mac’s excellence is dulled by a huge flaw. Packing so much hardware into a small space requires a lot of custom engineering, so upgrading and repairing the Mac Pro is not easy. Only the RAM can be easily upgraded. The SSD isn’t hard to access, but aftermarket replacements aren’t available, and the GPU suffers from the same issue. Replacing the CPU is possible, but only by completely tearing down the Pro, a task that’s likely well beyond the ability of most owners.

Though the Talon looks a bit drab, on the other hand, it’s incredibly easy to work with. Removing the side panel is a matter of twisting out two thumb screws. Doing so lays the internals bare, and everything is exactly where you’d expect. Hard drives slide out of their tool-less bays, RAM is unobstructed, and the video card can be swapped out in five minutes. Even the processor is directly accessible once its cooling is removed.

Warranty and support: Tie

Both the Falcon Northwest Talon and the Mac Pro come with a one-year standard warranty. Most of the details are similar. Parts, labor and shipping are covered for the duration, but the user can also opt to try home repair if they feel confident in their abilities.


There are two differences, however. Apple has retail locations, so it’s possible for buyers to walk in and have their system fixed. This can be convenient if the problem is a small repair or user error. Falcon counters with a 30-day money back guarantee and lifetime technical support. You can call Falcon for help with diagnosing a problem well after the one-year warranty expires. Apple, on the other hand, discontinues phone support after just 90 days.

Both companies offer a three-year extended warranty. The warranty is $249 for the Mac Pro, but only $195 for the Talon. The terms are otherwise similar, so Falcon provides better value, but the convenience of Apple’s retail locations are an equalizer.

A clean sweep

We can’t remember the last time a contest like this has been so one-sided. The Talon defeats the Mac Pro in every category except warranty coverage, and even there, the two are neck and neck. In some categories, like processor performance and storage, the contest isn’t even close. Falcon bulldozes Apple without breaking a sweat.

This is not to say that the Mac Pro is a horrible rig. Apple’s engineers deserve a round of applause for shrinking a big, noisy workstation down into a compact, quiet cylinder. But people who buy high-end workstations need power, both now and in the future, and it’s clear the Mac Pro is deficient in some areas.

The Talon is faster right now, and it can be upgraded to improve its performance in the future. Apple’s entry, on the other hand, is a disposable computer. There’s not much to do aside from adding RAM, as all other upgrades are impossible, prohibitively expensive, or too difficult for an average user to handle. Buying a Mac Pro is like buying a very nice blender; it’s an appliance that does its job extremely well, but when it breaks or becomes obsolete, there’s little for you to do except buy a new one.

And remember; while both of these systems sell for $3,000, the Talon can be had for less. You could drop one of the hard drives, or settle for a less powerful video card, or buy less RAM. The Mac Pro, however, will always be at least three kilo-bucks.

Do you think the Talon hands the Pro its hat, or does the Mac offer something we’ve missed? 


Need a new tablet? The best iPad deals for January 2019

In the wide world of tablets, Apple is still the king. If you're on team Apple and just can't live without iOS, we've curated an up-to-date list of all of the best iPad deals currently available for December 2018.

Dell XPS 13 vs. Asus Zenbook 13: In battle of champions, who will be the victor?

The ZenBook 13 UX333 continues Asus's tradition of offering great budget-oriented 13-inch laptop offerings. Does this affordable machine offer enough value to compete with the excellent Dell XPS 13?

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for January 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.

From Air to Pro, here are the best MacBook deals for January 2019

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.

Protect your expensive new laptop with the best Macbook cases

If you recently picked up a new MacBook, you’ll want something to protect its gorgeous exterior. Here, we've gathered the best MacBook cases and covers, whether you're looking for style or protection.
Product Review

LG Gram 14 proves 2-in-1 laptops don’t need to sacrifice battery for light weight

The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 aims to be very light for a laptop that converts to a tablet. And it is. But it doesn’t skimp on the battery, and so it lasts a very long time on a charge.

Watch out for these top-10 mistakes people make when buying a laptop

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.

Don't spend a fortune on a PC. These are the best laptops under $300

Buying a laptop needn't mean spending a fortune. If you're just looking to browse the internet, answer emails, and watch Netflix, you can pick up a great laptop at a great price. These are the best laptops under $300.

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.

The Asus ZenBook 13 offers more value and performance than Apple's MacBook Air

The Asus ZenBook 13 UX333 is the latest in that company's excellent "budget" laptop line, and it looks and feels better than ever. How does it compare to Apple's latest MacBook Air?

AMD Radeon VII will support DLSS-like upscaling developed by Microsoft

AMD's Radeon VII has shown promise with early tests of an open DLSS-like technology developed by Microsoft called DirectML. It would provide similar upscale features, but none of the locks on hardware choice.

You could be gaming on AMD’s Navi graphics card before the end of the summer

If you're waiting for a new graphics card from AMD that doesn't cost $700, you may have to wait for Navi. But that card may not be far away, with new rumors suggesting we could see a July launch.

Is AMD's Navi back on track for 2019? Here's everything you need to know

With a reported launch in 2019, AMD is focusing on the mid-range market with its next-generation Navi GPU. Billed as a successor to Polaris, Navi promises to deliver better performance to consoles, like Sony's PlayStation 5.