This month, custom PC manufacturer Falcon Northwest sent over what it calls the Tiki, a custom, high-end gaming PC squished into a box that’s a little larger than an Xbox One. The Tiki, of course, does laps around the Xbox One from a raw power perspective. It comes with a GeForce 980 graphics card and an i7-4790K 4GHz CPU, which is to say, despite its size, the computer should run most new video games at maximum visual settings just fine.
I paid about half that price when I built my own high-end gaming PC a couple years ago. The construction was painless, thanks to countless online tutorials and Newegg. But I never felt like the project was finished. There was no joyous sense of completion, no ribbon-cutting ceremony. It’s as if my build reached the 90 percent point in its first day of existence, and I’ve spent every day afterwards trying to finish the remaining 10 percent, stuck in Zeno’s Paradox.
I paid about half that price when I built my own pcThe problems have been consistent from the outset. On the second day of PC ownership, I inserted a DVD; nothing happened. I assumed the DVD tray was broken, or that the error was from my own incompetence. After an hour of head scratching and Google searching, I learned Windows 8 won’t play DVDs or Blu-rays on its own. Defeated, I purchased PowerDVD for about a hundred dollars. I’ve been leeched by minor and major solutions ever since. When I built the PC, I compared it to an infant that demands your attention. Now I’d say it’s like a teenager that demands your money.
When the Tiki arrived, I blocked a few hours off my calendar for set-up, like an expecting parent making plenty of time for the new and needy bundle of joy. I plugged in the power, connected my monitor and ethernet cable, and tapped the "On" button. Then I rolled up my sleeves and prepared to do some quick problem solving.
It never felt like i finished building my pcOn the desktop, I found a couple folders, but none of the junkware I’d inadvertently installed when building my own PC — nor the additional junkware included with the software I’d purchased while trying to maintain my PC. With no problems to fix, I downloaded Steam and a handful of graphic-heavy games onto the Tiki. They ran flawlessly. I put a Blu-ray on its tray, and the movie loaded in PowerDVD, which had been pre-installed. When I plugged in my speakers, an audio program loaded, guiding me through its optimization process.
An hour passed; I was bored. A couple more hours passed before it hit me: this PC worked. It just worked. I wasn’t spending time removing unwanted programs or researching how to make unwanted pop-up warnings disappear or even updating the firmware on the graphics card. The following day, I turned on my monitor and caught the computer updating itself. A week in, after plenty of stress testing, the Tiki feels no different than it did on arrival. Is this what PC ownership is supposed to be like?
The Tiki is respectful of my time, like it understands that if I must do chores then I certainly don’t want them to involve my PC, the thing I turn to when I want to relax. I’ve never owned a luxury car, but I imagine it must feel something like this. In fact, the entire experience Falcon Northwest has created around their custom PCs appears to be cribbed from the Mercedes-Benz customer satisfaction handbook.
the tiki is respectful of my timeThis sort of custom PC experience — the kind that isn’t embarrassing in its childishness — seems overdue. I’ve always been dumbfounded by the many custom PC companies I see at industry trade shows: who makes three-thousand-dollar PCs, then designs them like props for a Mountain Dew commercial? The Tiki came in matte black, its one visual flourish being the Falcon logo, which lightly glows like my Macbook’s Apple logo.
Of course, those who prefer to Do the Dew, can do whatever they want with the dense customization options on the company’s website. Increasing or decreasing the cost as they see fit. For example, the additional software — like PowerDVD — doesn’t have to come pre-installed, allowing the customer to save some money, which could be used for, I don’t know, whatever glow sticks you want to strap on the thing.
The options chosen when making a purchase are reflected on documents in a leather binder that arrives with the machine. It holds a recovery USB, software licenses, and, in the most car salesman flourish, a business card from the Falcon sales team. Snapped into the binder’s pockets are all the extra cords I lost in the months after my build. Amongst the paperwork is a QA checklist, over a hundred bullet points in length, each manually checked off in pen or pencil. A self-help guide is included, with helpful images and layman instructions.
if you find yourself in trouble, make the callThroughout the text there’s one recurring tip: If you find yourself in trouble, just call us. For the past few years, every little hiccup on my PC has required my diagnosing the issue, then usually choosing the easiest, and probably least cost-effective solution. I’ve sunk plenty of cash into the machine, but more frustratingly I’ve wasted the little time I have to play games. I used to have an excuse to go through the occasional review for work, but times have changed, and now, like most people, I have to carve my time for games from the rest of my booked-up life. At this point, and I know its PC heresy; the idea of calling someone to fix my problem sounds like some obvious, yet long forgotten life-giving spell.
Is the Tiki for every PC owner? Of course not. I put my ear to ground, and I hear the herd of people who have built PCs for years, who cherish the maintenance process, who like looking under the hood. And from the other direction, I sense the crowd of Dell and Alienware owners, who have had some form of competent, cheaper pre-built PCs for years. But a Tiki isn’t for the hot rod tweaker or the family sedan owner. It’s for the busy adult who has the money to walk into the Mercedes-Benz and drive a car off the lot, the sort of person who will pay for TLC and a PC that’s running at 100 percent out of the box.
lifestyles of the rich and the famous
My bank account tells me I’m not that person — not yet. Maybe one day, after I open my legalized marijuana / space travel business (Plante’s Plants off the Planet), I will have the disposable income to treat myself. Until then, I’m stuck on Earth finishing a PC that will never be finished.