MSI introduced a whole bunch of gaming PCs earlier this summer, and in typical MSI fashion, they're quite beastly machines. However, the one that got my attention the most was the Trident X, and that's mostly thanks to its form factor. MSI packed all the specs you could ask for from a gaming PC into a 10-liter chassis, which makes the Trident X feel like an oversized, and very powerful, console.

The configuration MSI sent me is almost at the top of the range. It packs the Intel Core i9-10900K 10-core CPU, Nvidia's GeForce RTX 2080 Super, and 32GB of RAM, which means that you can throw pretty much anything at this thing and it will handle it just fine. I'm not usually much of a PC gamer, but I have to appreciate MSI's ability to put so much power into such a compact package, all while still allowing it to be upgradeable.

Specs

CPU 10th generation Intel Core i9-10900K (10 cores, 3.7GHz base, 5.3GHz boost)
GPU MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Super Ventus (8GB GDDR6 dedicated)
Memory 32GB (2x16GB) 2933MHz
SSD 2x1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe in RAID 0
HDD 2TB 5400 rpm SATA (plus one empty 2.5-inch slot)
Body 396.57x137.06x410.39mm (15.61x5.4x16.16in), 6.55kg (14.44lbs)
Ports

Rear:
(2) USB 2.0 Type-A
(2) USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
(1) USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
(1) Thunderbolt 3
(1) S/PDIF out
5 audio jacks
GPU:
(3) DisplayPort 1.4
(1) HDMI 2.0b
Front:
(1) USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-C
(1) USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
(1) USB 2.0 Type-A
(1) 3.5mm speaker
(1) 3.5mm microphone

Power supply 650W 80 Plus Gold certified
Chassis 10.36-liter, black, interchangeable metal/glass side panel
OS Windows 10 Home
Price €3,199

Performance

With gaming PCs, it's all about performance, so let's just jump right into it. I took the opportunity to play through Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and its sequel, Gears 5, and a bit of Forza Horizon 4. I also played the trial version of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, since I wanted to test a game with RTX support. Most of this was played on my 1080p 60Hz monitor, so as you can expect, this computer didn't really break a sweat most of the time.

Knowing this, I asked LG to send me one of its gaming monitors, and I ended up getting the UltraGear 27GN950, a 4K monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate - I'll talk about it more later on. This allowed me to really push the Trident X, though I didn't get a ton of time with the monitor to try it with many different games. With this monitor, I recorded footage from a few games using the Xbox Game Bar overlay, which means footage was recorded to 1080p and 36 frames per second, plus there's some compression, but the games themselves were always set to 4K, and you'll be able to see the current frame rate in the top right corner, courtesy of the GeForce Experience overlay.

Here's me playing the first chapter of Gears 5. In this playthrough, HDR was on, and all of the quality settings were set to Ultra, except for ambient occlusion, which was causing some very noticeable artifacts in parts of the game. I turned it off completely. You can see that the framerate is usually close to 70FPS.

I also love Rocket League, and it's a fairly popular e-sports title, so I wanted to check out performance on it. Like Gears 5, all the settings were maxed out here and I was playing in 4K. However, I did turn off motion blur because I personally don't like the effect. Frame rates here were always above 120FPS, and often maxed out the refresh rate of the monitor. And before you point it out, yes, I do suck at Rocket League.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the real test for the GPU, especially thanks to its ray tracing support and the fact that it's just a beautiful game. Seriously, I was blown away most of the time I was playing this. I decided to run the game's benchmark with all the settings maxed out, and here you can see the Trident X struggling to keep up.

For actual gameplay, I turned down the settings a bit to make the game playable, which I considered to be frame rates above 30FPS. But even with my adjustments, you'll see that it would be generous to call it playable in the later scenes of the game, where lots of enemies show up.

Of course, you'd have ample room to turn down the settings here to get a smoother experience, I just really wanted to push this PC to the limit.

I also tried rendering video on the Trident X, and I specifically rendered all three gameplay videos above using both the Game Ready driver and the Studio driver from Nvidia. The Studio driver is supposed to be optimized for creative workflows, but I actually got slightly worse render times with it, as you can see below. The videos were rendered to 1080p at 30 frames per second.

Game Ready driver (MM:SS) Studio driver (MM:SS)
Gears 5 07:13 07:27
Rocket League 05:08 05:13
Shadow of the Tomb Raider 12:18 12:25

To get an even better idea of the performance here, I ran a handful of benchmarks, including 3DMark Time Spy and VRMark Orange Room. Of course, the results are high across the board. In 3DMark, it did fall short of a premium gaming PC, but that configuration includes two Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti in SLI, so that's no surprise. For what it's worth, these tests were run while I was using my 1080p monitor, though I'm not sure if it makes a difference.

3DMark Time Spy VRMark Orange Room

PCMark 8: Home PCMark 8: Creative

PCMark 8: Work PCMark10

For cooling, MSI designed what it calls Silent Storm Cooling 3, which isolates three of the biggest heat-generating components - the PSU, CPU, and GPU. Each contained in its own chamber, so the heat from one can't affect the other and create further thermal constraints. This thing is also full of vents to make airflow easier.

I'd say it worked, because the Trident X isn't a very loud PC most of the time. When the fans do ramp up, they mostly have a soft "whoosh" noise that isn't too distracting, though video rendering does make the GPU fans spin pretty hard. There have been rare occasions when I heard a sort of whining noise coming from the CPU area, but I couldn't be sure if it was the fan itself. Otherwise, even having the PC right next to me on the desk, I never felt like it was too loud.

Outside of gaming and the traditional performance benchmarks, though, there are issues I need to point out. The PC ships with Windows 10 version 1909, and updating to version 2004 through Windows Update hung at 82% both times I tried, wasting five hours of my time. I eventually updated using the Update Assistant, but that still took ridiculously long, both during the initial setup process and the reboot sequences, to the point where I had to leave it running overnight.

I've also noticed issues, like opening an app from the Start menu doesn't dismiss the Start menu most of the time, Telegram notifications in the Action Center don't open the app, and myTube can't play successive videos in a playlist, as it just fails to load the next video. These issues all persisted after resets, and even after reverting to the factory settings using MSI's recovery partition. Usually, I'd format all the drives and install Windows from scratch to see if the issues would be resolved, but that process can take some time and I had no guarantee that it would fix it. It's also not fair to expect that most customers will do this when they get a new PC, so this kind of issue shouldn't be happening either way.

Design

As I've mentioned a few times before, the MSI Trident X comes in a 10-liter case, which does make it feel more like an oversized console than a traditional PC. To be fair, it's still pretty big for a console - the original Xbox One has a 7.2-liter case, for example - but to have that kind of size and all the power this thing has, plus upgradability, is pretty sweet. There's also a wealthy supply of ports for a machine this size. On the front, two USB Type-A ports, one USB Type-C, and two 3.5mm jacks, for a microphone and headphones. There are also three RGB zones visible on the front - two independently controlled vertical lines, and a small horizontal area that shows the same color as the CPU chamber.

On the back, there are even more ports. Five USB Type-A ports of different speeds, a Thunderbolt 3 port, 2.5Gb Ethernet, plus optical audio out, and an HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2 ports on the motherboard. Those last two are actually blocked off out of the box because you'll want to use the ports on the GPU, which has three DisplayPort 1.4 and one HDMI 2.0b ports. The whole back is perforated for airflow, and the RGB lighting from the GPU chamber also comes out from the rear.

The top only has the power button and a large exhaust vent for the GPU, which lets the RGB lighting sine through.

On the left side, a metal panel cover both the GPU and PSU chambers and their respective fans. Here we can see the GPU itself reflecting the RGB lights in that chamber, and you also get to see that its laid vertically, which MSI says is designed to make the PC safe to carry without worrying about breaking anything. It also allows for the PC case to be as compact as it is. With Nvidia having announced the RTX 30 series now, you may be wondering if you can eventually upgrade the GPU, and MSI tells me that yes, the RTX 3080 GPU should work here, so long as the physically fits inside the case.

However, this PC only has a 650W PSU, so you may need to look at different variants to see what is compatible with it. MSI's RTX 2080 Ti Ventus, the maximum spec for this machine, is a 260W GPU, while the Founders Edition of the RTX 2080 Ti is a 320W unit. Likewise, the RTX 3080 Founders Edition is a 320W GPU, but it could be that MSI will have a lower-power variant of it. An MSI RTX 3080 Ventus is already listed on the company's website, but power consumption details haven't been added yet.

On the right side, there's another metal panel out of the box, but you can replace it with the included glass panel if you prefer that look, which was the first thing I did when I got the PC. This panel covers the CPU, storage, and RAM. To my eye, it appears that you need to remove the CPU cooler to be able to access the M.2 SSD slots and the RAM, but the 2.5-inch drive bays at the top are more easily accessible. In my case, only one of them is populated with a 2TB HDD, and you could expand that with relative ease.

The CPU cooler is also the final piece of RGB lighting on this machine, with a ring of color surrounding the fan. All of this can be customized through MSI's software.

Software

And speaking of software, let's take a look at what MSI includes here. Aside from the necessary driver software, including Nahimic audio control for more complex audio setups using the rear ports, there are two main things here - Dragon Center and the MSI App Player. The latter is basically an Android emulator, so if you want to put all of this hardware to use running Android games, you can. This comes from a partnership with Bluestacks, which is a well-known Android emulator. I personally didn't have much use for it, though.

The star of the show is MSI's Dragon Center, which is really a hub for a ton of MSI's tools. From here, you can use Mystic Light to change your RGB light settings, manage gaming mode, change your performance modes, and more. There's a performance monitor that lets you see how your CPU and GPU are doing, and if you install the MSI Companion app, you can have this information in an in-game overlay. The Companion app can also be used to record game footage. Another optional tool is Sound Tune, which is used to remove background noise from your microphone or speakers. It seems to work pretty well.

There's also an updater tool that updates all of these Dragon Center components, drivers, and also "recommends" some third-party apps like Google Chrome. You can safely ignore them, though.

Other tools include a hotkey manager, that lets you set quick hotkeys for certain features or even create macros, the ability to back up your current installation, and a lot more. I'm not a fan of a lot of this preloaded software, but it can make some things easier for general users.

Display: LG UltraGear 27GN950

Like I said, the monitor I own is a cheap 1080p 60Hz one from HP, and I knew that wouldn't really let me test the Trident X to its full potential. LG was kind enough to lend me its latest UltraGear gaming monitor, the 27GN950, which has a 27-inch IPS 4K display with HDR support and a 144Hz refresh rate. It has pretty small bezels all around, and it has height adjust, tilt support, and a 90-degree pivot.

This thing is pretty incredible, and even though 27 inches isn't much bigger than my 24-inch monitor, it feels huge. The display scaling changing to accommodate the resolution probably helps with that, and I feel like I have so much space. HDR support is also nice, but I have to admit here that this is my first experience with an HDR monitor, and there are some things I don't fully understand (which is why this isn't a review of the monitor). I found that bright areas of the display in games tend to get too bright and lose detail with the default settings. You can actually see where I had to change the brightness in the Shadow of the Tomb Raider gameplay video above.

The UltraGear 27GN950 also supports AMD's FreeSync Premium Pro, and more importantly for this review, it's G-Sync Compatible, so I could have the games run at whatever framerate they could without tearing or anything of the sort. I didn't do much to make it work, and everything seemed fine without having to do anything. Despite apparently supporting AMD's FreeSync better than G-Sync, it's the latter that's advertised the most.

You can change the monitor's settings using a nub and button underneath the bottom bezel, which is pretty comfortably placed and easy to use. The on-screen UI looks just fine and there's plenty of options. You can change display profiles, and you might want to depending on your usage. The primary display profile is certified for VESA DisplayHDR, but there's a second gaming profile that drives pixel response times up, which is how you achieve the 1ms grey-to-grey response time LG advertises. There's a handful of modes here, including an sRGB mode for more accurate colors, though you'll need to turn off HDR to use that one.

You can also overclock the monitor if you want to try to get a 160Hz refresh rate, but of course, overclocking is always a risk. Out of the box, you can get 144Hz, and using display stream compression, you can have 4K, HDR, and 144Hz all at once, at least with DisplayPort 1.4. If you disable DSC, you need to make some sacrifices, but I can't really tell a difference using DSC, so I kept it on.

Finally, of course, the display has an RGB ring on the back, and since it's likely to bounce off the wall behind it, it does turn my setup into an RGB fest. I actually kind of love it, and you can customize it further using the LG UltraGear Control Center app, which can also sync the lighting with specific games. I just stuck with the default options which you can customize with a clickable wheel that's also under the bottom bezel.

It has two HDMI 2.0 inputs, one DisplayPort 1.4, two USB Type-A ports, one USB Type-B port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, but no built-in speakers. I think it's also worth pointing out that it was very easy to put the monitor together without any sort of additional tools, which was a nice experience.

Like I said, this isn't a review of the monitor, but for $799.99, this seems to be pretty great. It appears to be sold out at most retailers, but you can try to keep an eye out on B&H Photo or Best Buy in the U.S., or somewhere like Currys PC World in the UK.

Conclusion

The MSI Trident X is a really interesting piece of hardware, and in many ways, I kind of love it. Having all this power squeezes into what's still a relatively small package is pretty incredible, and I love that MSI managed to do it while still leaving upgrade paths available. This is especially cool when you consider that the PSU is also inside the case, and there's a ton of ports on the computer. It almost feels like an impossible machine, and it's just really cool to see.

Performance doesn't seem to be heavily impacted by the form factor either. In the tests I was able to run, the Trident X often outperformed the much larger HP Omen Obelisk. To be fair, that PC has an older CPU, but it does have an RTX 2080 Ti, and more internal space to breathe.

I can't overlook some of the issues I've had with the software, though, like how ridiculously long it took to update Windows 10 and the fact that, even after restoring the factory settings, issues still persist in a few areas. You could try to blame Windows for that, but all I know is that these problems haven't happened on other machines, and it was very frustrating to get started with the Trident X because of them.

Still, it's a gaming PC, and it does that well. It's not exactly cheap, but it's not ridiculously expensive either. My specific configuration is exclusive to Europe, and it costs €3,199 in retailers like Worten in Spain, but you can start with a Core i7-10700K and an RTX 2070 Super for €2,199, for example. In the U.S., there's only a few configurations, with the maxed-out spec featuring a Core i9-10900K and an RTX 2080 Ti going for $3,299 on Amazon.

 

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