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Meeting it head on
Up here on the front of the Trident 3 we have a pair of USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a USB 3.0 Type-C port, an HDMI port for easy VR hookups, and a pair of analog audio jacks. One of the USB 3.0 Type-A ports is marked as a Super Charger port, and it's meant to deliver extra power for quick-charging mobile devices. The Super Charger function comes disabled by default, though, and has to be enabled in MSI's software. I tested it with my Snapdragon 805-based phone, but I really couldn't tell you if it charged any faster than when hooked up to a typical USB port. It certainly didn't charge as fast as it does when connected to its own boxed charger.

The USB Type-C port is in fact USB 3.1 Gen1, better known as USB 3.0. The Trident 3 actually doesn't have any USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt connections at all. While looking at these two pictures of the machine you can clearly see my least-favorite feature of it: the shape. The angled surfaces on both ends mean that you cannot use the system standing without the included base. Also, to use the front HDMI port, you have to connect an HDMI pass-through cable to the graphics card like so:

On the back here, we have connections on the smaller-than-ITX mainboard and on the graphics card. The mainboard offers up (from right to left) three analog audio jacks, a Gigabit Ethernet connection above another USB 3.0 port, four USB 2.0 ports, a usually-non-functional HDMI port, the power connection, and then the HDMI-in connection for the front HDMI port. If that pass-through cable isn't connected, the front HDMI port doesn't even wake up monitors.

The motherboard's HDMI port is connected to the CPU's integrated graphics, like any desktop PC's motherboard-mounted HDMI port. It's a completely fine HDMI 1.4 port when there is no graphics card installed. However, when a graphics card is installed, the system firmware disables the integrated graphics. There is no option to change this behavior in the system's UEFI setup utility. With a graphics card installed, the HDMI port between the power connector and the USB 2.0 ports seems to have absolutely no connection at all.

I feel like the integrated graphics being forcibly disabled is a real missed opportunity for MSI. The machine isn't exactly swimming in display connections, and its dimensions and relatively subtle styling could make it a fantastic home-theater PC. Some folks like to use a second HDMI port on such a PC simply as an output to a high-end A/V system. Unfortunately, the Trident 3 doesn't actually have a second HDMI port. Hopefully MSI can rectify this issue in a BIOS update.

Over on the graphics card, we have a DisplayPort connection, an HDMI port, and a DVI-D port. No complaints about the HDMI and DVI ports, but the single DisplayPort connection is pretty spartan compared to a typical GeForce GTX 1060's triple-port offering. The options on offer seem all the more limited if you want to use the front HDMI port, because the machine really only has one practically useful HDMI port. If you want to use an HDMI monitor and a VR headset, you're out of luck. I suppose you could use a DVI-to-HDMI cable, assuming your monitor doesn't need an HDMI 2.0 connection.

Speaking of HDMI 2.0, don't hook up an HDMI 2.0 monitor to the front HDMI port. When I initially set up the Trident 3, I lazily connected all of the devices to the front of the machine, and later, while testing GTA V, I noticed small-but-distracting artifacts all across the monitor. After some significant testing, I figured out that it was the front HDMI port. MSI confirmed to me that the front HDMI port is intended for VR devices—which only require HDMI 1.4—and should not be used with high-resolution or high-refresh-rate displays. I feel like this information should really be listed somewhere in the Trident 3's documentation, but it isn't.