"I am the sword in the darkness." That may have been the quote MSI was thinking about when it christened the Nightblade barebones series, which welcomes a couple new members today: the Nightblade X2 and the Nightblade MI2. These systems now offer support for Skylake CPUs, M.2 SSDs, and a host of other small improvements.
Let's start with the 16-liter X2. This barebones comes with a Z170-based motherboard. Users can install 16GB of DDR4 RAM across two slots, one 3.5" HDD, and two 2.5" solid-state or mechanical drives. You needn't limit yourself to plain old SATA drives, though, as the X2 also has two M.2 slots, each with four lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity. MSI includes a 10Gbps USB 3.1 Type-C port at the back and a 5Gbps Type-C connector at the front for peripheral I/O. The company also includes a slim optical drive and an OC Genie button that will automatically overclock the system inside. Be sure to check out the manual before pressing that one.
The X2 comes with a 500W PSU, which MSI says is enough power for a GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics card. The chassis will take in dual-slot graphics cards up to 11.4" long (290 mm), so almost anything goes. Network connectivity comes by way of Killer's "DoubleShot" AC-1535 802.11ac Wi-Fi and E2400 Ethernet combo adapter, which also includes Bluetooth 4.1 support. MSI's audio circuitry includes a dedicated heaphone amp, too. The Nightblade X2 measures 13.6" x 10.9" x 6.9".
And now for the 10-liter MI2. This model is based off a motherboard with a B150 chipset, so overclocking is likely limited. Up to 16GB of DDR4 RAM can be installed in SO-DIMM form. Oddly enough, the smaller case has a little more room for larger hard drives—users can add two 3.5" mechanical disks and a single 2.5" drive, as well as an M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD. USB 3.1 connectivity comes in the form of two 10Gbps Type-C ports at the back, and a single 5Gbps port on the side of the case.
The MI2's 350W power supply is less powerful than its bigger brother's, but MSI says this unit can still power a GeForce GTX 970. The smaller case still has the same 11.4" available for dual-slot graphics cards, too. Gigabit Ethernet and an Intel Wireless-AC 3165 adapter cover networking needs, along with Bluetooth 4.0 for peripheral support. The Nightblade MI2 measures 5" x 9.2" x 13.4". MSI provides its own CPU cooling solution, along with a slim optical drive.
MSI says the new Nightblades will join its wall in "mid-October", so much like winter, they're coming.