If I had to hand out an award for "most crowded booth at Computex" this year, MSI's would probably win. The generals of the "Dragon Army" had plenty to show off this year, including more motherboards and gaming notebooks than I can count. We're most interested in the company's graphics cards, however. MSI's versions of Nvidia's Maxwell graphics cards were favorites of ours here at TR, and the company looks to be continuing its winning streak with its custom-cooled Pascal cards. MSI's GTX 1070s and 1080s will come in three main versions: "Armor," "Gaming X," and "Gaming Z."
The Armor series cards will occupy the entry-level spot in the company's Pascal lineup. These cards use the same underlying cooler tech as its Maxwell cards did, but that's not a bad thing: the GTX 970 Gaming 4G was probably the most popular custom GTX 970 out there, and we were big fans of the GTX 980 Ti Gaming 6G, as well.
The first of MSI's new custom cards is the Gaming X series. These cards get an updated Twin Frozr cooler (now in its sixth generation), along with a fancy-looking backplate. They'll also have an extra power plug and a spiffed-up 10+1 power delivery subsystem, compared to the GTX 1080 Founders Edition's 5+1 setup.
The top-of-the-line custom cards from MSI will carry the Gaming Z moniker. Building on the Gaming X design, these cards get a fancier backplate with an inlaid MSI shield, plus RGB LED lighting throughout. The fronts of the cards look practically identical, so imagine the Twin Frozr VI cooler on the card with the shield on its back side, and you have the Gaming Z.
We already showed it in our Corsair booth tour, but MSI will be offering a Sea Hawk GeForce GTX 1080 as well. That liquid-cooled card could run quieter than the average air-cooled GTX 1080. You can also see the MSI Aero GTX 1080 peeking out from behind its friends above. That card uses a blower-style cooler.
The cooler itself uses square-shaped heat pipes over the GPU in tandem with a solid baseplate that's responsible for transferring heat from the graphics card itself. That design could result in more heatpipe surface area in contact with the baseplate and with neighboring heatpipes. All that fancy tech could result in better heat transfer.
Like Gigabyte and Asus, MSI had several updated X99 motherboards on display that are ready for Broadwell-E CPUs. The X99 Gaming Pro Carbon is almost certainly the flashiest: it has RGB LED lighting in several locations across the board, plus a fancy-looking carbon-fiber finish on its fascias.
The X99A XPower Gaming Titanium offers a silver PCB finish, a U.2 connector for 2.5" NVMe SSDs, and a front-panel USB 3.1 Type-C port header.
The X99A Workstation trades RGB LEDs and flashy finishes for rock-solid networking capabilities and ECC memory support. Buyers get twin Gigabit Ethernet jacks powered by a duo of Intel controllers: an I218-LM and a I210-AT.
MSI also had a prototype version of its VR backpack PC on display. This system is quite sharp-looking. I didn't get to try it out personally, but the pack itself appears to be formed at least in part from brushed aluminum. The pack also doubles as a desktop when VR junkies aren't jacked into their Rifts or Vives.
New-kid-on-the-block Riotoro had a solid product lineup to show at Computex this year. We got a good look at the company's case lineup, as well as a run-down of its peripherals, CPU coolers, and power supplies.
It's been a while since I've seen an interesting budget case design, but Riotoro's red-and-black pair of entry-level enclosures piqued my interest. The company's CR280 Mini-ITX case and CR480 ATX mid-tower both clear two major hurdles for affordable enclosures: looking good and feeling durable. Both of these chassis include plenty of steel in their construction, and the clean lines of their exteriors look quite sharp for their price tags.
Riotoro has something for folks that want a fancier case, too. The Prism CR1280 full tower comes with a spiffy full-length windowed side panel and RGB LED-backlit accents on its front and top panel.
If you're taken by dual-chamber cases like Corsair's Carbide Series Air 240, but you still want to use an ATX motherboard, Riotoro's CR1080 might be just the thing. This compact ATX enclosure makes extra room for wide graphics cards (and probably tall CPU coolers) in its main chamber with a sort of bay window in its already-windowed side panel.
It doesn't seem to be enough for a hardware manufacturer to be "just a case company" or "just a power supply company" anymore, and Riotoro has some coolers, power supplies, and peripherals in its catalog, too.
This keyboard is a prototype called the Ghostwriter. It's got Kailh switches similar to those we saw in the Rosewill RGB80 many moons ago, and its angular styling is of a piece with the company's cases.
If you need a Riotoro logo on everything in your system build, the company's Bifrost liquid coolers will help you get there. The Bifrosts come in an extra-thick 120-mm flavor or a slim 240-mm version.
Riotoro is also slapping its name on a pair of PSUs from well-known ODM Great Wall. The Onyx series offers 80 Plus Bronze efficiency in 450W, 650W, and 750W flavors, while the Enigma is an 850W 80 Plus Gold unit with Japanese primary capacitors. Expect the company's non-case offerings to begin arriving later this year.