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MSI's Trident 3 compact gaming PC reviewed

Striking a better balance

If you're reading this site, it's pretty likely that you either are or once were a PC gamer. If that's the case, you likely have a gaming PC already, but with the relatively recent release of Intel's Kaby Lake processors and the forthcoming Ryzen CPUs from AMD, a lot of folks are looking at upgrading. As we saw recently in our Core i7-7700K review and Colton's upgrade experience, you might have a lot to gain from finally ditching your trusty old Sandy Bridge or Nehalem machine.

Still, there ain't a one of us that's getting any younger. It's 2017, and your ATX full tower that you've customized with a hand-cut glass window, RGB lightstrips, and two separate water-cooling reservoirs still runs great and is cooler than ever. Problem is, it definitely has an insufficient Spouse Approval Factor, especially in the living room. Those of you fortunate enough to have a dedicated den or man-cave can get away with it. For the rest of us, maybe it's time to go smaller, and more subtle. Maybe one of those mini-PCs we've been hearing so much about lately is just the trick.

Maybe something like this.

So yes, a warm welcome to single, married, and all other gerbils alike, because I'm back again with another miniature gaming PC to review. This time around, I've got MSI's Trident 3 small-form-factor desktop. This is the smallest of MSI's gaming PCs, the others being the Nightblade and the Aegis. MSI calls it "console-sized," and at just 13.63" long by 9.15" deep by 2.83" tall (34.6 x 23.2 x 7.2 cm), the machine is very nearly the same size and weight as a PlayStation 4 Pro. Despite its diminutive dimensions, however, it houses a full-powered desktop gaming PC powered by Intel's four-core, eight-thread Core i7-7700 and a desktop GTX 1060 6GB graphics card.

Now, this machine is a fair bit larger than the Zotac Zbox Magnus EN1070 I reviewed a couple of months ago. In fact, it occupies over twice the volume: 5.8L, versus the 2.6L of the Zotac. With the EN1070, I was impressed by the machine's graphics prowess but left wanting more from that machine's low-power CPU. MSI solved the CPU power issue with the Trident 3's 65W chip, but this larger PC trades the mobile GTX 1070 for a somewhat less powerful GTX 1060 6GB. Whether that trade was a good one to make will be a key theme in our investigations. For now, check out the full specifications.

  MSI Trident 3 VR7RC-025US
Processor Intel Core i7-7700
Memory 16GB Kingston DDR4-2400 (2x8GB SODIMMs)
Chipset Intel H110 Express
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 630 (normally disabled)
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5 RAM
Storage Kingston RBU-SNS8152S3256GG5 M.2 SATA SSD, 256GB
Hitachi Travelstar 7K1000, 1TB 7200 RPM SATA HDD
Audio Realtek ALC1150
Expansion and display outputs 1 USB 3.0 Type-C
3 USB 3.0 Type-A
4 USB 2.0 Type-A
1 HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2
1 DisplayPort
Communications Intel I219-V Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 3168 Wi-Fi-AC + Bluetooth 4.2+LE
Dimensions 13.63" x 9.15" x 2.83" (34.6 x 23.2 x 7.2 cm)
Weight 6.9 lbs (3.1 kg)
Included cables 230W power adapter, HDMI, DisplayPort
OS Windows 10 Home

Since the Trident 3's custom motherboard is based on Intel's H110 chipset, we won't be doing any overclocking, and given that it comes with every one of its available expansion slots filled, we won't be doing much upgrading. Those facts shouldn't be much of a problem, though. The Core i7-7700 that the machine includes is lightning-quick, 16GB of RAM is plenty enough, and the combination of M.2 SSD and 2.5" HDD gives us fast storage for the OS and lots of space for games.

Clever gerbils will note that further unlike the EN1070, this machine comes as a complete, ready-to-go system. As a result, we can judge the Trident 3 more specifically on its value proposition. We can also talk about the included storage hardware and the bundled software. All of that comes later, though. First, let's have a closer look at the machine.