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MSI's Aegis 3 compact gaming PC reviewed

Optane Memory revs up a turn-key gaming PC

PC gaming is bigger than ever. Perhaps thanks to big-name PC-exclusive titles like League of Legends as well as PC-exclusive features like mods, kids are asking their parents for gaming PCs instead of gaming consoles. The money spent on PC gaming eclipses that spent on console gaming, too. A discussion of the whys and hows of that matter is a topic best left for another article, though. Instead, we're here to take a look at just the sort of machine a parent might buy a budding PC gamer: MSI's Aegis 3 compact gaming PC.

It's a looker, isn't it? To be honest, I wasn't sure what to think of the Aegis 3's design just from the promo images MSI provided. After taking it out of the box and setting it up, well, I still wasn't sure about it. Over time, though, I have to admit it's grown on me. While 30-something gerbils might not approve of the Michael-Bay's-Transformers-inspired looks of the Aegis 3, I have no doubt that the teenagers the machine is aimed at would find it enticing. This impression is furthered by the ecstatic gasp that my niece and her friends made when I showed it to them.

Under the cowl of Isaac Clarke's mask rests a Core i7-7700 CPU, 16GB of DDR4-2400 memory, and a GeForce GTX 1060 3GB graphics card. To be honest, I would have preferred a Core i5 of some kind and a GTX 1060 6GB card, but that complaint is by no means reserved for MSI alone. The CPU and graphics card in the particular machine we're playing with today aren't the most interesting part of the story, though. Perhaps in light of the rising prices of NAND flash and the corresponding ceilings those prices put on economical SSD capacities, MSI skipped the SSD and instead employed a 2TB Seagate hard drive in combination with a 16GB Intel Optane cache module. The idea of Optane is, of course, that one gets hard-drive capacities with SSD-like speed most of the time. MSI and Intel claim that this setup is actually better for gamers than the usual SSD + HDD configuration, and it was this claim that I was most interested in testing.

Here's a handy chart with the full hardware layout for our Aegis 3:

  MSI Aegis 3 VR7RC-078US
Processor Intel Core i7-7700
Memory 16GB Kingston DDR4-2400 (2x8GB SODIMMs)
Chipset Intel B250 Express
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 630 (disabled)
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with 3GB GDDR5 RAM
Storage Seagate Barracuda ST2000DM001 2TB SATA HDD
Intel Optane 16GB M.2 Cache Module
Audio Realtek ALC1150
Expansion and display outputs 1 USB 3.0 Type-C
4 USB 3.0 Type-A
4 USB 2.0 Type-A
1 HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2
1 DisplayPort
Communications Killer E2500 Gigabit Ethernet
Intel 3168 Wi-Fi-AC + Bluetooth 4.2+LE
Dimensions 17.05" x 14.81" x 6.69" (43.3 x 37.6 x 17cm)
Weight 18.94 lbs (8.59kg)
Included cables Power, HDMI pass-through
OS Windows 10 Home

All in all, the Aegis 3 is a nice little system, and it rings in at $1100 right now on Amazon. I could make various nitpicks about the choice of parts or the balance between CPU and graphics card for the money, but as I said before, those complaints wouldn't really be fair to bring up here when they apply to virtually every system seller in this price class. MSI includes one of its Interceptor keyboard-and-mouse combos with the machine, so I'll be talking about them a bit too. The included keyboard and mouse mean that an aspiring gamer would only need a monitor and headset to get fragging, so the Aegis package's price tag is pretty reasonable for the novice who doesn't want to dirty their hands putting together a system from scratch. Our thanks to MSI for providing the Aegis 3 so we could put it through its paces.

Without further ado, let's get comfortable and see what makes this machine tick.