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A little turn on the catwalk
The Aegis 3's version number suggests an evolution from MSI's first barebones gaming desktop in this family, but the chassis is fundamentally unchanged from the original model. It's a pretty small machine, and it has a very sturdy carrying handle attached to the frame in the back with numerous screws. That said, it weighs almost 19 pounds (8.6kg), and I certainly wouldn't want to carry it around for too long.

The machine's aggressive styling is a major part of its purpose. With the headphone hooks extended, it reminds me of the Gundam RX-78-2. Sadly, that big red dragon logo is not the power button—those controls run down the right edge of the front panel. The shield does light up when the machine is on, though. In fact, most of the front and right side of the machine are swathed in configurable RGB LED Mystic Light. It is regrettable that I can't yet capture shots of machines and peripherals with their lights on, because the Aegis 3 really does look much cooler that way.

Up front here you can see the headphone jacks and the actual power button off to the right, and then a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a USB 3.0 Type-C jack over on the left. Down in the bottom is the VR-Link HDMI port. I'll talk more about that in a moment. It's worth noting that MSI's own specifications on its website for this machine are inaccurate—among other errors, they list the front panel USB ports as USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Type-C) and Gen 1 (Type-A). The specifications I listed above are correct.

Moving around to the back panel, there's the usual proliferation of ports we'd expect from a desktop PC. The Aegis 3 takes a standard power cable, although it houses its power supply in the "foot" of the chassis. That little 40-mm fan in the PSU caused me concern at first, but it never made so much as a squeak the whole time I was using the Aegis 3. You can't see it in this photo, but there's also an exhaust fan mounted in the base of the top chamber, directly above the foot. There's also an intake grille in the base of the foot, toward the front of the system.

Moving upward from the bottom, there's the VR-Link "input" port. On the graphics card, you get a DisplayPort connection, an HDMI 2.0 port, and a DVI-D port. The motherboard's I/O cluster offers a PS/2 port for a keyboard or a mouse, two USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, a plethora of audio plugs, and a Gigabit Ethernet connection for the Killer E2500 adapter. There are also DisplayPort and HDMI connections on the motherboard, but they are totally non-functional.

That's right: just like on the Trident 3, the Intel processor's graphics are completely useless here. There is no option to enable them, and they do not function. Also like on the Trident 3, the front-panel HDMI connection requires the use of an included pass-through cable. While using the "VR-Link" connection, it is limited to HDMI 1.4 operation. It also (obviously) prevents you from using an HDMI display at the rear panel. I felt like this arrangement was a major inconvenience on the Trident 3 since I use multiple monitors, and it's no more endearing here. If you're not using a VR headset or you stick with a single display, however, no harm, no foul.

The right side of the Aegis 3 has an intake vent for the graphics card and a window to let users peer at the cable mess inside. I suppose the window is probably meant to allow the RGB Mystic Light illumination to shine through, but the intake grille above does that well already. If nothing else it's symmetrical with the opposite side.

Over on said opposite side, we can appreciate one of the SO-DIMMs mounted to the back of the motherboard through the window. This is also where the various logo stickers ended up. To understand more about the Aegis 3, however, we need to open it up.