MSI Tri­dent 3 VR7RC-05SEU

IS IT GET­TING HOT IN HERE?

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NO BIG­GER THAN a PS4 Pro or an Xbox One, MSI’s lounge-room-friendly Tri­dent 3 is one of the most svelte mini gam­ing PCs we’ve ever tested. Its com­pact par­al­lel­o­gram-shaped chas­sis means it’ll eas­ily fit on a shelf in your TV cabinet, but the in­cluded stand (which is less sta­ble than we would have liked) gives you the op­tion of fly­ing it ver­ti­cally as a tower. And con­sid­er­ing how nicely the an­gu­lar lines, black metal-mesh fan vents and the sin­gle crys­tal­look­ing RGB lighted cor­ner of this come to­gether, we’d be sur­prised if you didn’t want to stand it up and show it off.

Spear­head­ing the Tri­dent 3’s list of specs is a 7th-gen In­tel Core i7-7700 CPU, al­though that’s run­ning on a slightly older 6th-gen en­try-level H110 chipset-based moth­er­board. It’s un­com­mon to see mixed-gen­er­a­tion pair­ings like this, and the Franken­steinian com­po­nent ar­range­ment will mean that some of the ad­di­tional fea­tures and up­grades of­fered by that newer i7 chip will be un­avail­able.

Adding fuel to this fire, the CPU cooler doesn’t seem up to ef­fec­tively cool­ing that CPU, reg­u­larly max­ing out HWMon­i­tor’s tem­per­a­ture gauges with read­ings of 100ºC, even when only un­der par­tial load — these tem­per­a­tures sit at the up­per limit of what CPUs can han­dle. The re­sult is that the CPU will au­to­mat­i­cally be throt­tled down to let that ex­cess heat dis­si­pate. But in the long run, CPUs reg­u­larly op­er­at­ing at the top of their tem­per­a­ture range can suf­fer from a de­crease in life­span and the heat they put out can even dam­age sur­round­ing com­po­nents.

If you can look past that per­plex­ing flaw, there’s a lot to like about the Tri­dent 3. Lever­ag­ing the per­for­mance and ef­fi­ciency boosts of Nvidia’s lat­est Pascal GPU architecture, the Tri­dent 3 is fit­ted with a VR-ready GeForce GTX 1060. This GPU is sup­ported by a slightly low but ac­cept­able 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SATA-3 SSD and a 1TB HDD, so its raw pro­cess­ing-power eas­ily puts Sony and Mi­crosoft’s cur­rent gam­ing consoles to shame. The cut­ting edge com­po­nents of the Tri­dent 3 are even a gen­er­a­tion ahead of Dell’s $1,500 Alien­ware Al­pha, but we can’t help but feel like MSI has tried to beat square com­po­nents into round holes.

In test­ing, the Tri­dent 3 dom­i­nated the Al­pha and its GTX 960 GPU across older ti­tles on 1080p Ul­tra set­tings, churn­ing out 133, 114 and 87.5fps across our Tomb Raider, GRID 2 and Bioshock In­fi­nite bench­marks, com­pared to the lat­ter’s 84, 87 and 70 re­spec­tive scores. And even on cur­rent ti­tles like The Divi­sion and Far Cry: Pri­mal, the dis­tinc­tion was sig­nif­i­cant, with the Tri­dent 3 re­spec­tively fir­ing out 49.8 and 42 frames per sec­ond on 1080p Ul­tra set­tings, to the Al­pha’s curbed clip of only 32.4 and 34 fps.

De­spite the hot CPU, the Tri­dent 3 man­aged to pin bench­mark scores of 19.9 and 849 on the CPU-fo­cused HWBOT x265 1080p me­dia en­cod­ing and Cinebench R15 multi-threaded CPU bench­marks. The Tri­dent 3’s scores are re­flec­tive of some CPU throt­tling, when com­pared against the scores of the Alien­ware Al­pha’s Core i7-6700T CPU scores of 14.5 and 650 on the same tests — but the end re­sult was pretty neg­li­gi­ble over­all.

We feel a bit like re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing drug ad­dicts weigh­ing up the de­sir­able but po­ten­tially tragic com­po­nent mix in­side the Tri­dent 3. If that CPU didn’t get so hot, we’d al­ready be men­tally re­ar­rang­ing our own TV cabinet to fit in this $1,799 unit (which in­cludes an ac­com­pa­ny­ing Stra­tus XL con­troller and For Honor game code). But the po­ten­tial longterm con­se­quences of that hot-run­ning CPU are enough to make us re­con­sider — and wish­ing for a slightly cooler-run­ning Core i5 ver­sion. [ JOEL BURGESS ]

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