MSI Trident X
£2,900 | $3,700 www.msi.com Fast, small and expensive – a tiny triumph
The MSI Trident X is a small PC that packs in a surprising amount of new technology. Gaming grunt comes from one of Nvidia’s Turing graphics cards, and processing power is delivered by one of Intel’s brand-new Coffee Lake-S processors. Those are formidable core components, but the Trident X isn’t cheap.
Price and availability
The £2,900 ($3,700) MSI Trident X is only available in the configuration we’ve reviewed here, which is a little irritating – we would have preferred a pricier model with the RTX 2080 Ti, and a more affordable machine with the RTX 2070 wouldn’t have gone amiss. MSI could have included lesser processor options, too.
It’s worth remembering that buying from a local PC builder will save you cash. If you opt for a smaller PC from a company like Chillblast or CyberPower then you can save a few hundred pounds or dollars. If you’re willing to have a full-size tower, you’ll probably save a little more – and net yourself a bigger motherboard with more features and more upgrade room.
The Trident X is an eye-catching system, with RGB LEDs and angled panels. The front has full-size USB ports and a USB Type-C connection. The Trident’s 6.5kg weight makes it it’s relatively easy to carry to around, should you need to.
It’s larger than the older MSI Trident 3, but smaller and lighter than two key rivals – the MSI Aegis 3 and the Alienware Aurora R5.
One side of the machine is dominated by the graphics card. It stretches across the whole width of the system, with meshed areas in the side panel to aid airflow. Below that you’ll find the rear of the motherboard, and the Samsung M.2 solid-state drive (SSD).
Behind the opposite side panel are more components. Here you’ll find the storage, motherboard and power supply, along with the majority of the cables. The cabling and large, low-profile 120mm CPU cooler means it’s difficult to reach the motherboard, and the only expansion option is a 2.5-inch drive bay – and it’s tricky to use because MSI hasn’t installed a SATA cable.
This is a not a machine to buy if you want to tweak and change the specification, but that’s the same with every mini-ITX PC.
The other issue is build quality. The plastic slats on the top are flimsy, and the side panels are made of relatively thin metal. The tempered glass panel in the box is stronger, but we’d still be careful when carting this PC around.
The Core i7-9700K is one of Intel’s new Coffee Lake-S chips. These parts retain the same architecture
as last year’s Coffee Lake chips, but with notable changes to core counts and clock speeds.
The i7-9700K has eight cores, but no Hyper-Threading, so it’s configured differently to the i7-8700K it replaces, which had six cores with Hyper-Threading. Native cores will always function better than the artificial Hyper-Threading system – and hardly any consumer apps need more than eight cores or threads anyway.
The i7-9700K runs at 3.6GHz, which is 100MHz slower than the i7-8700K. However, the i7-9700K’s eight cores hit 4.6GHz on Turbo, with one core topping out at 4.9GHz. The older chip could only manage 4.3GHz across all cores and 4.7GHz on one core.
The Coffee Lake-S chip inside the new MSI is superb. Its Cinebench score of 1,470cb is almost double the pace of the MSI Trident 3 and Alienware machines, and it’s more than 300 points beyond the MSI Aegis 3 and its Core i7-8700.
The gap was maintained in Geekbench 3. The Trident X’s single- and multi-threaded results of 5,868 and 27,594 are stellar. The MSI Aegis 3 is the nearest challenger, and that was five hundred points behind in the single-threaded test and four thousand points back in the multi-core benchmark.
Having eight cores without Hyper-Threading, but with better Turbo speeds, clearly gives Coffee Lake-S the edge when compared to six-core chips that are HyperThreaded. That’s because eight native cores will perform better in applications than six cores that are handling twelve threads. That’ll make a real difference in day-to-day use, where few apps – or even
“It’ll also run the vast majority of productivity apps, from video editing to content creation”
groups of apps – need twelve threads to function well.
Coffee Lake-S won’t bottleneck games, and it’ll handle day-to-day computing with ease. It’ll also run the vast majority of productivity apps, from video editing to streaming and content creation. The only apps that won’t run well need workstation CPUs instead.
The factory-fresh CPU is joined by an Nvidia Turing graphics card. Despite its name, the RTX 2080 is designed to replace the GTX 1080 Ti. It has the new architecture’s improvements to integer, floating point and shader performance, and it includes a mighty 2,944 stream processors, 8GB of GDDR6 memory and a clock that starts at 1,515MHz and boosts to 1,710MHz.
It’s a great specification, but a question mark hangs over Turing because of its headline features. Ray-tracing won’t work until Microsoft’s DX12 update arrives, and super-sampling needs to be implemented on a game-by-game basis. Nevertheless, the GPU is no slouch. It zipped through our 1080p tests with averages beyond 100fps in Deus Ex and Middle Earth: Shadow of War. The RTX 2080 has the power to handle 4K gaming, too: it ran through those two games with 4K averages of 40fps and 57fps.
The rest of the specification is fine. The Samsung PM981 SSD is reliably fast, with read and write speeds of 3,361MB/s and 1,906MB/s – quick enough to deliver rapid boot and load times. The 32GB of DDR4 is enough for work and overkill for games, but its 2,666MHz speed is mediocre.
The MSI Trident X’s components deliver exceptional speed in all situations – certainly more pace than we’ve seen from mini-ITX PCs in the past. The rest of the spec is fine, and there isn’t much that this machine can’t do. The chassis looks good, and it’s cool and quiet.
The Trident X’s build quality is suspect, however, and there’s no room for expansion here. It’s expensive, too, although if you’re feeling flush then there’s no better way to get your hands on a small-form-factor PC with a shedload of computing ability.
Intel Coffee Lake-S and Nvidia Turing deliver formidable power in a tiny space – and at a price.