MSI Tri­dent X

£2,900 | $3,700 www.msi.com Fast, small and ex­pen­sive – a tiny tri­umph

Windows Help & Advice - - CON­TENTS -

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.

De­sign

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.

In­tel in­side

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.

Per­for­mance

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.

Sum­mary

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.

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