Gaming PC manufacturers have already been chasing the imagine a console-sized gaming PC for a long time, and as Intel, Nvidia, and AMD have improved power and thermal efficiency during the last couple of years, there’s been some success. The combo of power and affordability required in a tiny gaming rig remains a hard recipe, and one MSI has struggled with before.

Now, MSI is wanting its hand at that category once more, this time along with the appropriately mid-range GTX 1060 with 3GB of RAM, and an Intel Core i7-7700HQ with 16GB of RAM, all for right $1,300. It doesn’t quite slice the price only more mundane desktop offerings from competitors, but its compact size could possibly be worth the excess cash. May be the Trident 3 an ideal fit for your living room? Or gets the recipe soured once again?

Always improving
With the Trident 3, MSI has strayed a lttle bit from the red-and-black look that’s become synonymous with gaming computers, ditching it and only RGBLEDs on the system’s corners. This simple switch is a welcome change, lending the machine a far more versatile look. It will haven’t any trouble sneaking right into a home entertainment cabinet, or alongside other consoles, because of its compact design.

MSI’s quality has matured recently, and the Trident 3 follows that trend with strong panels and an attractive, striking look. Having said that, the stiff panels aren’t come up with tightly, so are there still spots where light leaks through from the inner LEDs. Sitting next to a TV, though it’s unlikely anyone will notice a few panel gaps.

Many plugs, however the wrong kind
The Trident 3 doesn’t skimp on connectivity. Leading panel houses three USB 3.1 ports – two Type-A and one Type-C – 3.5mm audio tracks in and out, and an HDMI port for virtual reality, which we’ll discuss in greater detail in an instant. Around back there’s gigabit Ethernet, another Type-A USB 3.1 port, four USB 2.0 ports, HDMI for the inner GPU, and the VR link HDMI port.

Out of your box, both internal GPU HDMI port, and the VR Link HDMI port, are plugged with plastic stoppers. The VR Link requires an included HDMI jumper from the GPU in to the port on the trunk. The machine then passes that signal to the port on leading for a VR headset.

The Trident 3 does not have any trouble sneaking right into a home entertainment cabinet alongside other consoles.

It’s a good thought with some practical problems, the most clear being the GPU, which only sports one HDMI, one DisplayPort, and one DVI. Which means there’s no easy way to simultaneously plug in a VR headset and a HDTV (a DisplayPort to HDMI adapter could do just fine). Also, the HDMI pass-through only brings the port up about 10 inches, and an Oculus Rift must plug in to the USB 3.1 port on the trunk anyway, with the Oculus trackers connected to leading. That rather minimizes the good thing about the HDMI port on leading.

Like many small form factor systems with ITX motherboards, the Trident 3 sports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. If we’re just counting ports, the Trident 3 punches up a weight class, but its graphical outputs keep it limited by home entertainment or living room applications. It appears as an avoidable problem, taking into consideration the system sports an MSI GPU.

Familiar parts
The procedure for opening the machine wasn’t immediately obvious. Since it turned out, we’d to pry back a panel on underneath of the case to reveal the four screws holding the medial side panel on. Once inside, we were greeted by familiar, off-the-shelf parts. The motherboard isn’t anything special or clever, it’s simply a standard ITX motherboard. The cases’ GPU area is small, but it’s nothing most half-length cards can’t squeeze into, given that they don’t need extra PSU power.

You’re stuck with the blower cooler on the CPU, as it’s unlikely you’ll find anything efficient enough which will fit, but the rest is off the shelf. RAM is easy to get at, and there’s space for a 2.5-inch SSD or HDD around back, next to an M.2 slot. There’s basically nothing inside you couldn’t replace or upgrade in the event that you wanted to, except the energy supply, which can be an external unit.

The processor stands up
Our configuration sported an Intel Core i7-7700, a four-core CPU with Hyper-Threading, and 16GB of RAM. Aside from too little overclocking support and less 65-watt TDP, the chip bears a close resemblance to the enthusiast Core i7-7700K, and really should provide excellent performance for the size.

As a side note, our MSI Trident 3 was an engineering sample with a lttle bit of an odd configuration. It packed in the higher-end CPU and GPU, with 16GB of memory, but only a 128GB SSD. The more typical $1,300 model sold at retail carries a 256GB model. This won’t impact processor performance, but it’s worth noting.

No surprises here. The Intel Core i7-7700 holds its against similarly-minded systems, going for a strong lead against the slightly more budget-friendly Dell XPS 8910 SE. The Core i7 makes a straight bigger difference in the Handbrake 4K video conversion test, where it dominates the Core i5-6400 in the XPS 8910 SE.

Whether it’s synthetic or real-world benchmarks, the MSI Trident 3’s performance is commendable, and for the purchase price point, very competitive. The Digital Storm Velox beats it out by a broad margin, but its Intel Core i7-7700K chip is a lot more costly, in a higher-end system, with a lofty 5GHz overclock onto it. For what it really is, the Core i7-7700 in the Trident 3 holds its quite well.

Storage and options
MSI outfitted our review unit with a Kingston 128GB SATA SSD and a 1TB mechanical HDD. The SSD holds the OS and any demanding applications or oft-used files, as the larger mechanical drive keeps extra files and media. It’s an inexpensive option, and the one that provides a large amount of versatility.

Needlessly to say, the SSD’s read speeds far outweigh its mediocre write speeds, a trend we see generally in most drives enjoy it. It shouldn’t drag while loading big applications, and makes startup lightning fast, although our review unit only boasted 128GB, which we quickly filled up with games. Higher-end systems just like the Digital Storm Velox are moving to PCIe and NVMe drives, but also for the purchase price point, we don’t expect that.

Instead, MSI has thrown a supplementary HDD inside, a 1TB data drive inside our case. It’s unsurprisingly slow and lumbering, nonetheless it will let you stash extra games or movies without needing to consume a plug with an external option. Its opponents aren’t always as thoughtful, and the Dell XPS uses only a mechanical drive, which is definately not ideal.

Not a runner
MSI portrays the Trident as a system, so we’ll make sure you put it through the entire ringer of graphical benchmarks. Built with a 3GB GTX 1060 from MSI, it ought to be with the capacity of pumping out decent framerates at 1080p, unless its petite size gets in the manner.

Nothing scary to report here. The Trident 3 holds its beneath the demanding 3DMark graphical test, with the CPU allowing the GTX 1060 to basically run at its full potential. Both XPS 8910 SE and Velox have a strong lead here because of their improved graphical options. The 3DMark benchmarks have a tendency to be considered a lot harder on the CPU than modern games, so it’s always worthwhile to observe how it fares against commonly played PC titles.

Steady jog
Most games don’t challenge the CPU quite definitely, and our test suite is indicative of this. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is commonly the only game that puts a whole lot of pressure on the processor, as the rest place almost all of any risk of strain on the GPU. Still, you want to see how the combo fares together, and if the CPU stands up the potential performance.