MSI Trident 3 review

The mightiest mini gaming PC for the living room

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Our Verdict

The MSI Trident 3 is the little gaming PC that could, delivering solid frame rates just as well as much larger desktops in a smaller package and for a more affordable price.

For

  • Compact size
  • Silent and cool running
  • Solid gaming performance on Ultra

Against

  • External 330W power brick

MSI has introduced some impressively small PCs over the years, including a gaming-grade Mac Pro rival and a VR-capable backpack rig. However, in many ways, the MSI Trident 3 is the company’s sleekest gaming PC yet.

Marketed as a console-killer, the MSI Trident 3 is about the size of an Xbox One S but packs a ton more power than even the PS4 Pro. This is thanks to its desktop Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics. It’s a tantalizing package – and at a reasonable price, too – which makes the Trident 3 one of the best gaming PCs to have in your living room. 

Spec sheet

Here is the MSI Trident 3 Arctic configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 3.6GHz Intel Core i7-7700 (quad-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.2GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 (8GB GDDR5); Intel HD Graphics 630
Motherboard: MSI Proprietary (H110 chipset)
RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,400MHz)
Power Supply: 330W power adapter
Storage: 256GB M.2 SSD, 1TB HDD (7,200 RPM)
Ports (front): 1 x headphone jack, 1 x microphone jack, 1 x USB-C 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB-A 3.1 (Gen 1), 1 x VR-Link HDMI
Ports (rear): 1 x USB-A 3.1 (Gen 1), 4 x USB-A 2.0, 3 x HDMI, 2 x DisplayPort, 1x DVI, Ethernet, microphone jack, 1 x VR-Link (connect front VR-Link and graphic card)
Connectivity: Intel Wireless-AC 3165 (802.11ac); Bluetooth 4.2 SmartReady
Operating system: Windows 10
Weight: 6.9 pounds
Size: 13.63 x 2.83 x 9.15 inches (W x D x H)

Price and availability

With everything you see above, the MSI Trident 3 as configured runs for $1,499 (about £1,160, AU$2,040). This particular unit MSI sent us is a limited-edition Arctic version of the Trident 3, which comes with a special white paint job and a Nvidia GTX 1070 you’ll only find on this model. 

Users can get the normal black Trident 3 with the same processor and other specs, but it only maxes out with Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics at $1,299 (£1,299, AU$1,899).

Either way, it’s a much more affordable deal than other compact gaming PCs out there. The equivalent Corsair One model starts at $1,799 (£1,799, AU$2,639) with nearly identical specs, save for a 16GB smaller SSD and liquid-cooling solution for the processor.

Meanwhile, the Zotac Magnus EN1080 is another limited edition run mini gaming PC that runs for $1,999 (£1,999, AU$3,849). And that price doesn’t account for the storage and memory you’ll need to purchase separately for this largely barebones package.

Design

Maybe it’s the white paint job or the silver base, but the MSI Trident 3 Arctic looks like the Nintendo Wii’s bigger, more extreme brother. Not that we’re complaining. The compact PC is handsome with a look that walks the line between futuristic and modern without being too ostentatious.

Thankfully, MSI hasn’t gone overboard with the RGB lighting here. Rather you’ll only find one tasteful lighting element on a corner in the shape of, well, a trident to keep in line with the PC’s namesake. We also love the prismatic aesthetic of the gaming desktop. All the asymmetric angles helped keep the Trident 3 from becoming just another boring box.

Speaking of size, the Trident 3 is one of the smallest gaming PCs we’ve reviewed. Measuring in at 13.63 x 2.83 x 9.15 inches, it won’t stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of your home entertainment setup. We can’t say the same for the Corsair One, which looks like a modern fridge pack of soda, or the overzealous Asus ROG GR8 II.

Upgradability and performance

Good looks are one thing, but what’s even more impressive is what MSI has done with the internal layout within the Trident 3. Despite the desktop’s compact size, you get a full fat desktop processor and graphics card.

What’s more, the Trident 3’s accessible layout makes it easy enough to replace most of the components including the GPU, memory, storage drives – basically everything but the processor.

The only thing we don’t love is that the power supply is essentially the fat brick you get with any of MSI’s gaming laptops. It’s an inconvenient trade off that comes with the compact nature of mini-desktops like this and the Acer Predator G1. This non-upgradeable 330W capacity PSU also makes it difficult to really overclock the system, and you’ll have to pay particular attention to the power draw of the parts you're itching to replace.

Whether these are actual concerns to the console gaming audience this gaming PC aims to serve will depend on the individual user. Most Trident 3 buyers will be content with a system that just works out of the box and can play games at high-to-ultra quality settings.

Benchmarks

Here’s how the MSI Trident 3 Arctic performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Sky Diver: 33,467; Fire Strike: 14,861; Time Spy: 5,706
Cinebench CPU: 873 points; Graphics: 138.24 fps
GeekBench: 5,059 (single-core); 16,748 (multi-core)
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 4,039 points
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (1080p, Ultra): 16 fps; (1080p, Low): 123 fps
GTA V (1080p, Ultra): 58 fps; (1080p, Low): 177 fps 

Despite lacking a top-shelf Nvidia GTX 1080, like the Corsair One and Zotac Magnus EN1080, the MSI Trident 3 is only a few steps behind its competitors. The compact gaming desktop delivers a playable experience across multiple titles, including GTA V and Mass Effect Andromeda, with Ultra-quality settings. The Trident also produced nearly identical results as the equally-equipped (and larger) MSI Aegis 3.

More impressively, the Trident 3 stays whisper quiet and cool even while under full load. Fan noise is practically inaudible even while sitting within a foot and a half of the PC. Users should be able to introduce this silent gaming PC into their home entertainment setup without fear of adding unwanted noise to their gaming and movie audio.

Final verdict

The MSI Trident 3 is a handsome and compact gaming PC we would gladly add to our home entertainment setup. Between the styling of the case and its size, MSI’s mini desktop isn’t all that different than an Xbox One or PS4. It’s not the most powerful desktop rig in the world, but it’s got more than enough gusto to play games at higher graphics settings than the PS4 Pro can push.

The notebook-style power supply limits the upgradability of this system, but with what comes in the box, you can go far with gaming at Ultra quality. The most delightful thing about the Trident 3 is how cool and silently it runs. This is by far one of the best gaming PCs you can have sit alongside your TV or on a small computer desk.