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 manufactured some mind-blowingly small PCs over the years, including a game-ready Mac Pro competitor and a VR-ready system you could carry on your back. However, even among all these innovative machines, the MSI Trident 3 remains the most stylish gaming PC MSI has ever made.

MSI touts the Trident 3 as a console killer, and it’s not hard to see where it’s coming from – it’s about the same size as the Xbox One S, but packs way more power than even the Xbox One X – thanks to its Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 1070 graphics. It’s an attractive rig, at an affordable price – which makes the MSI Trident 3 one of the best gaming PCs you can buy – even in 2018. 

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

The MSI Trident 3, in the configuration you see above runs for $1,599 (about £1,160, AU$2,040). This particular unit MSI sent us is a limited-edition Arctic edition of the Trident 3, which comes with a special white paint job and a Nvidia GTX 1070 you’ll only find on this model.

In 2018, however, you’ll find that the i7-7700 version has been replaced with an i7-8700, and has received a $100 price cut, and you’ll now find it for $1,499 (AU$2,499, about £1,131). 

Shoppers can pick up the standard black version of the Trident 3 with the same processor and other specs, but it only maxes out with Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics at $1,099 (£1,099, about AU$1,450).

Regardless, it’s still far and above more affordable than comparable compact gaming PCs on the market. The similar 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 compact gaming PC that retails for $1,999 (£1,999, AU$3,849). And that price doesn’t even account for the storage and memory you’ll need to purchase separately for this mostly barebones package.   

Design

Maybe it’s the beautiful white design or the silver base, but the MSI Trident 3 Arctic looks like the Nintendo Wii’s bigger, more hardcore brother. Not that we’re complaining. The compact PC is aesthetically pleasing with a design that successfully toes the line between futuristic and modern without being too garish.

Fortunately, MSI has kept the RGB lighting tasteful rather than going overboard like some other manufacturers. 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 style 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 flamboyant Asus ROG GR8 II.

Upgradability and performance

Sick style is one thing, but what MSI has done with the internal layout within the Trident 3 is even more impressive. You get a full-fledged desktop processor and graphics card here – in spite of the desktop’s extremely compact size.

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

The one drawback that we can think of is that the power supply is basically the fat brick you get with any of MSI’s gaming laptops. It’s an annoying 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 truly 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 users will be happy 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 

Regardless of the omission of the higher-end Nvidia GTX 1080, found in  the Corsair One and Zotac Magnus EN1080, the MSI Trident 3 still manages to all but keep up with 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.

What’s even more impressive, is that the Trident 3 stays nearly silent and cool even while under full load. Fan noise is almost 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.