MSI’s Trident claims to be the “smallest VR-ready PC,” and measures 346 x 72 x 232mm in size. The box is about the size of a DVR and can lie flat or stand, using an angled bottom and angled base to create a more artistic means of presenting itself. It’s a little unstable if you’ve got pets or kids, as there’s no locking mechanism for the stand and the unit to click together, but flat positioning is an alternative. You do lose some cooling potential when going that route, given the ventilation.
We’re reviewing MSI’s Trident 010, as equipped with the i7-6700 and GTX 1060 3GB and bundled with a 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD. The unit is marked at $1100 on Newegg, and retains the same diminutive form factor found in the entire Trident line.
Our benchmarks have gotten increasingly detailed for systems, and we’re now benchmarking more of the thermals (PCH, drives), noise levels, power draw, and gaming performance. Heuristic VR testing was performed on the Trident, but we still require some time to get VR benchmarking right.
MSI Trident Specs Comparison: 007, 008, 009, 010
|Barebones Trident||Trident-008||Trident 009||Trident 010|
|CPU||None||i5-6400 2.7GHz||i5-6400 2.7GHz||i7-6700 3.4GHz|
|GPU||GTX 1060 3GB or 6GB (?)||GTX 1060 3GB||GTX 1060 3GB||GTX 1060 3GB|
|PSU||230W wall drop||230W wall drop||230W wall drop||230W wall drop|
|RAM||None||1x 8GB DDR4-2133||1x 8GB DDR4-2133||1x 8GB DDR4-2133|
|HDD||None||1TB 7200RPM||1TB 7200RPM||1TB 7200RPM|
The barebones system aims to be the most customizable, and basically grants you a motherboard and MXM video card with coolers attached. It’s up to the buyer to grab a CPU, memory, and storage.
Keep in mind that a unit this small is half-way to a laptop, and as such, you’re paying for form factor. The $1100 unit’s specs could be closer to a GTX 1070 + i7 if going the DIY route, but you’ll end up with a larger system (even if opting for something like the SilverStone Raven RVZ02). With MSI’s approach, the PSU is left outside of the case (again, half-way to a laptop) and replaced instead with an AC drop to the wall. The unit is rated for ~230W draw. Keep in mind that, as we learned with the dual-adapter laptops, the maximum upward limit of AC adapter power draw is roughly ~300W. Manufacturing a larger adapter significantly increases costs and subjects the unit to different standards & safety certifications than consumer 300W supplies. With this in mind, the PSU-less Trident will never host components that require a PSU larger than 300W – or in this case, 230W, since that’s all it presently includes.
The barebones platform still includes a GTX 1060, though we are presently not positive if that is a 3GB GTX 1060 or 6GB GTX 1060. Newegg seems to indicate a 6GB MXM/AIC, but all the other units are 3GB.
After the barebones unit, the Trident 008 moves to include an i5-6400 desktop CPU (these are socketed platforms) and a single stick of 8GB DDR4-2133 (so halve that speed, since you’re running on one channel). A single 1TB HDD at 7200RPM ships, superseded by the 009’s additional 128GB SSD. This is the only difference between the two.
The $1100 Trident 010 that we’re reviewing is the only model pre-equipped with an i7 CPU (i7-6700 non-K), but the rest of the specs remain the same as the 009.
Exterior, Ventilation, Dust
The box itself is interestingly designed, sticking to MSI’s recent history of ‘edgy’ outcroppings and angles. It’s an all-plastic shell on a steel chassis, held together by about five screws. The two panels remove just as side panels would, and the video card can also be easily removed (despite custom form factor).
Looking at the ventilation of the Trident, we’ve got a straight-forward layout: The right side-panel has a large mesh intake that covers the video card’s fan, which is a custom form-factor GTX 1060 3GB with an axial cooler. The CPU uses a small form factor blower fan, exhausting hot air out the back of the case. This also helps take care of some of the warmed GPU air.
Air exits the back of the case through the GPU expansion slot and the CPU blower fan, Supported by some ventilation on the opposing side-panel of the enclosure.
A lack of dust filters on the primary GPU meshed ventilation does seem an oversight, since these smaller boxes are more dust-prone than their desktop counterparts. The nature of a small unit is that thermal headroom is inherently more limited—temperatures will run closer to their TjMax limitations. Add five months of dust to the mix, suddenly you’ve got blocked fans or heatsinks. A simple mesh would cost pennies and be easily serviceable by the end-user and, because MSI doesn’t seem to want to let users open their enclosures (“Warranty Void” sticker is hiding one of the screws), providing a dust filter seems obvious. As it is now, any user privy to natural dust build-up will have to tamper with the seal to clean the thing.
Definitely an oversight.
The Trident sticks to MSI’s approach to software on a pre-built system, which basically entails Norton, a few control panels, audio software, and warranty registration pop-ups that mar the initial user experience.
This isn’t the first time that we’ve had to rail against MSI’s bloatware, either, and it’s a shame. Last time, we saw performance differences upwards of 10-20% in some games when running the out-of-box configuration on one of MSI’s laptops. The Trident still has Norton and still has a bunch of other software, but it’s easy to remove. We got rid of it first thing, so all benchmarks were performed with the bloatware uninstalled. Expect worse numbers with it installed. Hopefully, MSI will eventually get the hint and stop tainting their hardware with software that slows it down.
Game Test Methodology
Note that all thermals, FPS, noise, and overclocking tests were performed before our initial tear-down.
NVidia's 376.09 drivers were used for testing. Game settings were manually controlled for the DUT. All games were run at presets defined in their respective charts.
Windows 10-64 build 10586 was used for testing.
Each game was tested for 30 seconds in an identical scenario, then repeated three times for parity.
Average FPS, 1% low, and 0.1% low times are measured. We do not measure maximum or minimum FPS results as we consider these numbers to be pure outliers. Instead, we take an average of the lowest 1% of results (1% low) to show real-world, noticeable dips; we then take an average of the lowest 0.1% of results for severe spikes.
Thermal Test Methodology
We strongly believe that our thermal testing methodology is among the best on this side of the tech-media industry. We've validated our testing methodology with thermal chambers and have proven near-perfect accuracy of results.
Conducting thermal tests requires careful measurement of temperatures in the surrounding environment. We control for ambient by constantly measuring temperatures with K-Type thermocouples and infrared readers. We then produce charts using a Delta T(emperature) over Ambient value. This value subtracts the thermo-logged ambient value from the measured diode temperatures, producing a delta report of thermals. AIDA64 is used for logging thermals of silicon components, including the GPU diode. We additionally log core utilization and frequencies to ensure all components are firing as expected. Voltage levels are measured in addition to fan speeds, frequencies, and thermals. GPU-Z is deployed for redundancy and validation against AIDA64.
All open bench fans are configured to their maximum speed and connected straight to the PSU. This ensures minimal variance when testing, as automatically controlled fan speeds will reduce reliability of benchmarking. The CPU fan is set to use a custom fan curve that was devised in-house after a series of testing. We use a custom-built open air bench that mounts the CPU radiator out of the way of the airflow channels influencing the GPU, so the CPU heat is dumped where it will have no measurable impact on GPU temperatures.
We use an AMPROBE multi-diode thermocouple reader to log ambient actively. This ambient measurement is used to monitor fluctuations and is subtracted from absolute GPU diode readings to produce a delta value. For these tests, we configured the thermocouple reader's logging interval to 1s, matching the logging interval of GPU-Z and AIDA64. Data is calculated using a custom, in-house spreadsheet and software solution.
Endurance tests are conducted for new architectures or devices of particular interest, like the GTX 1080, R9 Fury X, or GTX 980 Ti Hybrid from EVGA. These endurance tests report temperature versus frequency (sometimes versus FPS), providing a look at how cards interact in real-world gaming scenarios over extended periods of time. Because benchmarks do not inherently burn-in a card for a reasonable play period, we use this test method as a net to isolate and discover issues of thermal throttling or frequency tolerance to temperature.
Our test starts with a two-minute idle period to gauge non-gaming performance. A script automatically triggers the beginning of a GPU-intensive benchmark running MSI Kombustor – Titan Lakes for 1080s. Because we use an in-house script, we are able to perfectly execute and align our tests between passes.
Power Testing Methodology
Power consumption is measured at the system level. You can read a full power consumption guide and watt requirements here. When reading power consumption charts, do not read them as a GPU-specific requirements – this is a system-level power draw.
Power draw for the Trident was measured with FurMark and P95 with LFFTs simultaneously blasting.