The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
We all know MSI from their motherboard and GPU selection primarily. One thing many may not know is that MSI makes a host of other PC related stuff such as peripherals like keyboards and mice, which we have reviewed here at TweakTown. Another area they have ventured into was complete systems, both desktop and laptop.
Originally MSI pushed for more unique designs like a somewhat small desktop unit like the Aegis but have since tried to play in the SFF space. The Trident lineup was shown a few years back at CES, and we have the newest iteration in our lab today, the Trident X.
I have included the white spec sheet, which is what we have on the bench today, but I also included the website version, which shows the three variations of the Trident X you can get.
The Trident X we are looking at today is the 864US version, which is equipped with a 10700K (New models have 10700KF, omitting the iGPU) with 32GB DDR4. The GPU is an NVIDIA RTX 20770 SUPER model, while the storage checks in at 1TB with an OEM PC SN730 M.2 NVMe SSD from Western digital.
The I/O is reasonably equipped with six total USB ports (one is TB3 Type-C) on the motherboard, and the front panel offers triple USB 2ith one being type-C.
The Trident X uses standard PC parts and can be fully upgraded as you would expect; keep in mind the motherboard is a proprietary Z490 unit made for this system. Memory, SSDs, CPU, and GPU can all be easily swapped.
The SFF prowess of the Trident X cannot be denied as it comes in at just 10L volume, and it is roughly equivalent to a PS4 as far as stature.
The Trident X comes in at $2299.00 at the time of writing, and putting together a similarly equipped rig in PCPart picker, we can build a similarly specced system for $2040. This is not a bad markup when you consider the warranty you get, and you avoid building and dealing with potential hassles. Now we have to see if the system performs in such a way to justify a recommendation.
Trident X Marketing
Trident X Marketing
Here we give space to the manufacturer to talk about their marketing points, and we assess them and provide our point of view on the claims.
Here we see the Trident X with its optional TG panel equipped, and MSI refers to the Trident X as the "Centerpiece of gaming."
Here MSI gives a brief insight into the design of the Trident X and how it came to be. The image is flanked by hand drawings or mock-ups of the initial concept.
Here we have the main core components and contributors to the gaming prowess of the Trident X. The 10th gen CPU has high boost speeds, and couples with the equipped RTX 2070 SUPER, we have a powerful machine that I would guess can be a powerhouse for 1080p and 1440p, while 4K I am sure it can do reasonably well, but we will be at the limit of the GPU.
Here we have the ancillary components, namely memory, and storage. The memory is standard off the shelf 2933 sticks from Samsung, they are not the best, but they do the job. The graphic is a strange one as it shows the bar chart peaking at 2742MHz, which is weird since the memory and even the text and tachometer all show 2933, but I digress. The SSD is a good NVMe model; we know it can hit around 3500MB/z sequential, but we will see more of this later in the review.
The cooling is interesting as MSI used the sides as inlets for each device. The CPU, PSU, and GPU each have their own grilled opening. Also shown is the limited space being taken up by the Trident X as it is only 10L, so similar in stature to a modern console.
The main motherboard side panel is interchangeable with a glass panel that comes included with the system. The panel is 4mm thick tempered glass and can swing open like a door.
As you would expect, the Trident X supports MSI Mystic Light RGB, and the Dragon Center software allows you to adjust the lighting for the system fully.
Here MSI highlights the off the shelf parts which can easily be swapped to upgrade your Trident X. Also, MSI takes pride in the fact that they install an internal PSU within the Trident X, an SFX unit from FSP, to be exact. The reason this is a big deal is that many of the thinner SFF systems like this have an external power brick.
This is one thing I like, as MSI not only has a visible vertical GPU, but they built it into a chamber in the top, which keeps it sturdy during shipping. This may not seem like a big deal, but the fact that the system comes out of the box without having to open it to remove packing material says a lot about the stability of the design.
MSI's Dragon Center software allows full tuning of your new Trident X, and that includes a "Game Mode" option, which optimizes and tweaks the system for optimal gaming performance with a single click. It is worth noting that the motherboard has a standard MSI UEFI, and therefore supports full overclocking capabilities if you are adept at tuning your system already.
Packaging and Accessories
Both of the large sides of the packaging show line drawings of the Trident X PC, along with the MSI logo and naming.
The skinnier sides of the packaging are where you find all of the iconographies for compliance and safety. Also, here is the inventory labels that list what system it is and carries all of the inventory management bar codes.
The system and its foam end caps also help hold in place accessory packaging along with the box for the MSI branded Plunger style keyboard. The larger brown box is the tempered glass side panel that you can opt to install depending upon your aesthetic preferences.
Here we see with the box removed that the Trident X system comes in a cloth fabric bag and soft foam end caps to keep it safe from shock and abrasion damage during shipping.
In the accessory pack, it does not have much as everything is already assembled, but here is what it comes with:
- Mains AC power cable
- 8x drive screws
- 2x plastic SATA cables
- Quick start guide
- Warranty cards
Here we have the other ancillary components which come included with the Trident X. The Keyboard is a plunger style unit model Vigor GK30, and the mouse is a Clutch, GM11 model. Also, we opened up the larger brown package to check out the glass panel, and it looks pretty cool with the integrated grille for the CPU cooling fan.
Ok, with all of that out of the way, let's get a look at the Trident X.
MSI Trident X Overview
Here we get our first pic of the Trident X with angled shots and the openings that allow cooling air into the critical components.
Next up, we look at the Trident X form the front and the rear; I know the I/O may not be very easy to see, but do not fret as we will be looking more closely at that next.
The I/O on the Trident X is equipped as follows:
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
- 1 x USB 2.0 Type-A
- 1 x Mic in / 1 x Headphone out
- 2x USB 2.0
- 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
- 1x Thunderbolt 3/USB Type-C (USB 3.2 Gen 2, DP) with PD charging
- 1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A
- 1x RJ45
- 5x Audio jacks
- 1x Optical S/PDIF out
You may notice the motherboard I/O is more limited than your standard off the shelf board, as this is a board specifically designed for the Trident X. I would always like to see more USB to support peripheral devices. Still, there is enough to do the job here. However, in the long run, if you have a lot of peripheral devices, you may end up needing a USB hub.
Inside the Trident X
Pulling the panels on the Trident X is a trivial affair as you remove two screws from each panel, and they slide off toward the rear. Peeking inside, and you can see that MSI maximized space usage with very little wasted space without components in it. The fact that this system can come with a 2080 Ti in its top configurations means we have room to swap up on the GPU front.
There are also two 2.5" SSD/HDD trays in place on the motherboard side of the top chamber and already have power cables run to them.
Here we see the fan which sits atop the air cooler, and that covers the memory and M.2 SSD. Should you want to upgrade those, you will have to remove the cooler. I do like that the fan design has a more static pressure blade design, which will likely help push air through the fins, but we will have to see if there is any noise cost with this.
Next up is the FSP SFX form factor 650W power supply. This is a gold-rated unit with plenty of +12V amps to handle virtually any GPU you could fit in the Trident X enclosure.
Here are the dual 2.5" drive plates, which will allow you to expand storage for your Trident X beyond the 1TB M.2 already in the system. Below this, we see the hard PCB riser used to move the GPU to a parallel position with the motherboard below.
Here is the RTX 2070 SUPER, which fits well in this area, while there is still extra room, should you opt to upgrade the GPU in the future.
Panning down from the GPU, and we see the rear of the motherboard, which houses another M.2 slot that you can use for yet another M.2 SSD. Adjacent to the board is the inlet fan for the FSP SFX 650W PSU.
Lastly, we fire the Trident X up and kick off the lights to show you the RGB lighting and how the Trident X will look when deployed to game.
BIOS/UEFI and Software
Moving into the UEFI, and the very user-friendly easy mode interface greets you. Of course, we will be moving directly to the advanced mode. We will show you several screenshots of the UEFI below.
The MSI UEFI, as you can see, is just like the desktop boards we have reviewed. The overclocking functionality is present, and with a K or KF model processor, the multiplier is unlocked and can be overclocked.
As you can see, the MSI desktop is uncluttered and only comes with what Windows 10 comes with, except for a few MSI centric apps, and a few others, which we will look at below.
Here is the dragon Center application, which is the digital hub from MSI and used for tweaking, tuning, monitoring, and other RGB and related controls. We will show the screen grabs of the interface below.
The Dragon center has a lot of functionality built into it. The ability to run mobile apps via blue stacks is cool, but that depends on who the user is and if that feature means anything to them. MSI also continues its partnership with Nahimic for audio enhancement, and adjustments to this can be seen as well.
I had to show this as I was very happy with everything and how clean the system was until I checked programs and features and discovered this. I am glad that Norton is now much easier to remove, not requiring a dedicated tool. However, still, I would like for something like this to be relegated to an optional installation offering, but licensing like this makes money, so I think we will continue to see it.
WPrime is first up and being a multi-threaded benchmark. We know it will scale with any CPU we throw at it. You can manually set the number of workers or threads you want to allocate to the calculation, which; we did the total thread count for each CPU to ensure we measure the maximum performance the CPU can offer.
Here we see the Trident X place about where we would expect it based upon the 10700K's performance capabilities.
Moving to Blender, and we see the 10700K come head to head with the 3700X of the Corsair A4100, but keep in mind this CPU is on air.
Corona Render shows the Trident X take top marks just beating out the 3800X powered Vanquish from EKWB.
Cinebench is a long-standing render benchmark that has been heavily relied upon by both Intel and AMD to showcase their newest platforms during unveils. The benchmark has two tests, a single-core workload that will utilize one thread or 1T. There is also a multi-threaded test which uses all threads or nT of a tested CPU
Cinebench R20 beats up a CPU with load, but the 10700K with the air cooler equipped handles it well, coming in between the 3700X and the 3800X.
Testing POVRay, we see that 1T, the Trident X falls just behind the Ghost Canyon NUC and its 9980HK.
Aida64 Memory , Encryption & Hash
Memory results are about where I would expect them simply based on the generic DIMMs used for the system. This is not a bad thing, but should you want a small uptick in performance, a good pair of DIMMs with a stout XMP profile will give you a little more of an edge.
AES is always very strong on Ryzen, so the 10700K falls in line behind the two Ryzen powered rigs. But in SHA-3, we see the Trident X jump to the top of the charts.
7-Zip is an open-source and free compression application. It works well with multi-threading and also can see gains from clock speed as well.
Moving to the 7-Zip compression suite, we see the 10700K fall in between the 3700X and 3800X once again.
PCMark is a benchmark from UL and tests various workload types to represent typical workloads for a PC. Everything from video conferencing, image import, and editing, along with 3D rendering, are tested.
WebXPRT is a browser-based test, and we like this test as this is one of the areas not many think to test. This also happens to be a real-world usage test that can be impacted by the mitigations which have recently rolled through and were patched.
WebXPRT sees the Trident X surpass all of our other tested systems, which is likely to do with the high sustained clock speeds of the 10700K.
Graphics Performance Benchmarks
Superposition from Unigine is a DX12 based benchmark. We test with the 1080p extreme preset to represent a maxed out 1080p gaming experience.
Here we see the TridentX line up perfectly with the a4100, which also employs an RTX 2070 SUPER.
3DMark Firestrike is our second graphics or synthetic gaming test. Here we see the CPU is a chart-topping result while the Trident X comes in a bit behind the vengeance, which has a much larger chassis and a higher clocked GPU.
3DMark Time Spy
Time Spy is another 3DMark test variant, but this one is for DX12 based systems. This test can be quite stressful, and since its an entirely different load, you may be surprised to see how the results shuffle when compared to Firestrike.
Moving to the newest graphical and gaming benchmark in the UL suite, and Time spy shows the Trident X jumping up a position, slightly beating out the Vengeance a4100, which is similarly equipped graphically. Still, I think the Intel platform and higher clock speeds helped it here.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
The Trident X proves itself to be a very powerful 1080p gamer, able to utilize a 144Hz display in AAA titles here, while 1440p is just shy of 100FPS and even 4K falls just short of 60.
Wolfenstein Youngblood is a great title but a little lighter for a AAA title, but the Trident X shows 4K results at 90FPS, which is great while easily eclipsing 150FPS at 1080p.
I think this goes to show that the Trident X, while small in stature, can offer some quite sizeable performance.
System I/O, Power, and Thermals
For storage performance, we test the platform using its internal storage along with external ports via the listed storage device. It is tested in CrystaldiskMark 7.0.0 x64, and we average the results to ensure a good cross-section of expected performance.
Here we see the internal WD SN 730 1TB SSD, and it pulls over 3400MB/s sequential reads with over 3100MB/s sequential writes. The randoms also are quite good and hold up well to what most users would buy for a custom build.
For power consumption tests, we use a wall meter to test the full system draw. The reason for this is it will represent what the entire system pulls versus our meter, which shows the power draw on each PSU cable. The reason for this is that measuring the power draw from the EPS cable, for example, does not take into account VRM losses and, therefore, can show a much higher power draw for the CPU or other device due to an inefficient VRM design or loading range.
Idle power consumption is rather low at 45W, only being beaten by the NUC units.
Loading up the CPU with a full FPU load and the maximum draw for the Trident X jumps to 188W, which is only beaten by the EKWB fully liquid-cooled system. These new Intel 10th gen chips can sip some serious watts.
Testing synthetic GPU stress only is an excellent way to show the overhead the CPU adds, as the GPU does not pull more power after it reaches steady state. Here we see the Trident X check-in at 240W, which is lower than all of the systems with a discrete GPU equipped, which shows that when the GPU is loaded, the CPU does not pull very much compared to the others.
Idle temps were surprisingly low at 35C, especially when considering that the two Ryzen based rigs are liquid-cooled.
Loading each CPU up with a full burn-in FPU load, and we see the Trident X level out at 82.2C, which is quite good when you consider that the a4100 it beats is on an AIO. This also means that your gaming load temps will be much better as the abuse I put in this test is far beyond what gamers will do in most cases unless they are running CPU bound AVX workloads.
When MSI first announced the Trident lineup years ago, it seemed neat, but there are plenty of SFF systems, and most of them, at least at the time, had some sort of issue you would have to settle for. The Trident X has taken some of what MSI learned and made a fully integrated system with off the shelf components mostly, and standard format parts with very little as far as proprietary components. The cooling and performance are addressed well and make for a package that Performs as good as it looks while not taking up a ton of space on your desk.
What we like
Thermals: The Trident X with its direct ventilation on the side panel makes for some impressive thermal results.
Compact size: The Trident X stuff a lot in a very small package to minimize its footprint while offering mid-tower system levels of performance.
Value: The Trident X with how it is equipped teeters on a premium of between $120 - $160, which to me is acceptable for a system that comes prebuilt, installed, and ready to run. Oh, and with a warranty.
What do we think could be better?
Preinstalled Software: The only piece of preinstalled software I had an issue with is the Norton. Had they offered it as an installer when you first boot the system, I would be ok, but to have it installed out of the box is never good to me.
The Trident X is an excellent buy for those who want a simple to setup system that won't take up a lot of space and can game or do any other heavy work with ease. The Trident X is a potent performer in a physical size equivalent to a gaming console.
MSI has created an excellent SFF system with performance that far exceeds its stature. With a console-like profile, the Trident X is a giant in its class.
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