I am a sucker for small form factor(SFF) PC’s like the MSI MPG Trident AS. Sure, many gamers love their humongous, wind turbine cooled, RGB Christmas tree builds but I’m all for subtlety. It’s like the guy who comes to a drag race in an unassuming Honda Accord that secretly has a twin-turbo, Nitro gas boosted, rocket engine that leaves the bigger, flashier muscle cars in the dust. I digress but you get my point.
Starting at a pricey $2999, this diminutive beast of a gaming PC offers a whole lot of bang for your buck. Think 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10700F and MSI Ventus RTX 3060 Ti/ 3070 graphics cards smushed into a tiny 10l tower that’s about the same size as the near impossible-to-buy PlayStation 5. And yet, you are getting a much more accessible and upgradeable machine that will provide all the same power as the PS5 on your desk or in your living room.
However, SFF’s are often hamstrung by their poorer thermals that limits what components and how much you can push them. But after several weeks maining the Trident for all my work, media consumption and way too many hours of Destiny 2 and The Ascent, I’m left with almost no complaints and lots of fuzzy, warm feelings inside.
MSI MPG Trident AS Review
The first thing we need to address is the size of the Trident. This thing is small. While it certainly isn’t as small as an Intel NUC Canyon, the Trident stands at just 15.6-inches tall, 5-inches wide and 15-inches deep. To put that in context, the new Sony PlayStation 5 is 15.4-inches tall, 10-inches deep and 3.6-inches wide. Now considering that the Trident can easily take off-the-shelf PC components, compared to the PS5’s custom designed hardware, this is undeniably impressive.
The slim black tower has an edgy design that is a stark contrast to the smooth, curvy whites of the PS5 but it’s still a looker. The distinctive triple LED array on the front that you know is totally customisable, really accentuates the edgy look. The base is slightly flared out to keep the skinny chassis from toppling over. The downside is that you can’t lay the Trident on it’s side to hide under a monitor stand or in a TV stand. That wouldn’t be a good idea anyway since the Trident needs at least one side fully open to vent the hot air. It’s also why I chose to ignore the bundled alternate tempered glass side panel because I prize cool performance over showing off my bits.
Accessing those bits is as easy as unscrewing two Phillips screws on the side panel and you’re in. Neatly packed inside this tiny case you’ll find room enough for a medium sized graphics card, a 450w modular power supply, two DDR4 2666MHz slots, two M.2 SSD and two 2.5-inch hard drives. Phew, that’s already major dust in the PlayStation 5’s face. The standard kit MSI provides is pretty darn good but with some bargain bin hunting you can make the Trident even more powerful by swapping out all those components.
And just to show off, here’s some benchmark numbers and it’s clear that this tiny box doesn’t pull any punches. The pure number crunching that the octacore i7-10700F with a max clock speed of 4.8Ghz is mightily impressive in everyday use too. Content creators, graphics designers and video producers will be plenty happy. Turning to 3DMark 11 and Superposition, the MSI RTX 3070 continues to prove that it’s the best value for 1440p and 4K gaming you can buy. Even with demanding RTX titles, the Trident easily hit the 60FPS mark at 1440p Ultra settings.
And it does all this while staying relatively cool and quiet. Even without fancy water cooling, the Trident maintained a top CPU and GPU temperatures in the mid 70’s. The only time I was fully aware of the fans making noise was when I was playing games at ridiculous 3460×1600 ultrawide resolution with settings cranked to the maxed and ray-tracing enabled. Don’t hate me, once you’ve gamed ultrawide, you can’t go back. But even then, it wasn’t noisy enough to cause any complaints from my household compared to the many laptops I have tested in the past.
And being able to run any AAA game with max settings by default at well over 60fps is undeniably smug inducing snobbery especially from such an unassuming box. I’ve recently got back into Destiny 2 and the difference between playing on the Trident versus my Xbox One X is so disturbingly stark that I’ve finally understood the PC superiority ideology. And the fun doesn’t stop there.
Because of the Trident’s tiny footprint, it’s perfect for a living room PC gaming setup. If you have a compatible TV like the excellent LG CX 48 OLED and an HDMI 2.1 cable, you can enjoy 4K 120Hz gaming from the comfort of your couch just like all those lucky PS5 owners — exclusives be damned! And thanks to the bazillion USB Type-A and Type-C ports, you can connect your swanky wireless peripherals and the kitchen sink. Add on Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, Bluetooth 5 support and Gigabit Ethernet wired connection for you hardcore folks.
If I had to complain about anything, it would be the MSI Dragon Center software. The software is designed to be a hub for managing all your MSI devices and peripherals allowing you to change performance profiles, RGB lighting, run system updates and even do hardware monitoring. But for the life of me, I just didn’t find it useful. The difference in the machine’s performance modes was negligible and there aren’t any overclock or tuning features for the hardware; not even fan curves. Trying to get any system updates through the Dragon Center was an exercise in frustration and ultimately, I just ignored the software and went merrily along my way.
The MSI MPG Trident AS has been one of my most enjoyable experiences this year. It just sits quietly on my desk and does everything I need it to do without a fuss and barely takes any room on my desk. It consistently outperformed the expectations suggested by it’s 2000’s console looks. But there is no denying that $3000 is a hell of a lot of money to pay, three times the PlayStation 5 that I compared it to. Sure, for that you get a similar sized machine that can play anything the PS5 can and then some. And if you splurge for a faster SSD and RAM, it’s pretty hard to beat. And compared to RTX laptops like the Razer Blade 15 or Alienware m17, the Trident is a steal and easily outperforms them dollar for dollar. So if you can afford it, this is a great little desk and living room gaming PC to have.