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MSI Trident A Review

MSI Trident A Review

The MSI Trident A is the ninth generation of this small form-factor gaming desktop. This year’s version includes new components and a smart design, and its price of $1,449 in the US and £1,249 in the UK makes it competitive on paper – even with systems made by local US and UK companies that often undercut the larger brands.

Can MSI’s latest gaming PC prove a worthwhile purchase, or should you continue to look elsewhere for your next gaming PC? Find out in this in-depth MSI Trident A review.

MSI Trident A 05Design

MSI’s machine is smaller than the vast majority of gaming towers. It’s only 130mm wide and it’s 396mm tall, and it only weighs 6.6kg. That makes this machine easier to fit under or behind a TV stand. It also makes it easier to lug this system to LAN parties and gaming events.

It’s not the smallest PC you can buy, of course. However, this is about as compact as a gaming PC can get before performance begins to be seriously compromised.

The MSI Trident A looks good too. The front is made from glossy, angled plastic, the roof has slatted air vents. At the bottom there’s a robust, angled base. The front panel has a band of red lights dividing its plastic. The power button is a large, dramatic triangle.

At the front there are two full-size USB 3.1 ports and a Type-C connection. The port selection at the rear is reasonable: there are four more USB 3.1 connectors, six audio jacks and even a PS/2 connector.

MSI Trident A 01It certainly looks far better than a cheaper machine like the Asus ROG Strix GL10CS. That port selection is far better. When it comes to aesthetics and features, there’s no competition.

The MSI Trident A continues to impress on the inside. The internal design that divides the components in half in order to fit everything inside.

The busiest side of this machine contains the mini-ITX motherboard with the processor and memory, along with the storage and the power supply. The motherboard and power supply sit at the bottom of the system. The processor is topped with a standard CPU cooler that has a small fan. Above that, there are two free 2.5in drive bays, which is rare and welcome on a system as small as this.

MSI Trident A 06Impressively, MSI’s cable-tidying is good here. Wires are carefully routed around the motherboard and the other components. That helps airflow, which keeps noise and temperatures down. It also means that it’s easier to access the internals if necessary.

Of course, the MSI Trident A is a small system with a mini-ITX motherboard. Consequently, there are no spare memory slots or PCI sockets. Many people just won’t want to get inside the machine anyway. However, if you do need to open the Trident up, it’s a welcome bit of sensible design.

On the other side of the machine a cutaway reveals the rear of the motherboard – and a spare M.2 connector. There’s another cutaway section that allows air to reach the PSU. The top half of this back side of the machine is open to allow for graphics card installation.

The graphics card is connected to the motherboard using a PCI extension cable. There’s room in the graphics card space for larger GPUs, but there’s only one power connector – so realistically you can only upgrade to an RTX 2060 Super.

Our only design concern revolves around build quality. The metal on the inside of this machine is very strong, but the plastic front panel and the metal side panels are both a little weak. Expect some scratches and scuffs if you take this machine to gaming events.

Of course, buying a full-tower machine will usually get you better build quality, but you’ll get more upgrade options too – extra space for hard disks, and motherboards with more PCI and memory slots.

Click here for all of our in-depth graphics card reviews – including the RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080, RTX 2070 and RTX 2060!

Components

MSI Trident A 02The MSI Trident A has an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card. The RTX 2060 uses the Turing architecture and includes 1,920 stream processors and 30 Ray-Tracing cores. It’s also got 6GB of memory.

The card comes from MSI’s Ventus range, which means an overclock – the GPU’s original boost pace of 1,680MHz has been improved to 1,710MHz.

It’s a good 1080p and 1440p gaming card, but the RTX 2060 has been superseded by the RTX 2060 Super. This updated card includes 256 extra stream processors and four more Ray-Tracing cores alongside two extra gigabytes of memory.

The Core i5-9400F is a solid mid-range CPU. It uses Intel’s latest architecture, and it has six cores, a 2.9GHz base speed and a Turbo peak of 4.1GHz. It won’t cause any gaming bottlenecks at 1080p and 1440p, and it’ll handle web-browsing, photo-editing and day-to-day work software.

In the US, this machine costs more but is sold with the Core i7-9700F. That chip has eight cores and speeds of 3GHz and 4.7GHz, so it’s significantly more powerful than the UK’s Core i5 chip. That won’t make much difference in day-to-day computing or in games, but it does mean that the US model is more capable when it comes to handling tougher work, like photo or video editing.

MSI Trident A 03In both machines, the RTX 2060 and the Core i5 and Core i7 processors are joined by 16GB of 2,666MHz DDR4 memory, a 256GB or 512GB SSD and a 1TB hard disk.

It’s a solid specification for both UK and US buyers. However, the MSI Trident A does look a little expensive when compared with other conventional desktops in the UK and the US.

In the US, traditional PCs with an RTX 2060 and a Core i7 processor can be found for less than $1,300. In the UK, systems with the RTX 2060 and a Core i5 CPU start at around £1,200.

The MSI Trident A is pricier than larger desktops with similar specifications, and if you take its £1,249 and $1,449 prices and spend that on an ATX desktop then you’ll also be able to find machines with the RTX 2060 Super – so you could spend this money and get a solid graphical upgrade too.

Of course, the MSI will still be smaller and sleeker than those machines, and it’ll still handle 1080p or 1440p gaming. But if you’re not fussed about size and want more power for a lower price, more conventional or basic machines could be better options.

Click here to read our verdict on the best laptops in 2019 for gaming, work and home use!

MSI Trident A Review – Specification Options

As ever, different specifications are available – although more powerful versions of this machine are often called the MSI Trident X rather than the MSI Trident A.

UK buyers who want the model we’ve reviewed here should look for the model number 9S6-B92611-085. This machine costs £1,249. In the US, the machine costs $1,449 but the higher price means that it includes a larger 512GB SSD and a more powerful Core i7-9700F processor.

In the UK, you can spend £2,200 for an MSI Trident X that includes an RTX 2070 graphics card and a Core i7-9700K processor.

In the US, models are available with RTX 2070 and RTX 2080 graphics cards – they’ll cost you $1,700 and $2,000 respectively.

Head here for our full guide to AMD Ryzen 3000 and AMD X570 motherboards

Gaming Performance

The RTX 2060 is an effective gaming card for 1080p and 1440p situations. At 1080p it zipped through our benchmarks with minimums that ranged between 55fps and 103fps. Its average framerates ran between 82fps and 124fps.

That’s great pace. It means that any current single-player game will run smoothly using the MSI Trident A. It also means you’ve got headroom to run the top games for the next few years. There’s pace for Ray-Tracing, too. With this setting activated the RTX 2060 inside the MSI ran Battlefield V an average of 64fps.

Those great 1080p speeds also mean that the MSI will handle absolutely any esports game. It’s also got enough power to run those competitive titles at framerates far beyond 100fps. That means that they’ll look butter-smooth on monitors with high refresh-rates.

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 can handle 1440p gaming, too. In these tests its averages ranged between 57fps and 101fps. There’s enough pace here for tough single-player titles and for esports games at high refresh-rates. That’s something the weaker GTX 1660 Ti can’t handle very well. That GPU, found in cheaper PCs, is only really suitable for 1080p gaming.

However, the MSI Trident A and its Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 are not fast enough to handle 4K gaming. This card will struggle with some tougher games on widescreen panels too, and it won’t run VR headsets particularly well.

It’s a good card, and will remain a good card for the next couple of years. However, we’ve already seen that spending this amount of cash elsewhere can get you a PC with an RTX 2060 Super. That PC will be larger and less impressive, sure, but it will get you more pure performance.

In 3D Mark Fire Strike, for instance, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 inside the MSI scored 15,818 points, but an RTX 2060 Super PC scored 19,205 points.

It’s not enough extra power to suddenly allow the RTX 2060 Super to play games at 4K, but it will give you more pace now and more future headroom. If you’re not fussed about having MSI’s tiny design, it’s certainly worth considering.

Need more news on the latest kit? Click here to check out the latest headlines.

Application Performance

The Core i5-9400F in our UK model of the MSI Trident A is a solid processor. In Geekbench’s single- and multi-core tests the Core i5 part scored 4,809 and 18,750 points, and it followed that with a score of 922cb in Cinebench.

The Trident’s single-core score is about level with the more powerful Intel Core i7 parts – just like the chip inside the American version of the Trident.

However, in Geekbench’s multi-core test the Core i7 part will score around 25,000 points. That’s a significant difference, and it’s no surprise – that part has two extra cores.

For 1080p and 1440p gaming and for day-to-day computing the Core i5’s lesser abilities just won’t make a noticeable difference. However, if you want a machine for content creation, video production or high-end tools then the Core i7 chip is better. That Core i7 part will also be better if you like to run loads of apps at once.

Similarly, AMD’s Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 chips will also be better for content creation – the latter parts especially.

Elsewhere, the MSI Trident A has a solid specification. Its Samsung SSD returned read and write speeds of 3,552MB/s and 1,530MB/s. They’re both excellent, and they mean that games will have great loading times and that the system will boot quickly.

The MSI’s thermal performance is great, too, especially considering this machine’s smaller size. There are no temperature issues in any tests, and the fan noise is modest – the MSI can hardly be heard during low-end tasks, and during gaming the noise output is quiet and consistent.

If you’re gaming with speakers or a headset you just won’t hear this machine. It’s quieter than most gaming towers at this sort of price, and that’s very impressive considering its much smaller size.

Head right here for a primer on Ray-Tracing!

MSI Trident A Review – Conclusion

MSI Trident A 07Our MSI Trident A review illustrates that this small form-factor system is very impressive in several key areas.

Its design is great: it looks good and it’s half the size of any conventional desktop, and its interior is neat and relatively accessible. The port selection is solid, too.

On the inside, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 is fast enough for 1080p and 1440p gaming, the rest of the components are decent, and the rig remains extremely quiet – a tricky accomplishment for a smaller system.

As ever, though, this smaller system does involve some compromise. There are fewer upgrade paths than you’d get on a larger tower. The smaller design and big-brand status mean value suffers a bit: spending this money on a conventional tower from a smaller company will get you a PC with a faster RTX 2060 Super graphics card, and you’ll sometimes get faster memory and a better processor. You could also find an RTX 2060 elsewhere for less.

Of course, lots of people won’t care about internal access or minor component compromises, and others will be willing to lose a little graphical power in order to get a PC that’s small and light enough to fit into tight spaces and to take on the road.

If that’s you, the MSI Trident A is a superb option: well-designed, quiet and small, with ample 1080p and 1440p gaming power.

The machine in our MSI Trident A review costs £1,249 in the UK and $1,449 in the US. Discuss our MSI Trident A review on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration after reading our MSI Trident A review, check out our guide to our favourite laptops or go deep with our ultimate guide to 4K monitors – covering the technology, the terms and our top recommendations!

The GoodRecommended Award

  • Fast 1080p and 1440p gaming performance
  • Solid components throughout
  • Small, clever design – inside and out
  • Consistently cool and quiet

The Bad

  • RTX 2060 Super is quicker
  • A little expensive
  • Build quality could be better

The Specs

CPU: 2.9GHz Intel Core i5-9400F
Memory: 16GB 2,666MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 6GB
Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ac, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0
Ports: 6 x USB 3.1 Gen 1,1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 2, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x PS/2, 6 x audio
Storage: 256GB Samsung PM981 SSD, 1TB hard disk
Warranty: 1yr RTB

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
MSI Trident A

About Author

Mike Jennings

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