MSI Trident X Plus – Review as a Gaming Notebook Replacement

Discussion in 'Desktop Hardware' started by Lantea, Feb 1, 2020.

  1. Lantea

    Lantea Notebook Enthusiast

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    Bit of Background
    I have waited a while to write this review to have some time with the PC as well as several trips with it behind me so I could fully describe my experience not just with using it, but also traveling with the full setup as a replacement for a high end gaming laptop.
    Originally I was considering buying the Alienware Area-51m when it came out, but ultimately decided against it as it only had FHD display option, run at about 100C and had some issues reported by users on these forums.
    At the start when I was deciding between a gaming laptop and a small desktop my main concern was portability, I travel a lot and when I go for extended periods I want to have my main system with me.
    To counterbalance the portability compromise, upgradability down the line is also very important and having a small desktop that uses standard components (ITX motherboard, SFX power supply, 2 slot GPU) makes this a lot cheaper and easier proposition then any upgrades on a gaming laptop.
    Ultimately I have to say I am very glad I went with a small form factor desktop rather than another gaming laptop.
    This review is mostly focused on the decision between a large gaming notebook vs a small gaming desktop and what the experience is like when you opt for the latter.

    The specs (Trident X Plus 9SF-054US)
    Intel Core i9-9900k
    NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11G GDDR6
    32GB DDR4 2666Mhz
    512GB PCI-E NVME m.2 SSD + 2TB 5400RPM (2.5")
    650W Power Supply

    Other hardware I use with the Trident X Plus
    G-Story 15.6” 4K IPS 60hz portable display (
    Roccat Lua Mouse
    MSI DS 4200 Keyboard (included)
    MSI Clutch GM10 Mouse (included, not used yet)

    Purchase experience
    I bought the system from with the help of @Donald@HIDevolution
    My overall experience with HIDevolution was a very positive one. I needed the system within a very tight deadline and Donald and everyone else at HIDevolution did an excellent job in making it happen, and even squeezing in a stress test to make sure the system is not DOA. Can’t say much beyond the purchase experience as I did not need to contact their support since my purchase.

    Pics of the System
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Design/Build quality
    One of the reasons why I opted to buy a pre-built system instead of building my own was that I really liked the look of the MSI case. The only alternative at the time I found that matched the internal layout was the SilverStone RVZ02* and I just did not like the plastic look and feel of it.
    The system is well built, with everything very secure even when transporting the PC, with the GPU being secured with an extra bracket to prevent any movement. The 2.5” bays have rubber spacers that help absorb any impacts if you are using a HDD. It has decent cable management for its size. So far I did not come across any issues in terms of quality of the build or materials used, other then the one issue described below.

    Issues I have faced so far
    The only issue I had with the system so far is static in the front panel audio jacks. The back audio direct from the motherboard is fine so I just use the jacks on the back.
    From what some others have reported around the web and from my experience, it is probably a bad cable connection between the front panel and the motherboard. When I tried pushing in the cable the static went down but is still present. Since I would have to take out the CPU heat sink to get a better look at the issue, so far, I could not be bothered to go to all that trouble; same with the RMA process, as I heard nothing but bad experience with MSI when it comes to warranty support. Just not worth the time and effort to go through all that for front audio jacks when the back ones are fine.
    But it is an issue to keep in mind when buying the system, as it seems some others are reporting similar problems.
    Other then the audio issues, I have noticed some coil whine from the GPU when running certain games like CSGO, ETS2 at extremely high frame rates.

    Fan noise
    I am really happy about how quiet the system is. Compared to the gaming/entertainment laptop I had before it’s a huge reduction in noise. When you are on desktop doing basic tasks you can't hear it at all unless the PSU fan spins up once in a while.
    When gaming and using both the GPU and CPU to nearly 100% you can definitely hear it and it gets noticeably louder, but with an i9 and rtx2080ti I don't think any other system would be much quieter and still maintain good temps outside of maybe a custom water cooling loop. When I game I use headphones and the noise is never an issue for me and the system is sitting on my desk right next to my monitor.
    Overall with the noise levels it depends on your expectations and what you were used to before. But personally, I am happy with this aspect of the Trident X.

    Transport – Traveling with the Trident X
    This was a big consideration when deciding whether to abandon gaming notebooks and go for a small form factor desktop. The desktop itself is not the only issue, but you also have to be able to transport a monitor, keyboard and mouse at the very least with it. It took a lot of time and research to finally decide to go for the desktop and some compromises, like having to buy a portable monitor, while still investing into a proper monitor when you are not traveling, so a bit of extra expense if you want the best of both.
    I went with the portable G-Story 15.6” 4K monitor for traveling and I am really happy with its quality, so far. Three weeks after my purchase g-story also released a 17.3” 120Hz 1440p monitor, which would probably be a better option for gaming if I was to buy it now, especially if you decide to go with anything other then the rtx2080ti for the GPU.
    On to the actual transport; the Trident X did not fit into my existing backpack, I spent quite a bit of time looking for one that would fit before finally deciding to go with a small carry-on suitcase that fit the Trident X just fine. I use an older Ricardo suitcase, very similar to the newer
    I use one half for the Trident X, and in the zipped-up half I managed to fit the MSI keyboard, mouse, portable monitor, and an Xbox controller.
    I used a combination of bubble wrap, cut up foam from the box the MSI came in, and some polystyrene to make it all fit snugly so it does not move in transit, and at the same time compensates for any bumps when rolling the case.
    So far I had no issues when traveling, and this two side setup makes it really easy to remove the PC at airport security checkpoints. The only problem might be with some airlines that have a very strict weight limit on carry-ons as the suitcase with everything in it is quite heavy.

    Pics of transport:

    This is a very brief section and I included only some basic screenshots of benchmarks I run. I have not messed with overclocking yet, and at this time don’t plan to as I am more then happy with the performance at stock configuration. All games I have played so far run fine at 4k 60fps+.
    If you have more questions about performance feel free to ask, and for detailed benchmarks there are plenty of other videos around the web, I have linked some at the end.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    MSI support
    Short version:

    Very bad experience with a simple promotion issue; MSI support stringing me along for 8+ months with no results and latest emails to support completely ignored. Real shame that MSI support has put a black mark on an otherwise good product. But a product is only as good as the support the manufacturer provides. Very disappointing to see. :(

    New Update:
    MSI has finally honored their promo and sent out what they originally promised. Shame it took so much time and effort to get it resolved, but glad it’s done, and I can close this whole case. If they did not string me along for months, it would have been a lot more positive customer service experience. Hope if there are any issues in the future it will be a much better experience, because nobody wants to spend nearly a year dealing with customer support over the same issue, until it finally reaches the right people to actually resolve it.

    The very long version:
    The only bad experience with the purchase of the Trident X was when it comes to MSI support. The Trident X was bought during a promotion that promised the GH70 headset for anyone that purchased a Trident X during the promotion period.
    I completed the registration and submitted everything that MSI wanted, I did not receive any reply for a week so I contacted MSI support to see if everything was fine. I was told that the review takes 2 weeks and everything will be sorted out and that I should contact Tom Ho from US MSI support for more details.
    I emailed Tom who told me that the promotion had high demand and the shipments were delayed to September 2019 (this was in June) and my application was in reviewing stage. I said ok, no problem with the delay as long as everything is in order.
    After I did not hear any more updates from Tom I contacted him again in September 2019 to inquire about the promotion and was again told its under review. I asked him to further check on it, to which he replied that “Noted, I’ll check for you.” I have not head anything more for another month from MSI so I emailed again at the end of October to see what is the situation with the promised promotion.
    Tom emailed back with “I am sorry that. Due to the tremendous response to this promotion, the prize of GH70 is shortage, please expect a delay shipment on the prize of GH70, the shipment will be completed in Sep / Oct, 2019.” And told me to also contact USMSI Promo team. This was on the 28 Oct 2019.
    I have again contacted MSI at the start of November asking what is the situation with this promo and I haven’t gotten any reply, from Tom, MSI or Giandric(who I was told is another US support person to contact).
    I emailed again at the end of November 2019, in mid-December, and again on 12 January 2020, with a polite email simply asking MSI/Tom or anyone from MSI support to update me about the situation.
    I have still not received any response from anyone at MSI with the last contact being from Tom in October 2019 after which Tom and MSI support ignored all my emails and did not update me to this day about why they have still not honoured the promotion they promised when I purchased the Trident X.

    I am extremely disappointed with MSI and MSI US support and unless they start supporting their customers and rectify this situation, I can not recommend any MSI product, because if this is the sort of hassle they put a customer through for a simple promo item MSI promised, I can’t imagine how bad the support would be if I actually had an issue with the Trident X or any of their products.
    Therefore unfortunately despite the fact that I really like the Trident X, I can not recommend it to anyone who wants support for the products they buy from a competent customer oriented support team which actually cares about customers who decide to spend a lot of money on their products, like the Trident X which cost $3000.

    If anyone at MSI is reading this feel free to reach out and I can send you all my communication history with MSI support and Tom, and maybe we can finally try and resolve this ongoing issue; and hopefully I will be able to recommend MSI products without any caveats in the future.

    Price/Value proposition (better to build own?)
    Finally a quick look at whether it is better to build your own system or go for the Trident X.
    Using PC Parts Picker a system similar to the Trident X comes to around $2500* the Trident X Plus 9SF-054US cost $3000 at time of purchase and now is sold at $2700** which is just $200 extra over a custom build, so unless you really want to build your own system, its not a bad price for a pre-build, of course the prices in other regions will vary.


    Overall after about 9 months of use I am happy with the overall system and its performance, and after coming from gaming laptops to a desktop it is a huge relief not to have to worry about hard to replace components failing and upgrades being close to impossible. That is probably the one biggest advantage of a small desktop system, that no matter what fails on it down the line, it will never be as expensive to replace as it would be on a high end gaming laptop, with the most expensive component being the GPU.

    The biggest concern being the easy transport turned out to be not much more difficult then transporting a big laptop, once you sort out the carry-on suitcase and all the padding inside, which can take some time but is not impossible, its smooth sailing from there.

    Hope this little review helps someone who is undecided between a big gaming laptop and a small form factor desktop. If anyone has any questions feel free to comment below; and if there are any other Trident X owners lurking around I would love to hear your thoughts about the Trident X :)

    Other useful resources

    Video Reviews
    [Linus Tech Tips - MSI’s No Compromise Gaming Desktop]

    [Jarrod'sTech - MSI Trident X Gaming PC Review]

    Unboxing Videos
    [MwaveAu - MSI Trident X Plus Compact Gaming PC – Unboxing]

    [Whit & Ken - MSI Trident X Plus unboxing and comparison]

    Other [MSI Home],1.html [Very detailed review with benchmarks]
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2020
    MarlinFF, fiche and iunlock like this.
  2. iunlock

    iunlock 7980XE @ 5.4GHz

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    Excellent write up! Good job. REP+
  3. Lantea

    Lantea Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks :)
  4. fiche

    fiche Notebook Geek

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    Thank you for the review. After many years with gaming laptops I will be purchasing the Trident X Plus. Tired of dealing with Optimus graphics so was looking at a desktop replacement laptop anyway. A difference in form factor but not much difference in weight. As stated extra cost for monitor but not locked in. :vbthumbsup:
  5. MarlinFF

    MarlinFF Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the great writeup! I usually build PCs on my own but went with the MSI premade this time around since I was able to grab this for a great deal and am glad to say I do not regret it at all. Absolutely a beast of a machine in a small form factor. I can confirm I also have static from the from audio port, which is unfortunate given how high end this PC is. The only upgrade I am planning to do is the ram, kinda odd they went all out with a i9-9900k and 2080ti but have memory that runs at 2666mhz at 19-19-19 timings.

    Of note, when I first got this PC I installed in a NVME SSD 1TB drive as my primary drive and an extra SSD, so total of 4 drives. The PC would have no issues booting and shutting down, however would hang when restarting/rebooting. It would literally just sit there with no video input, spinning the fans. The only solution I found was switching from Intel RST/Raid to ACHI (which requires Windows reinstallation) in the BIOS. I didn't see any changes in read/write speeds and am unsure why it would hang on that mode, but it's been working flawlessly since the change.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2020

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