Building a personal gaming computer is a rite of passage for any PC gamer, but sometimes it’s just easier to have someone else do all the work. The MSI Aegis 3 is one of these pre-built systems that has the hardware to satisfy any PC gamer’s needs, living and breathing inside an aggressively styled, small form-factor chassis that barely takes up any space.
If you’re looking to dive head-first into the glorious world of PC gaming, the Aegis 3 is a great place to start.
Price and availability
There are quite a few variations on the Aegis 3, with the one we tested coming in at $1,549 (£1,799, AU$2,999). That’s right in line with the $1,524 (£1,604, AU$2,599) Alienware Aurora and considerably cheaper than a comparably equipped $1,799 (£1,799 / AU$2,639) Corsair One as well.
There are also cheaper versions of the Aegis 3 with an Intel Core i5-7400 processor and a 6GB GTX 1060 graphics card. A version with the i7-7700, 8GB GTX 1080 graphics card, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and 2TB HDD is just $400 more than the version we tested. It’s a real bargain, especially when you factor in the decent gaming mouse and keyboard MSI packs in the box.
The Aegis 3 looks more alien than its contemporary, the . Vented windows on each side let you peer into the machinations of the PC, while LED lights illuminate and draw attention to its various components and design accents. The front of the Aegis also lights up, just in case you forget for even a second this is a gamer’s computer.
The whole thing looks like some robotic xenomorph hybrid, as though at any time a mouth will pop open and taunt you with another, smaller mouth. There are two folding headphone holders on either side. They look like the horns on Genji’s (from Overwatch) head, adding further to its robotic look.
Lighting is customizable using the pre-installed MSI Gaming Center software. The options are static, gradient, audio, and breathing, and all of them are awesome. The audio setting is arguably the coolest one, as the different zones pulse and dance along with your favorite tunes. It’s worth turning down the room lights and bumping your favorite music just to watch the show.
Did we mention there are LEDs everywhere? Because it bears repeating. Despite of the prevalence of all the lights, they fit so well into the overall style that it adds to the look without being ostentatious, and the different configurations are fun to play around with.
It’s also smaller than it seems possible, given its specs. At 14.8 inches deep, the desktop’s footprint is on-par with the Alienware Aurora and the similarly space efficient Corsair One.
MSI touts the ease at which the Aegis can be upgraded, but that is highly subjective. It comes down to what your definition of “easy” is. This is not a tool-less computer case. There’s not a thumbscrew to be found, meaning you need a medium Philips head to crack it open and scoop out the sweet, sweet components inside.
Fumbling around for a screwdriver isn’t the end of the world, but there are far too many screws that need to be removed before the case can be opened up. Then the graphics card is held in place by an additional 4 screws, and they’re all tiny and easy to lose.
It’s the complete opposite of the Alienware Aurora upgrade process, which is entirely toolless. Putting the pieces back together is frustrating because they just don’t seem to want to line up, and we ended up having to backtrack a few steps during the reassembly process because the tabs in the back hadn’t mated with the slots properly.
Frustration is the name of the game.
The Aegis 3 has a sturdy handle on the back, increasing its portability. The rugged, metal handle is a nice feature because the Aegis 3 is surprisingly heavy, coming in between 17.75 and 25 pounds, depending on its configuration. The supporting metal of the handles runs hidden beneath a piece of plastic trim, and it’s held in by several thick screws, giving it a really solid feel.
Ports for days
In spite of its small form factor, the Aegis has plenty of ports, with a USB Type-C and 2 USB ports right on the front for easy access. There are also 2 VR ports, one on the front and one on the back, for plugging in a VR headset. Headphone and microphone jacks are similarly doubled-up, covering the bases of your peripheral needs.
Certain configurations of the Aegis 3 include a free gaming mouse and keyboard. Both are backlit, with the keyboard’s colors spanning the entire visible spectrum and the mouse glowing red.
Neither the keyboard nor the mouse are particularly high-quality, but that’s not to say they’re bad. The keys on the keyboard have a soft feel to them, somewhere between a membrane and a full-on mechanical keyboard. The mouse is a touch on the small side, but is comfortable to use overall.
One of the best features of the MSI Aegis 3 is how quietly it runs. There’s a lot of math happening in that small, crowded case, but the Aegis 3 barely cries above a dull roar. In fact, the fan noise disappears completely over the sounds of games even at low volumes. We never noticed a trade-off in excess heat from the low-noise fans, so they cool just as well as they stay quiet.
The Aegis 3 is able to hold its own, just eking out a victory over the Alienware Aurora in some tests while falling slightly short in others. It doesn’t fare as well against the Corsair One, but the version with the GTX 1080 and 32GB of RAM would probably have no problem topping its numbers.
We played a good deal of NieR: Automata at its highest settings with VSync turned on, and the Aegis didn’t bat an eye. NieR isn’t the most demanding game out there, but it relies so heavily on fast action that it begs for a computer that can dole out a solid framerate, and the Aegis 3 delivered.
If you hadn’t already guessed from the labeled VR ports on the front and back, the Aegis 3 is a capable virtual reality machine. The latest generation i7 and the GTX 1070 more than meet the requirements for both Vive and Oculus. Its small form-factor and easy-carry handle make it a snap to move. So if you want to set up your experience in another room, you can carry the computer in one hand and your headset in the other.
The Aegis 3 we tested came bundled with VR-ready software, including a shortcut to SteamVR, Fruit Ninja VR, and Tilt Brush, Google’s 3D painting software. While we didn’t have a headset on-hand during the testing process, both Fruit Ninja VR and Tilt Brush are fun introductions into VR and including them with the Aegis 3 is a nice gesture.
PC gaming conjures images of beastly rigs running impossibly complex lighting and cooling set-ups. The Aegis 3 manages to catch that aggressiveness in a small form-factor while retaining the attitude of a custom built system in both style and function. The fact it runs almost impossibly quiet is amazing given its solid specifications and performance.
That said, a big part of PC gaming is having complete domain over the components in your computer, and while the Aegis 3 is customizable, accessing its innards are a pain. The case fits together so well that the tiny screws makes getting inside a fumbling mess.
There’s plenty of power, and the fact components can be swapped out makes it quasi-future proof, although getting into the machine isn’t nearly as easy as MSI wants you to believe. You’ll probably have to search for a tutorial the first time you open it up, because it’s not an intuitive process in the slightest.
Small, quiet, cool and capable, the Aegis 3 is a good choice to begin your ascension to the realm of PC gaming. On top of being powerful, the Aegis 3 just looks awesome. The lighting schemes are really well done and make the small computer seem larger than life. With ports galore, Kaby Lake processors and 10-series graphics, the Aegis 3 is the little computer that could at a great price point.
By Seth G. Macy
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