MSI Vortex Review feature

Although the process has becoming increasingly easier over the years, building a PC is considered a daunting task. There’re loads of cables, loads of different ports and sockets, and a ton of cable management to sort though. It’s a soothing process for some (like me), but for others it’s the single hindrance between them and a kickass gaming machine. Usually skipping this process costs a pretty penny, and more often than not doesn’t justify it with middling performance returns.

The MSI Vortex is, at its best, only guilty of one of these things.

Miniature and striking, the MSI Vortex is probably the smallest PC I’ve seen capable of doing what it can. Taking hints from some of the Apple Pro designs in the past, the Vortex channels a cylindrical design that might confuse some into thinking it’s a desk mounted trash can. A gorgeous, metal encased trash can with striking curve, strips of bright customisable LED lighting and the recognisable MSI dragon print. It’s not a PC you want hidden under a desk – it’s one you want proudly sitting next to your monitor for everyone to see.

And given its small size, that’s possible. It took me a while to accept that this compact marvel of engineering absolutely dwarfed my primary desktop in terms of raw power. Encased inside are two (yes two) Nvidia GTX 980s in SLI, accompanied by a full Core i7-6700 Skylake processor, 16GB of DDR4 2133 MHz RAM, two 128GB SSD drives in Raid 0 configuration and another 2.5-inch 1TB drive. It fits snugly into a case that’s no taller than my 23 inch monitor, and no wider than an Xbox One. Better yet, it weighs a measly 4kg in total. It’s simply stunning.

Its size doesn’t mean skimping out on options either. The Vortex offers a range of input options , from 2 standard HDMI ports to an additional two Mini-DisplayPorts. They’re joined by four USB 3.0 ports, another two USB 3.1 Type-C ports, audio in and out and a LAN slot. That’s on top of the in-built Bluetooth and Wireless chips, meaning you don’t need to deal with the cabling if you don’t want to.

MSI Vortex Review 2

But the real beauty of the Vortex is in its simplicity. Windows 10 comes pre-loaded, so it’s matter of hooking up power to the tiny 450W power supply (which is an important point for later), hitting the power button and choosing a Username and Password. If you’re looking for the most no-fuss way to extreme PC gaming performance, I’ve yet to try something that makes it more streamlined than the Vortex at this point. There’s no guess work involved, and it delivers where it matters most.

That 450W power supply does really present the first real concession that the Vortex makes. Considering MSI is shoving two 980s into it, there simply isn’t enough power there to suggest that these are the desktop-grade versions of this card. And they aren’t, with MSI opting for the much smaller mobile versions of the 980. These newer chips feature a full 8GB of GDDR5 memory each (as opposed to 4GB), and generally keep up with their larger brothers. They’re not laptop chips in a desktop body – as Nvidia made very clear when they first revealed them.

MSI Vortex Review 1

Having that type of horsepower in such a small case lends itself to heating concerns (especially when overclocking, which the Vortex is fully capable of doing at the click of a button in its included Dragon Centre software, among other things), but the most impressive part of the design compensates. The Vortex case comes with a massive fan at the bottom, which sucks cool air out from underneath the elevated design and spirals it through the body and out the top.

It’s a genius implementation that keeps the system consistently cool at all times, with the cards themselves never exceeding 80 degrees during the most stressful testing. Better yet, the system is silent during casual usage, and only slightly noisy during your load operations. It’s never as loud and annoying as a full desktop, with none of the fuss of keeping the system clean included.

MSI Vortex Review 4

That all sounds well, but it means nothing without the Vortex showing off where it counts: raw performance. Given that the gains seen from traditional SLI can somewhat disappoint at times, the Vortex surprised me in most of its tests. Throwing both GTA V and Metro: Last Light’s strenuous benchmark modes at it, the Vortex managed to keep things smooth all the way up to 4K. Getting there was easy, but the system clearly showed some struggle as it reached the highest gaming peaks players are currently trying to play at. The Vortex might get to 4K, but it certainly won’t stay there for much longer – as the concessions in the mobile architecture start to crack under real pressure.

MSI Vortex Metro Last Light Benchmark

MSI Vortex GTA V Benchmark

This is evident in the Futuremark FireStrike Extreme tests, although it must be said that the Vortex scored well into the upper echelons of the software’s entire testing database. It’s clear that the Vortex struggles when compared to traditional desktops of the same specifications, but it’s still head and shoulders above even enthusiast builds you might have actually seen in person.

MSI Vortex FireStrike Extreme Result

MSI Vortex FireStrike Ultra Result

No question about it – The MSI Vortex is the fastest configuration we’ve ever had the chance of testing, but it does present an interesting opportunity for comparison. In the past we’ve gone hands-on with two different versions of ASUS’ GTX 980Ti – the regular and Matrix variants – and stacking their numbers side by side with the Vortex presents something telling. Although the Vortex edges out on top, it does so only marginally. A big factor to consider when looking at the price of such a setup.

MSI Vortex vs GTX 980Ti GTA V Benchmark

Because without beating around the bush, the Vortex is expensive. Very expensive. It comes in two flavours, with the main differences being the GPUs inside. While we tested the beefier GTX 980 SLI version, it does come with smaller and considerably slower GTX 960s in SLI too. That configuration costs no less than R46,999.00. The version we tested out?

Well, it retails for a staggering R82,500.

There is no question about it: The Vortex is definitely not a cheap configuration, and it’s one that a standard desktop build will be able to outmatch in performs of price without absolute ease. In fact, a configuration with two 980Ti cards in SLI might even cost you less, so it really comes down to one fundamental question. How hands-free do you want your PC setup to be? And are you willing to pay a premium for that luxury.

MSI Vortex Review 5

Because that’s where the Vortex is being marketed – a small niche of potential PC gamers that want the absolute best performance they can get with absolutely none of the fuss. MSI isn’t going to compete with traditional desktop gaming with the Vortex, and it’s not their intention to. The Vortex, at it’s core, simply can’t be smaller, more compact and as powerful as a standard desktop while staying even close to marginally price competitive, so it would be silly to think of it as such.

What the MSI Vortex is, however, is a marvel in engineering that costs enough to make you believe it. It’s powerful, quiet and incredibly easy to use, and it was truly depressing to have to let it go. If you want some of the best gaming performance with the least amount of effort, and you have the deep pockets to bank roll it, there’s simply nothing better than the Vortex.

But if you’re not stressed with cables, you’ll find it easy to build something better for the fraction of the cost.

 

Last Updated: May 9, 2016

MSI Vortex
The MSI Vortex is an incredibly powerful PC for its size, cramming two of the most powerful cards on the market into a sleek, well designed chassis. It’s an expensive setup for those with deep pockets and little time to mess around with custom builds, but it’s a setup I’d gladly have on my desk anytime.
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102 Comments

  1. I’ll take 2.

    Reply

  2. Kromas untamed

    May 9, 2016 at 12:44

    Make no mistake. If you buy this you are not a gamer. You just want to show off you have money.

    Reply

    • Gavin Mannion

      May 9, 2016 at 12:47

      Or you are a gamer who doesn’t have time to build a PC.

      if I had the money I would buy this over building a PC, looks sexy and it appears to work like a dream… no mess no fuss

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief in New York

        May 9, 2016 at 12:57

        Then get the guys at [computer supplier starting whose name starts with an E] to build for you?

        They even stress test the new hardware for 24hrs nonstop when you buy a PC from them, for a decent price

        Reply

        • Greylingad[He Charges!]

          May 9, 2016 at 13:22

          This I can personally provide testament of, thing is, like anything really, you get what you pay for, increased mobility on a desktop PC? Let’s double the price, because there is no way you’re fitting a Sli config into your old 486 DX2’s case…

          Reply

        • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

          May 9, 2016 at 13:23

          Encredible Connection?

          Reply

          • Greylingad[He Charges!]

            May 9, 2016 at 13:24

            Haai! We don’t swear like that here man!

          • Captain JJ vs ..............

            May 9, 2016 at 13:24

            *Encredible Corruption

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:26

            The only time I’d allow them to touch my PC is…….well, I cannot think of ANY reason I’d EVER allow those guys to touch my tech

          • Captain JJ vs ..............

            May 9, 2016 at 13:27

            I can’t think of a reason to enter the store, except if it’s 60degrees outside and only their aircons are workng.

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 9, 2016 at 13:27

            I hide there when I spot people I want to avoid

          • Dresden

            May 10, 2016 at 01:00

            Funny you say that, I do exactly the same thing xD

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 10, 2016 at 07:44

            XD

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:30

            The aircons in there are quite nice yes, and I like looking at tech in there, and noticing what NOT to pay

          • Greylingad[He Charges!]

            May 9, 2016 at 13:31

            The fact that they still exist is what amazes me, are people that misinformed?

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:31

            Same people that buy CoD every time, buy at IC as well

          • Greylingad[He Charges!]

            May 9, 2016 at 13:32

            HAHAHAH!

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:32

            Most people are sheep dude

          • Greylingad[He Charges!]

            May 9, 2016 at 13:34

            Yep! Like the ones who buy stuff at that store that starts with a D and ends with something compared to what they were when they thought of their prices, wired….

          • Captain JJ vs ..............

            May 9, 2016 at 13:31

            A guy who works with me wanted to buy his kid a pc (he’s a real douche – when I started here he always pinned shit on me). So I recommended him a pc….and he bought it at incredible conn. 😀

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:32

            Always knew you were a scumbag

          • Captain JJ vs ..............

            May 9, 2016 at 13:33

            He said he saw it at Incredible Connection, I said it’s good, but didn’t bother telling him he could get cheaper elsewhere. Call it vipaka.

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:35

            Heh, vipaka, haha, janee

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 9, 2016 at 13:27

            Is when they buy it from you for a really good price?

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:30

            I dunno man, that means they will be fondling my hardware, even though I sold it

            😛

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 9, 2016 at 13:31

            LOL

      • HairyEwok

        May 9, 2016 at 13:01

        If I had R83K, I’d rather let some company that specializes in water cooling build me one insane tower.

        Reply

        • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

          May 9, 2016 at 13:05

          If I had R83K I’d go on vacation.

          Reply

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:06

            And buy me something I hope

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 9, 2016 at 13:06

            A spellchecker? You seem off today

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:07

            IKR? It is like my fingers are still in weekend mode

        • Raptor Rants

          May 9, 2016 at 13:09

          I’d pay off debt. But that’s just me

          Reply

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 9, 2016 at 13:10

            I’d buy 10 copies of BF1 collector’s editions and auction them on Ebay. Profit!

          • HairyEwok

            May 9, 2016 at 14:01

            Pay off debt to make more debt.

      • Kromas untamed

        May 9, 2016 at 13:29

        I would rather pay a company to build the kit for me like evetech or something.

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief in New York

          May 9, 2016 at 13:29

          Well that is what my comment was about below, but now you gone and blabbered the name out loud

          Reply

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 9, 2016 at 13:30

            something.com?

          • Captain JJ vs ..............

            May 9, 2016 at 13:30

            Or what I said long before without bothering with a name at all.
            Muggles.

          • Kromas untamed

            May 9, 2016 at 14:10

            Well they are a tad expensive but even a completely custom built system from them will be way more powerful and cost a fraction of this machine.

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 14:13

            They have some lekker discounts sometimes

      • Pariah

        May 9, 2016 at 13:53

        You know you can pay the PC companies R150 to do that for you. Or you can buy from places like Evetech who assemble the entire thing for you, overclocked and all. No mess, no fuss.

        And let’s be fair, Windows 10 takes as much effort to install as it takes to open a beer.

        Reply

      • Uberutang

        May 16, 2016 at 15:36

        Actually it uses SLI. Lots of mess and fuss.
        They need to bring out a NON SLI 980ti or better yet 1080 version (single GPU only please)

        Reply

    • Captain JJ vs ..............

      May 9, 2016 at 12:50

      Yea, Agreed.
      You can buy a pc, assembled and built, for a fraction of this thing’s price.
      Even if you know nothing or don’t have the time, just go to a shop, or email them (there are really good stores out there), tell them what you need it for or what your budget is and they’ll spec it up, build it and all you need to do is pay and pick up.

      Reply

  3. Alien Emperor Trevor

    May 9, 2016 at 12:50

    This thing sucks. Why make it look like a kettle if it can’t make coffee. False advertising!

    Reply

    • Captain JJ vs ..............

      May 9, 2016 at 12:55

      It’s a COMPACT machine. It obviously only makes espresso.

      Reply

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        May 9, 2016 at 13:05

        Probably takes forever to boil the water because it doesn’t use AMD.

        Reply

        • Captain JJ vs ..............

          May 9, 2016 at 13:23

          Yea. Damn peasants 😀

          Reply

    • Mark Treloar

      May 9, 2016 at 15:11

      How about the iMac dustbin?

      Reply

  4. Admiral Chief in New York

    May 9, 2016 at 12:56

    WTF is RAID 9?

    Is it close to the one that nearly broke Hammersteyn?

    Reply

    • Captain JJ vs ..............

      May 9, 2016 at 12:56

      I don’t think anything can break Hammersteyn. You’ve seen him.

      Reply

      • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

        May 9, 2016 at 13:05

        It gave me a boo boo.

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief in New York

          May 9, 2016 at 13:05

          It’s ok honey

          Reply

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 9, 2016 at 13:06

            NO!

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:06

            HammerBooBoo?

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 9, 2016 at 13:07

            No one wants that.

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:08

            I quite like it, let me get Llew to take 7 orders

  5. Raptor Rants

    May 9, 2016 at 12:57

    At first I was HHHHGGGGGGGGGNNNNNNNNNNNNN,

    Then I saw the price and was like

    Meh.

    Reply

  6. HairyEwok

    May 9, 2016 at 12:57

    For that price, i’d rather not.

    Reply

  7. Admiral Chief in New York

    May 9, 2016 at 12:58

    9 May, the day we read about overpriced things

    Reply

    • Raptor Rants

      May 9, 2016 at 12:59

      I know right!

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief in New York

        May 9, 2016 at 13:00

        I’m going to go home and find out a loaf of break is R30

        Reply

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          May 9, 2016 at 13:04

          I would’ve thought break would be cheaper than that because it’s broken.

          Reply

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:05

            FFS, something wrong with me today, this is probably the tenth one today.

            Fingers frozen from the cold

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            May 9, 2016 at 13:07

            Let it typo!

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 9, 2016 at 13:08

            Maybe you need a bread from work? 😛

          • Raptor Rants

            May 9, 2016 at 13:08

            Maybe he needs some break on his bread?

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 9, 2016 at 13:08

            Or he needs to break bread with someone?

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:11

            All these expensive things I see

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:08

            *braek
            *bred

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:08

            Maybe I need some mead

    • Captain JJ vs ..............

      May 9, 2016 at 13:26

      Did your “services” ad go back up on Gumtree?

      Reply

      • Admiral Chief in New York

        May 9, 2016 at 13:26

        JJ, we’ve been down this road, I’m not interested

        Reply

        • Captain JJ vs ..............

          May 9, 2016 at 13:27

          You keep telling yourself. One day, you’ll believe it.

          Reply

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:29

            Your eyes are too hairy man, TOO HAIRY

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            May 9, 2016 at 13:33

            But winter is coming.

          • Captain JJ vs ..............

            May 9, 2016 at 13:33

            It is? I can’t see.

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:35

            Hahaha

            Scissors cower in fear, steel combs will break, and hair clippers will choke

  8. Admiral Chief in New York

    May 9, 2016 at 12:59

    If you spend THAT money on the Vortex, your wife is going to file for a divorcex

    Reply

  9. Greylingad[He Charges!]

    May 9, 2016 at 13:11

    • Captain JJ vs ..............

      May 9, 2016 at 13:25

      Who needs to pay off on your house when you can buy a pc?

      Reply

      • Greylingad[He Charges!]

        May 9, 2016 at 13:26

        Hehehe, exactly! Who!?

        Reply

      • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

        May 9, 2016 at 13:26

        Where are you gonna put your PC if you don’t have a house?

        Reply

        • Greylingad[He Charges!]

          May 9, 2016 at 13:27

          The back of the car? Where else?

          Reply

        • Captain JJ vs ..............

          May 9, 2016 at 13:28

          Well, if you’re spending 83k on a pc, then probably not in the same house as your wife or SO.

          Reply

          • Greylingad[He Charges!]

            May 9, 2016 at 13:29

            Yoh! If I dared that, my name would instantly turn into Ringed Neck Joe…

          • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

            May 9, 2016 at 13:29

            If you’re spending 83k on a pc you need to buy a console and advertise your place in the ivory tower. Because you know nothing about gaming rigs

          • Captain JJ vs ..............

            May 9, 2016 at 13:32

            Haha. Oh, excellent

          • Admiral Chief in New York

            May 9, 2016 at 13:34

            xD

      • Pariah

        May 9, 2016 at 13:52

        And for double the price of a normal PC that has the same specs too!

        It’s like this is the new Mac.

        Reply

  10. Greylingad[He Charges!]

    May 9, 2016 at 13:16

    I’m sure any one of us would like one of these, but goshdarn and dammit, that price…

    Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      May 9, 2016 at 13:52

      If i were loaded, I’d buy one. Happily. I am, however, not loaded.

      Reply

      • Greylingad[He Charges!]

        May 9, 2016 at 13:57

        HAHAHA!!! Well, for the married and family folk around here, I’m sure we’d happily pass on that price too, a few more important things one could savour…

        Reply

  11. VampyreSquirrel

    May 9, 2016 at 13:33

    R83k??? Screw THAT!

    Reply

    • Hammersteyn_hates_Raid0

      May 9, 2016 at 13:51

      You’re missing the point, it’s already assembled, no need for screwing 😛

      Reply

      • Pariah

        May 9, 2016 at 13:51

        *insert oh you gif here*

        Reply

      • VampyreSquirrel

        May 9, 2016 at 13:57

        Hahahaha… still no. I built my own PC, took me 15 minutes.

        Reply

      • HvR

        May 9, 2016 at 14:24

        MSI screwing you up front so you do not have to screw afterwards.

        Reply

  12. VampyreSquirrel

    May 9, 2016 at 13:57

    That thing is worth more than my CAR!!!

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief in New York

      May 9, 2016 at 14:05

      O___O

      What do you drive?

      Reply

      • VampyreSquirrel

        May 9, 2016 at 14:25

        Chico

        Reply

    • HvR

      May 9, 2016 at 14:25

      Both of mine actually.

      Reply

  13. VampyreSquirrel

    May 9, 2016 at 14:00

    Sandy, did the person that delivered it know what it was worth?

    Reply

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