When Apple released their redesigned Mac Pro, reactions from the tech world tended to go two ways – people either made fun of it for looking like a trash can, or they’d take bets on which Chinese company would be the first to copy it. Almost three years later, no-one had really stepped up to the plate. The engineering challenges with making a PC fit into such a small space, along with dual graphics cards, multiple gigabytes of RAM, and M.2 SSDs, made it difficult to copy. We can make these things really small, sure, but we can’t easily make them modular (only the Xi3 has managed this to date). Seeing a gap in this ultra-niche market for a “gaming” version of the Mac Pro-style of chassis, MSI has stepped up to the plate with the Vortex G65, and it’s rather interesting.
MSI’s marketing material about the G65 is rather interesting. The aim with the G65, they say, is to “break the stereotype of bulky and huge case gamers have towards a gaming tower.” Standing only 27.8cm tall, with a volume of just 6.5 liters, the G65 is a really, really small PC. MSI also says that users shouldn’t need to mod the G65, but you know that someone is going to do it anyway, just to see what else they can cram in there.
Internally, the Vortex G65 will come with your choice of NVIDIA Geforce GTX 960 or GTX 980 GPUs in SLI, your choice of an Intel Core i5-6600K, Core i7-6700 or Core i7-6700K quad-core processor, up to 64GB of DDR4-2133 RAM, and up to 1TB of NVME SSD storage thanks to two M.2 NVME slots on the motherboard. The rear of the Vortex G65 sports dual Killer E2200 Gigabit ports, two HDMI 1.4a ports, four USB 3.0 ports, two mini Displayport 1.2a connectors, and SPDIF out as well as the headphone and microphone ports. Wireless connectivity is taken care of by the Killer Wireless-AC 1535, which supports MU-MIMO routers, as well as Bluetooth 4.1. There’s Thunderbolt 3.0 support as well as two USB 3.1 Type-C ports on the front panel.
MSI adds in all the expected features as well that you can find in their notebooks, like the Nahimic virtual surround sound software, the Killer Doubleshot x3 Pro network management tools, a year’s subscription to XSplit Gamecaster, and WTFast, a newly developed network management software that helps lower your pings for online gaming and offers useful information to troubleshoot your connection online.
Managing your Vortex G65 also looks to be super-easy with deep integration with MSI’s Dragon Center, which is usually found on their notebooks and all-in-one PCs. Here you’ll be able to indulge in a little bit of overclocking through a set of presets for the CPU, change the fan profiles, the LED lighting effects, link everything up to your phone so you can control this wirelessly, and monitor your current performance using MSI’s tools.
As with PCs of this nature, and more so with something as customised as the Vortex G65, spares and upgrade kits are going to be expensive. The CPU is socketed, but getting in there may require the patience of a surgeon, and the GPUs are also using the MXM form factor, which are quite rare and not usually sold to consumers. In addition, nowhere in the system’s documentation is it stated that the Vortex G65 supports G-Sync displays. The presense of HDMI 1.4a ports tells me that it might not support G-Sync, and could be using a very weird version of NVIDIA Optimus to run everything through the integrated Intel HD 530 GPU.
If this is how it’s been architected, it could be an interesting exercise to see if other MXM graphics cards are supported by the Vortex G65, and whether or not other vendors will cotton on to the same idea. If, or when, NAG gets a review sample, it would also be interesting to see if any of the display outputs are disabled if one of the GPUs is absent. I’d also like to see some AMD Polaris options for this in the future, and I’m certain that MSI has been thinking about this as well.
The MSI Vortex G65 launches this week for overseas markets at a starting price of $2199 (approx. R34,000*) for a Core i7-6700K and dual Geforce GTX 960 system with 256GB of SSD storage and 16GB of DDR4 memory. MSI markets the Vortex G65 as a gaming computer first, with support for 4K displays at 60Hz and ready for VR gaming, but if you’re a professional that can’t afford the baseline Mac Pro, which starts at just shy of R60,000, then this would be a good alternative as well.
* Exchange rate calculated at R15.56 to U.S. $1 on 24 March 2016