Mini-ITX desktops have kind of been my crush for a while. They’re just so darn cute and compact, and I can’t help but love them despite their flaws. While some case manufacturers have capitalised on this rather niche market, some have made it their own with unique designs and form factors. MSI’s G65 Vortex first caught my eye with its Apple Mac Pro-esque figure, and it’s the company’s most off-the-wall design they’ve ever made. Vying for the same spot today is the company’s new mini-ITX desktop, the Aegis, one of the meanest-looking mini-ITX desktops I’ve ever seen.
While the Vortex is billed as a gaming desktop with some overclocking capabilities thanks to its unlocked processor, the Aegis is more of a no-frills kind of affair. The motherboard uses Intel’s B150 chipset and a choice of Intel Core i5-6400 or Core i7-6700 processors. The locked-down chips might not be too much of a hurdle depending on how MSI approaches BIOS updates, and if it’s just using a regular B150I Gaming AC motherboard, then there’s a good chance that you can unlock BLCK overclocking for locked chips to gain some extra speed.
Internally there’s space for one 2.5-inch drive and two 3.5-inch hard drives, both of which appear to be mounted below the graphics card in the picture above. The motherboard has one M.2 NVME-compatible slot for SSD drives, and features a combo 802.11AC Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 wireless card. A slot-loading DVD-RW drive is there for your archaic disk-based media, but a Blu-Ray drive might have been more useful given the chances that someone will buy this and use it in their lounge as a gaming and HTPC device.
The CPU cooler is custom-made for the chassis, and MSI has no intention of selling the chassis on its own to consumers who might want to shove more stuff in there. The power supply is a SFX 600W single-rail 80 Plus unit that sits in the bottom compartment, and appears to be cooled by a single 40mm fan. That might make it easier for replacement if you ever need to find some spares, but that tiny fan will probably be a little loud under high loads, and MSI guarantees that the system is capable of running a single Geforce GTX 980 Ti in there.
There’s no space for a Radeon R9 Fury X to fit into the chassis, but a R9 Nano or a regular Fury would fit just fine. MSI offers you a choice of either a Geforce GTX 960 4GB or GTX 970 4GB for the GPU if you buy the system fully configured. No Radeon cards are on the table, but that may change when AMD’s Polaris GPUs start shipping in the second half of 2016.
MSI’s Aegis goes on sale this month in overseas markets at the end of April, and might reach our shores eventually. The barebones chassis which comes with a motherboard, Intel Wireless-AC 3165 Wi-Fi, and the standard 600W power supply is priced at $399 (approx. R5700*). The second most expensive model boasts a Core i5-6400 processor, 8GB of DDR4-2133 memory, a 128GB M.2 SSD and a 1TB hard drive, a Geforce GTX 960 4GB GPU and Windows 10 Home 64-bit will set you back $999 (approx. R14,400*).
The fully loaded rig with a Core i7-6700 processor, 16GB of DDR4-2133 memory, a Geforce GTX 970 4GB GPU, a 256GB M.2 SSD with a 2TB hard drive and Windows 10 Home costs a staggering $1,499 overseas on Newegg, which is more than R20,000 converted locally. It’s an expensive system for sure, but it’s good value for money considering that the Evetech rig I reviewed last year cost a little less than R19,000, and that system lacked a hard drive in addition to an operating system and the extra system memory.