One of the most interesting PC designs to come out in recent years was that of the Mac Pro. Sure, it looked like a cylinder into which one might throw discarded objects, or its size/power limitations has meant it can’t extend into that high end workstation that some users require, but in terms of performance per liter, it caused quite a stir. Well it turns out that MSI has done something similar, but this time focused on the gaming community.

The Vortex isn’t new for CES, and there have been murmurings and images floating around for a while, although I must admit it has not been on my radar as of late and it wasn’t even mentioned when I visited MSI’s headquarters last year during Computex. But the design is similar to the Mac Pro – a custom internal design with one CPU and two GPUs in a triangle arrangement, sharing a heatsink arrangement that uses a single fan to extract the heat generated. I was told that the final designs would feature SLI configurations using GTX 960s, GTX 980s and GTX 980 Tis, and I would assume at this point there would be a high end Intel CPU using the Z170 chipset (because you can’t get SLI on other chipsets).

Connectivity is also similar to the Apple product, in that we have multiple Thunderbolt chips in play. These are combined with HDMI 2.0 to give three displays or users can daisy chain out to hubs and storage. The device looks plastic, but I am told is actually a thin metal despite that fact it also feels like plastic. But regardless of the material, the design is fetching for a ‘mini’ gaming machine. It is about the same size as the Mac Pro, and is stepped up from the ground to give an entry point for air to be drawn up through the device.

Because the fan is on top blowing up, there is no real fan filter to speak of. I postulated to MSI that my cat might sit on the top because it is warm, or during extended periods of ‘off’ time that dust would fall in and settle. I was told it shouldn’t be an issue, but the engineer did have a good think about it. If MSI have done all their work internally, it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to create a professional variant of this with ECC and FirePro/Tesla cards in an aluminium chassis for the prosumer ground.

I would like to get some hands on with the internals, and have requested a test unit along with the VR headset they were promoting alongside it, just to see how far a machine this size could push some of the more demanding VR titles. On pricing, if they do intend putting in dual GTX 980 Tis, we could easily see the top model push $1600-$2000, depending on the other internals.

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  • DanNeely - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    "Because the fan is on top blowing up, there is no real fan filter to speak of. I postulated to MSI that my cat might sit on the top because it is warm, or during extended periods of ‘off’ time that dust would fall in and settle. I was told it shouldn’t be an issue, but the engineer did have a good think about it."

    I think the bigger problem would be that if you put it on the floor, it'll suck an inordinate amount of dust up. I've had cases with down mounted PSU intake fans, and the relative rate that that dust filter got fitlhy compared to my other intake filters was appalling.
    Reply
  • Jonathan_Rung - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    On pricing, if they do intend putting in dual GTX 980 Tis, we could easily see the top model push $1600-$2000, depending on the other internals.

    Do any manufacturers/boutiques sell desktops with dual 980 Tis for less than two grand? My guess would be closer to $2600-3000.
    Reply
  • modpr - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    Does anyone of any pre-built gaming PCs that have a more "minimal" look? Something with maybe only 2 small LEDs (power and HDD) and mostly has shades of gray (no red, yellow, green, orange, etc.).

    All the gaming PCs I've seen have gaudy bright LEDs and accents with dragon, alien, robot, etc. logos on them. I'd have liked these designs when I was 10 but now that I'm older, they no longer appeal to me.
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    If I were going the desktop route ever again, I'd go for a beige or black ATX case and just buy the parts myself to get around the modern gaudy design trends. Reply
  • zodiacfml - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    I wish someone design and create a system such to allow generic PC parts to be installed. I love the idea of the shared cooling and single fan cooling. Reply
  • Gadgety - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    When the Mac Pro appeared I was just amazed at the conceptual elegance. With indications that GPUs are becoming both smaller and more power efficient so it should be possible from that angle but a new standard would probably have to materialize, for motherboards, and PSUs. Alternatively if MSI, or one of the others, sees this segment as lucrative and offers a platform where you purchase motherboards and GPU upgrades through them, i e make the unit upgradeable rather than replaceable, perhaps it could happen. I certainly find these tiny but powerful PCs attractive. People are looking for ways to expand the number of GPUs on a M-ITX, so perhaps a first step would be to offer BIOS:es for splittable PCI-e, and surely there could be a place for a standard where more than one PCI-e x16 is available on boards smaller than M-ATX. I would welcome it. Reply
  • jtd871 - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    PCIe bifurcation on mITX? Mission accomplished: http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1870298 Reply
  • eltira - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - link

    for other review, you can visit my blog
    https://laptopcomputersreviewblog.blogspot.co.id/
    Reply

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