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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  • tipoo - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    To what degree is this going to be upgradable post-purchase?
  • id4andrei - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    If it's identical to the mac pro, then the most likely answer is 0 upgradability.
  • beardsquad - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    Actually you can upgrade the CPU, RAM and SSD in the 2013 Mac Pro, so that's fairly upgradable.
  • casperes1996 - Friday, January 15, 2016 - link

    GPUs too... If you can find a set of GPUs that are identical in shape to the Dx00s used in the machine. But you can actually buy those from certain places. Some of the point is lost, but if we pretend they either break, or Apple releases a new Mac Pro with similarly shaped chips, you could theoretically chop those in.
  • makerofthegames - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    Fully upgradeable, obviously!

    (In that, to upgrade it, you replace the full thing with this year's model)
  • Mobile-Dom - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    as far as i know at least the CPU is fully socketed
  • Valkyrierie - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    CPU is apparently a desktop Skylake so it's easily upgradable. GPUs are however (standardized) MXM graphics cards, so they're upgradable but it'll be hard to find components that match.
  • ImSpartacus - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    Does the 980 ti come in mxm?

    I know that the 980 does and I think a 960 lookalike does as well, but the 980 ti is a lot gpu to feed with only 100w (MXM 3's max power spec).
  • Valkyrierie - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    I doubt that - The highest end laptop graphics card that Nvidia supplies is the GTX 980 - Essentially a desktop GTX 980 with more VRAM and a stricter power budget.
  • ImSpartacus - Thursday, January 14, 2016 - link

    I bet you're right. I bet it's either a fully custom pcb or a desktop pcb that mates with the custom cooler.

    Because if it can rock dual 980 tis as the article claims, then it's not using mxm gpus.

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