MSI Vortex G25 review: The Steam Machines strike back
- Build quality is better than most MSI products but still needs work
- High-price compared to a DIY build
The Vortex G25 might tout a pretty cutting edge form-factor but, when it comes to performance, this thing is a beast in the most classic of PC gaming molds.
When you think or talk about the culture around PC gaming, it’s always tinted by a degree of excess. Everyone wants the fastest processor, the biggest case, the sharpest graphics and the most RGB lights. Going that extra mile is important, even if it is all a little unnecessary.
However, sometimes - if you’re someone who just wants to play games - this can all feel a little frivolous. Maybe you don’t want that big, imposing, tall tower of a gaming PC. Maybe you want a PC that’s cleaner. One that offers an experience that's more console-like?
For a time, there were plenty of major vendors - such as Alienware - offered “Steam Machine” PCs that catered to this niche. However, in recent years, these kinds of simple, plug and play PCs have fast faded into obscurity.
Now, the MSI Vortex G25 is aims to pick up the torch.
The MSI Vortex G25 is a mini-desktop PC that runs on an eight-gen Intel Core i7-8700 processor and 16GB of DDR4 RAM (though it supports up to 64GB).
There are two variants available when it comes to graphics: one with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 and one with a GeForce GTX 1060. These heavy-lifting components come complemented by MSI’s Cooler Boost Titan tech, which utilises 15 heat pipes and dedicated fans for both the CPU and graphics processing units.
Storage-wise, the Vortex G25 comes with a single 2.5-inch 1TB HDD and a leaner 256GB of SSD storage. Then, In terms of connectivity, it’s rocking Bluetooth 4.1 and Killer DoubleShot Pro Wi-Fi.
Last but not least: the ports. The Vortex G25 touts 4x USB 3.0 slots, 2x USB Type-C ports (one with Thunderbolt), ethernet and headphone jacks and a matching pair of HDMI outputs (one on the front, one on the back). It also comes bundled with a 330W power adapter and equipped with the same Nahimic Audio Enhancer and Sabre Hi-Fi tech found in MSI’s regular gaming laptop ranges.
In terms of design, there are two ways to approach the Vortex G25. The first: is to treat it as a gaming laptops that’s had the display culled. After all, on an aesthetic level, that’s probably the simplest way to sum it up. Like MSI’s more general gaming efforts, it’s a compact thing - black matte plastic draped by a backlit crimson outline.
What’s more, it’s genuinely portable. All told, the Vortex G25 weighs about 2.5kg. If this were a gaming laptop, this wouldn’t even be one of the heavier ones around - a detail that MSI likely hope to make it more endearing to eSports audiences. The form-factor here really does favor the idea of packing it up and taking it with you. The other way to look at things is that, in the context of the “Steam Box” or “Steam Machines”, the Vortex G25 is a natural successor.
A few years back, Valve and several other PC vendors tried to inject the idea of a console-style PC into the market and while it had some niche success - it didn’t quite stick the landing. To various degrees, it feels like the Vortex G25 picks up where the Steam Boxes left off. After all, the core idea of the an ultra-portable, ultra-powerful, living-room friendly PC isn’t necessarily fraught. It just struggled to make it through the devil in the details the first time around.
And the details are where the Vortex G25 shines. For one, the unit comes with a VESA mount - making it easy to rig it up to the back of your TV or monitor. Then, it also comes with tool-free upgradability in mind - a key shortcoming of the Steam Machines of old. Lastly, with the appetite for VR experiences growing, MSI have smartly divided the ports evenly across the front and back-side of the PC. The idea here is that you can leave your regular cabling to the back and rely on the front-facing ports for cleaner, plug and play VR experiences.
In terms of the performance we got out the Vortex G25. We were hardly unimpressed but we were hardly surprised either. MSI have made a name for themselves packaging together great specs into equally-great gaming laptops in the past. It shouldn’t surprise too much that the Vortex G25 have delivered on those fronts again here.
Even on the highest settings possible, games like Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, Total War: Warhammer II, Elite: Dangerous and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider proved to be little challenge for the Vortex G25. It blazed through them with hardly a hitch.
Likewise, the benchmarks we subjected the PC to told a similar story. The Vortex G25 might tout a pretty cutting edge form-factor but, when it comes to performance, this thing is a beast in the most classic of PC gaming molds. It smashed pretty much everything we’ve reviewed in recent months out of the water across both the PCMark, VRMark and 3DMark benchmarking suites.
The Bottom Line
As someone who was always a little vexed by how much of a dead-end the rise of the Steam Boxes became, it’s refreshing to see a company revisit the idea - and genuinely exciting to see it handled so well.
MSI's products sometimes lack the polish and effortlessly-lavish sense of style afforded to some of their competition but their penchant for solid specs and pitch-perfect performance has rarely been in doubt - and they hit their mark here.
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