Lots of room for current-generation, heavy-duty gaming-oriented components. Attractive styling. Cables are prerouted.
Case cannot house all CPU coolers, and none is included with the system. Some video cards may not fit.
Bearing an up-to-date motherboard and capable of housing a full-length video card, the MSI Nightblade x2 bare-bones system is designed for gamers who want to get a jump-start on their next build.
One of the biggest problems with bare-bones computer systems these days is size: Many aren't large enough to satisfy people for whom performance is paramount, such as those wanting a gaming desktop. This is especially true if you're into gaming, as discrete video cards just don't fit in many of the models out there. (Actually, most higher-end video cards could probably literally crush some of the more pint-size bare-bones kits.) What's refreshing about the oversize MSI Nightblade x2 ($399.99) is that it addresses these specific problems, so serious builders not only have plenty of room to work, but their work will actually translate to power once it's all finished.
The stark black coloring, silver accents, and bold MSI dragon logo on the front scream "gaming computer," and that's just what you'll be able to build with the Nightblade x2. With dimensions of 11 by 6.9 by 16 inches (HWD), it's big enough to hold some of the largest (and most capable) video cards on the market, but still quite a bit smaller than most computers designed to house them.
A proprietary motherboard with the LGA 1151 socket (meaning it can house Intel's newest "Skylake" chips), a full ATX power supply (with all the cables already routed and easily accessible), and a slimline DVD burner are all the hardware that comes with the Nightblade x2—everything else, from the processor and video card to the memory and the storage and even the operating system, you'll need to provide. This includes a cooler for your processor, as the stock Intel model doesn't fit. In fact, you may have trouble finding a cooler other than an MSI-branded one that does fit, which is unfortunate.
Otherwise, the Nightblade x2 has almost every feature you'd want. There are two M.2 slots for slotting in ultraslim storage devices (allowing for a total of up to five drives), a Killer Wi-Fi card for improved gaming networking capabilities, and even a good selection of front-panel ports (one USB-C and two "Super Charger" USB 2.0, plus the headphone and microphone jacks). You won't be able to use every video card out there—those with really bulky fans aren't going to cram in there no matter what—but considering how much you can include in the Nightblade x2, it's safe to say that this is one bare-bones PC that just may get enthusiasts enthused.
For more details, read the MSI Nightblade x2 review on our sister site, ComputerShopper.com.
By Matthew Murray
Managing Editor, Hardware
Matthew Murray got his humble start leading a technology-sensitive life in elementary school, where he struggled to satisfy his ravenous hunger for computers, computer games, and writing book reports in Integer BASIC. He earned his B.A. in Dramatic Writing at Western Washington University, where he also minored in Web design and German. He has been building computers for himself and others for more than 20 years, and he spent several years working in IT and helpdesk capacities before escaping into the far more exciting world…
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