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REVIEW: MSI Vortex G25 W25 Workstation – A Classy, Well Designed Workhorse

MSI’s thinking with this workstation PC was to take its already successful mini-G25 chassis and soup it up with workstation-spec components. It’s a good move. This chassis has been obviously designed and engineered with care — it looks great, is slim and has excellent thermals for such a slim case.

Its consumer and gaming origins extend to the unmissable RGB adornments. There’s a full length strip down one side, another running from top to bottom on the front, and the MSI logo beams its pride, too.

Design and layout

It comes with a stand for vertical mounting, and has VESA bolt holes around the back for mounting directly to the rear of a monitor.

The ports are split between the front and rear edges and it’s a lovely design. The neat rows of ports are easily accessible no matter which way you face the case so in effect it has neither a front or back, and you could position it side-on and have easy access to the complete set of connectivity options. Sure, there will be cables visible but this is a workstation and easy access is the priority, and the MSI does a great job with that, shaming other machines that demand you contort to reach the plugs.

An extremely generous and useful set of connectivity options make the MSI Vortex G25 a winner out of the gate. In total there are four USB Type-A USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, two HDMI, Gb LAN, one USB Type-C and another USB Type C Thunderbolt 3, audio in and out (and MSI’s onboard audio DAC is top quality), and you even get an optical TOSLINK SPDIF Out. So, you could run triple monitors with ease and VR is good to go out of the box — indeed, this would make a fantastic VR developer machine.

Underneath, the entire back plane is easily removed via hand screws should you want to upgrade components later. No tools needed. It speaks volumes of the care that’s gone into this chassis, and why it’s being repurposed for serious workstation use here despite its gamer DNA.

Power and performance

The equipped Nvidia Quadro P5200 is in fact a mobile GPU, it’s based on the same GP104 GPU as the consumer GTX 1080, but with slightly slower speed GDDR5 memory (vs GDDR5X on the GTX 1080), though with much more memory (16GB) to suit its role as a workstation. We ran 3DMark Time Spy at our desktop resolution of 2560×1440 and achieved a score of 6724, which is in line with what we’d expect of a GTX 1080. Quadro P4200 and P3200 models are also available.

MSI’s choice of an i7-8700 CPU offers six cores (plus another six hyperthreaded) that deliver high-end 8th gen performance. Xeon or i9 CPUs are not currently offered though it would not be surprising if this changed in the future. The stock speed of 3.20GHz is decent, and the i7-8700 will turbo to 4.6GHz.

Storage pairs a set of NVMe SSDs with a single hard drive. That’s the perfect configuration in our opinion, allowing extreme speed via the NVMe SSDs and chunky HDD capacity.

 

At work

When under full load it’s not a quiet machine, but the ramped up cooling fans have a bearably low frequency — as opposed to the annoying whine so often found in similar machines. The thermals are well managed with heat piped out of the top vents like a chimney. Air is drawn in at the sides. So, in daily use even when throttled up the MSI Vortex W25 won’t be heating the area around you too much, though you may want to play some music on your headphones if its rendering a big job. Engineering powerful components into a relatively small case with almost no available space is the compromise at play here. The W25 is, for all intents, a large laptop minus the keyboard and screen and its thermal and acoustic qualities are in line with what you would expect from a powerful portable machine.

It ships with an almost vanilla Windows 10 install and starts up with a clean desktop. MSI’s only extra inclusion is its Dragon Center software that includes a system monitor, which provides real time information covering system load and temperatures, as well as network traffic, plus a simple system tuner that’s essentially a fan speed controller as well as providing access to the standard Windows power options. Here, too, you can tweak monitor colour presets, though as always we recommend using the monitor controls for that.

Summary

There’s little more you would want from a workstation than the MSI Vortex G25 doesn’t already give you. It’s a compact, tidy design that’s pleasant to look at. Its size and layout makes it versatile and even portable. There’s no shortage of connectivity options, which translates into many options for how you use this — in particular with display or VR choices. A faster CPU is perhaps the only area it could be improved, but the i7-8700 is near the top of Intel’s current 8th-gen Coffee Lake series and it’s certainly powerful enough for most tasks. MSI has its WE and WT series that does offer Xeon CPUs, though not in the same lovely chassis.

It’s a machine you could quickly fall in love with, and get some serious work done on. Good job, MSI.

DESIGN – 9

PERFORMANCE – 7.5

VALUE – 6.5

OVERALL – 8

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