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MSI Nightblade Review (Dual SSD, i7 4770K, R9 290X)

When we were offered the MSI Nightblade initially I will admit, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. MSI’s documentation focuses on the miniature physical dimensions of the chassis. At only 16 litres, MSI say the Nightblade is almost 15% smaller than other leading mini ITX cases. After seeing this in the flesh, we have absolutely no reason to doubt their claims.

When I removed the Nightblade from the packaging, my first impressions were mixed. I was fascinated that they could cram all the lovely high end hardware into such a miniscule housing. Dissipating the heat from a Core i7 4770k and R9 290X is a tough ask of any chassis, especially one barely larger than the first aid kit in my office.

After my initial inspection I stood back to take in the view. Build quality is exemplary and there is no doubt in my mind that the Nightblade is going to survive years of transportation, between home and LAN events. MSI have coated the steel plate case with Zinc, to help stop rust and wear.

We are sure that MSI’s claims of the case being ‘unbreakable’ are rather optimistic, but regardless – the engineering standards are superb. All panels fit snugly into place and nothing moves around or rattles when you lift the case up by the handle. All of the metal edges are rounded down carefully, so skin is unlikely to be torn through careless handling.

I would be remiss not to address my concerns with the appearance of the Nightblade. I neither love nor loathe the Nightblade’s ‘boxy’ design, however I am sure that many gamers who admire the smooth, curved lines of the Bitfenix Prodigy and Aerocool Dead Silence will find the angular, straight edges of the Nightblade very dated. It is almost as if MSI have worked on a design lifted from a decade ago.

How does such a small chassis cope with all the heat?

The Nightblade is a very capable chassis that can cope with some hot running hardware, however it does this by introducing massive airflow, from front to back and bottom to top. This is an intentional design decision in order to cope with the limited space inside.

The custom MSI CPU cooler fan spins at 3,800 rpm under full load and the MSI Dragon Case fan will hit 3,600 rpm if the thermal curve exceeds the limits of the recommended profile. This happened a couple of times during testing – when running the latest 3DMARK benchmark and when running the MultiMedia benchmark in SiSoft Sandra. The noise levels were so that high that I actually thought the system was about to shut down due to overheating. It didn’t, and when I could hear myself think again it raised a couple of questions for me …

… MSI are really pushing the thermal boundaries to the limit by promoting the use of a R9 290X and a hot running processor such as Intel’s  i7 4770k. Personally if I was building this system I would select the cooler running Intel i5 4670k – ideal for general duties, including gaming. I would also opt for a superior CPU cooler such as the Corsair H60. With a better CPU cooler in place, I would change the chassis fan for one that didn’t need to spin to 3,600 rpm – such as a bequiet! Silentwings 2, or a new Aerocool Dead Silence. This would help reduce noise levels significantly.

The barebones MSI Nightblade will retail in the United Kingdom for £329.99 inc vat. This includes the chassis, motherboard, fans and Silverstone power supply. Other partners such as Scan, Overclockers UK, Yoyotech, Cyberpower UK and MESH will be offering custom builds at various price points. Right now I have no details on specifics, but we will update this article when we have more information.

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  • Officially supports very high end hardware configurations.
  • built to withstand abuse.
  • fantastic engineering quality.


  • Can get incredibly loud under certain load conditions.
  • The boxy design of the case does look rather dated.

Kitguru says: Its an incredible concept and well worth buying, but we would recommend some changes over the configuration we received.

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Rating: 8.0.

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