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  • About the MSI Aegis ZS

  • What we like

  • What We Don't like

  • Should you buy it?

  • Related content

Pros

  • Excellent value for performance

  • Off-the-shelf parts

  • Comes configured from the factory

Cons

  • Underpowered CPU cooler

  • Mediocre keyboard

MSI's Aegis ZS is a great, powerful, and value-filled PC for 1080p gaming that's also easy to upgrade.

About the MSI Aegis ZS

Closeup of the desktop PC through its glass side panel
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The MSI Aegis ZS desktop PC is an all-AMD build that's compatible with off-the-shelf PC parts.

The MSI Aegis ZS desktop is primarily an AMD-based gaming desktop line with a wide performance range. We tested the following configuration:

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
  • CPU Cooler: MSI RGB 120mm AIO liquid cooler
  • Graphics Card: MSI Mech AMD Radeon RX 6700XT with 12GB VRAM
  • Operating System: Windows 11 Home
  • Memory: 16GB (2 x 8GB) 3200MHz DDR4
  • Storage: 1TB NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Motherboard: MSI B550-A Pro mATX
  • Ports: (Front) 1 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-C; 2 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A; 1 Mic in; 1 Headphone-out; dedicated LED Button to modify RGB settings. (Back) 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C; 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A; 2 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A; 4 x USB 2.0; 1 x HDMI 2.1 out; 3 x DP 1.4 out
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 5, Ethernet
  • Power Supply: ADATA XPG Core Reactor 650W 80+ Gold
  • Case: MSI Gungnir 110R
  • Weight: 29.98 pounds
  • Dimensions: 8.46 x 16.93 x 17.72 inches
  • Accessories: Wired gaming keyboard and mouse
  • Warranty: 1-year limited

The Aegis ZS comes in a whole host of configurations, including CPU options from AMD as well as GPU options from Nvidia and AMD. The cheapest configuration costs $1,200 and has a last-generation AMD Ryzen 7 3700X CPU with a last-generation AMD Radeon RX 5600XT GPU, 16GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD.

Meanwhile, the most expensive option has an AMD Ryzen 9 5900X processor, a 240mm all-in-one liquid CPU cooler, and an AMD Radeon RX 6700XT GPU, 16GB of memory, 1TB NVMe SSD, and a 750W power supply for $2,200.

Our configuration costs $1,700.

What we like

Fast, fast, fast graphics performance

A closeup of the front ports on the desktop
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The myriad of front ports is convenient when you want to plug in a new peripheral or drive.

When you’re on the hunt for a gaming PC, one thing matters above all else: performance. The all-AMD MSI Aegis delivers incredible graphics performance that can smoothly run just about any game on maxed-out graphics settings. Running Shadow of the Tomb Raider is no sweat for the PC’s Radeon 6700XT graphics processor, which ran the game at 146 frames per second at 1080p on the highest graphics preset. However, the Radeon RX 6700XT’s ray tracing performance isn’t as strong as its regular fps performance. Cyberpunk 2077, one of the most demanding games for PC of the moment, ran at 95 frames per second (fps) on the highest graphics preset in 1080p resolution—meanwhile, the frame rate drops to 25 fps when ray tracing is enabled on the highest graphics preset.

If you’re more of an esports gamer, then you better have a high refresh monitor to take advantage of the Aegis’s speed. When I played a few rounds of Overwatch on 1080p Epic graphics settings, I averaged 175 fps. Meanwhile, in Final Fantasy XIV, the framerate was 195 fps for areas with few player characters.

The NZXT Streaming PC Plus, a similar prebuilt PC we tested running on a Ryzen 5 5600X core processor and an Nvidia RTX 3070 graphics processor, hit about the same fps rates in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Cyberpunk 2077, and Overwatch without ray tracing, but it did push out about 45 fps on Cyberpunk 2077 with ray tracing (20 fps more than the MSI Aegis).

Easy set-up

A closeup of a sticker on the rear ports
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

This sticker covering the motherboard graphics ports will save a lot people from headaches.

The desktop’s presentation is incredibly beginner-friendly. For example, one of the first steps to setting up a desktop is to connect it to your monitor; to make sure you use the correct HDMI/DisplayPort ports, there is a sticker covering the graphics ports on the motherboard that reads “use GPU port.” The Ryzen 7 CPU does not have integrated graphics, so stickers blocking the ports can help stop many gamers from plugging their monitors into the wrong place.

The starter guide is clear and concise, too: plug in the monitor, plug in the included mouse and keyboard, plug in the Wi-Fi antenna, plug in the power cord, and turn your power supply on. If you don’t already have a beloved gaming mouse or keyboard, these included peripherals are included with the kit. (More on that later.)

Easily upgradeable

A closeup of the PC's inside through its glass side panel
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The case is very friendly to other manufacturers' parts, and its spaciousness makes it easy to swap stuff around.

If you find yourself bottlenecked by the performance on the Aegis, it’s no sweat to upgrade it yourself. The glass side panel slides off easily, and the individual hardware parts are easy to access. The PC components are all standard, off-the-shelf parts so you should have no trouble switching out any of the hardware parts. (The case isn’t riddled with odd mounts or risers that would render it incompatible with off-the-shelf motherboards, for example.) Apart from the XPG power supply and RAM, MSI manufactures every part of this PC.

The case is big, too, so you have a lot of room to work with; You should have no problem fitting three or four-slot graphics cards inside, for instance. The cable management is fine, but not outstanding; everything is organized and tucked into the back where it isn’t visible, but it’s not routed neatly enough to be aesthetically pleasing.

The B550-A Pro ATX motherboard has two M.2 slots if you wish to install a second NVMe SSD to complement the main drive, and if you want to upgrade the included 16GB of 3200MHz DDR4 memory, you can install up to 128GB of 4400MHz DDR4 memory.

What We Don't like

Loud, underpowered CPU cooler

A closeup of the GPU
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The 120mm AIO cooler is trying its best, but it's just not enough.

The one part we wish MSI would upgrade on the Aegis is the CPU cooler, which is an AIO (all-in-one) cooler with a 120mm radiator. If you push the CPU, it will thermal throttle. We ran Cinebench R23 to test the CPU performance, and we saw some thermal throttling when we measured temps in HWMonitor. Temperatures hit 90.6 degrees Celsius and stayed around the thermal junction (the max temp a CPU should operate at), so we didn’t get to see the Ryzen 7’s full potential. When we swapped out the cooler for a 360mm Corsair iCue H510i AIO cooler, temps didn't surpass 80 degrees Celsius.

However, you'll rarely be pushing this CPU that hard for gaming. With the original cooler, temperatures peaked at 77 degrees Celsius when we ran Metro Exodus at 1440p on the Ultra graphics preset, which is well within the acceptable range for the Ryzen 7 5800X. To be clear, it’s still a high-performing CPU even with thermal throttling.

For multi-core benchmarks, which we run to test raw processing performance, the Aegis scored 8665 points in Geekbench 5, and 15014 points in Cinebench R23. The NZXT Streaming PC Plus, which sports a Ryzen 5 5600X processor, scored 7637 points in Geekbench, while the Intel NUC Beast Canyon, a small form factor PC with an Intel Core i9-11800HKB, scored 9442 points in Geekbench. This puts the MSI Aegis's Ryzen 7 where it belongs: in between a Ryzen 5 and Intel Core i9 for performance.

That matches up with our experiences in real-world applications, too. One of our favorite benchmarks is the Blender render, where we measure how long it takes a PC to render a scene of a car using its GPU and its CPU. The Aegis took two minutes 44 seconds to render it using its CPU, while the NZXT Streaming Plus took just under four minutes. In our Intel CPU testing, the Ryzen 7 scored about as well as the Intel Core i9-11900K, which took two minutes 33 seconds to render the scene.

Yes, even with thermal throttling, the Ryzen 7 is still a wicked fast processor. However, it’s frustrating to know it could be faster and cooler if MSI upgraded the cooler—the case has plenty of space for a 240mm radiator or a tall air cooler.

Mediocre keyboard

Closeup of the bottom left of the keyboard
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

It looks like a classic mechanical gaming keyboard, but looks are deceiving.

The included full-size keyboard has backlit membrane keys with RGB lighting. Its built-in wrist rest is comfortable and keeps my hands from fatiguing, but the keys themselves are stiff and scratchy, however, so light typers will find their fingers exhausted after hours of use.

The keys’ scratchiness won’t necessarily fare better with heavier typists, who may be annoyed at how loud and hollow the board sounds despite using membrane switches. Some cheap linear mechanical switches, like Gateron red or Kailh red switches, would have done a lot to make this a better experience. Linear switches are some of the quietest mechanical switches, and their lack of actuation point makes them ideal for use with fast-paced games.

The included keyboard is usable for short bursts, but serious typists should invest in their own keyboard, for sure.

Should you buy it?

Yes, the MSI Aegis ZS desktop is a great gaming PC

The desktop is on a desk next to a monitor
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Overall, the MSI Aegis ZS provides a good value for its performance and standardized components with a simple upgrade path.

With configurations starting at $1,200, the MSI Aegis ZS gaming desktop is a great value across the whole lineup. Its quality components, price to performance, simple upgrade path, and novice-friendly presentation make it one of the best-prebuilt PCs you can pick up at a big-box retailer like Best Buy. Our $1,700 model, equipped with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X CPU and an AMD Radeon RX 6700XT GPU, can run even the most demanding games at the highest graphics preset on 1080p (ray tracing off) with frame rates reaching into the 100s.

The Aegis ZS’s major flaw is its CPU cooler: the 120mm radiator is not enough to keep up with the Ryzen 7’s heat, and the CPU can see some thermal throttling as a result. You can solve the problem yourself by installing a beefier water cooler like the EK 240mm water cooler or a quality air cooler like the Noctua NH-U14S easily enough, however.

There are also a lot of great alternatives to the Aegis ZS. The NZXT Streaming Plus PC is very neatly assembled and uses off-the-shelf parts, like the MSI Aegis ZS. For $1,899, this prebuilt has the same Ryzen 7 processor and an Nvidia RTX 3070 GPU, which slightly outperforms the Radeon RX 6700 XT we tested most of the time. The iBuyPower Slate MR Gaming Desktop has an AMD Ryzen 5 5600X and an AMD Radeon RX 6600XT for just $1,149, and its specs should be more than powerful enough for running 1080p games at maxed-out graphics settings at least 60 fps.

Unless you plan on ray-tracing or driving your CPU to its limits, the MSI Aegis ZS is a great gaming PC for just about any use-case. Its hardware is powerful enough to run modern games at high framerates, its parts are standardized and easy to replace, and it’s a good value for its performance and build quality. MSI nailed it with this one.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

Meet the tester

Adrien Ramirez

Adrien Ramirez

Staff Writer

@itsaramkat

Adrien is a staff writer for Reviewed, mainly focused on reviewing laptops and other consumer tech. During his free time, he's usually wandering around Hyrule.

See all of Adrien Ramirez's reviews

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