Way back in January of this year, while attending CES 2015 in Las Vegas, we wandered into the MSI suite without having any idea what we might see as new and exciting product. Besides the GT80 notebook with a mechanical keyboard on it, the MSI GS30 Shadow was easily the most interesting and exciting technology. Although MSI is not the first company to try this, the Shadow is the most recent attempt to combine the benefits of a thin and light notebook with a discrete, high performance GPU when the former is connected to the latter's docking station.
The idea has always been simple but the implementation has always been complex. Take a thin, light, moderately powered notebook that is usable and high quality in its own right and combine it with the ability to connect a discrete GPU while at home for gaming purposes. In theory, this is the best of both worlds: a notebook PC for mobile productivity and gaming capability courtesy of an external GPU. But as the years have gone on, more companies try and more companies fail; the integration process is just never as perfect a mix as we hope.
Today we see if MSI and the GS30 Shadow can fare any better. Does the combination of a very high performance thin and light notebook and the GamingDock truly create a mobile and gaming system that is worth your investment?
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | September 12, 2012 - 07:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: lucid, external graphics
Lucid looks to utilize Thunderbolt and its PCIe-format interface with external video cards. Their ideal future would allow for customers to purchase Ultrabook or other laptop device to bring around town. Upon reaching home the user could sit the laptop on their desk; plug in a high-end video card for performance; and surround their Ultrabook in other monitors.
While there are situations for acceleration hardware to be inside the device that is not necessary.
There have been numerous attempts in the past to provide a dockable graphics accelerator. ASUS, AMD, Vidock, as well as many others have attempted this feat but all had drawbacks and/or difficulty getting to market. Just prior to Intel Developer Forum, Laptop Magazine was given a demonstration from Lucid with their own attempt.
How about some Thunderbolt?
Mobile GPUs are really the only thing keeping a good laptop from being a gaming machine.
There’s good need for desktop CPUs with lots of RAM – but these days, not to game.
I have been excited each time a product manufacturer claims to have a non-proprietary method to accelerate laptop graphics. Laptops are appealing for so many purposes and it is frustrating to have devices come so close but fall so short of being a reasonable gaming machine.
The demo that Lucid showed off ran 3DMark 06 on an Intel HD 4000 with an external AMD Radeon HD 6700. On integrated graphics the gaming performance hovered just south of 30 FPS. With the Radeon HD 6700 – as expected – performance greatly increased to almost 90 FPS.
It should be much more compelling for a PC store to say “For somewhere near the price of a console, you could dock your laptop which you already own into this box when you want to game and instantly have all PC gaming and Home Theatre PC benefits.”
And it should have happened a long time ago.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2012 - 07:41 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: CES, thunderbolt, msi, gus ii, gus, external graphics
While wandering around the MSI suite at The Venetian today I came across a very interesting new device. The GUS II is an external discrete graphics card dock that connects to a notebook PC (or small-form factor, etc) via a Thunderbolt connection.
Thunderbolt is a somewhat new interface that extends the PCI Express bus outside of the machine allowing for performance as high as 10 Gb/s per channel in its full implementation. Current Intel implementations that ship with the Macbook Air and likely included in the first batch of Thunderbolt-capable Ultrabooks are built around Eagle Ridge that offers two bi-directional channels. Still, even with a 10 Gb/s rating, we are seeing more than enough bandwidth for a discrete graphics card.
You can see that device obviously won't fit your new Radeon HD 7970 3GB in there but the GUS II will support cards with as much as 150 watts of power consumption via the included external power brick. 75 watts of power is supplied by the internal PEG slot while the internal 6-pin ATX power connector supplies another 75 watts.
MSI was running an HD 5770 inside the GUS II on a MacBook Pro running Windows 7. Unigine Heaven was playing on the graphics card outputs and it was definitely running at speeds and quality settings that the GPU in the Macbook would not have been able to.
MSI mentioned they were hopeful the price would be in the $150 range which is actually quite a good surprise considering they are going to be including the Thunderbolt cable in the box - an accessory that is notoriously expensive today.
All that is holding up the GUS II from release at this point is compatibility and driver support from AMD and NVIDIA. Because you are essentially adding in another PCI Express graphics card to system that might only have been prepared and QA'd for a single one, there are some issues to work out. Even with the hardware in a basically complete state, there is no time table for release though hopefully we can get this pushed into the mainstream soon.
Thunderbolt might finally bring us the dockable and upgradeable graphics we have always envisioned for notebooks.
PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!