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: Motherboards | March 25, 2015 - 08:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: usb 3.1, usb, msi, amd, am3+, 10Gbps
Last week, MSI launched a slew of new USB 3.1 equipped motherboards. Today, the company is releasing more details on one of the AMD-based products: the MSI 970A SLI Krait Edition. This upcoming motherboard is geared towards gamers using AMD FX (AM3+) processors and supports multi-GPU setups (both SLI and CrossFire). The 970A SLI Krait Edition has a black and white color scheme with rich expansion options and large aluminum heatsinks over the VRMs and northbridge.
The AM3+ processor socket sits to the left of four DDR3 memory slots. Six expansion slots take up the majority of the lower half of the board and include two PCI-E x16, two PCI-E x1, and two PCI slots. Six SATA ports occupy the bottom-right corner with four at 90-degree angles. MSI is using its latest “Military Class 4” capacitors and other hardware along with gold audio traces connecting the rear IO audio jacks to the onboard sound chip.
Speaking of rear IO, you will find the following ports on the 970A SLI Krait Edition.
- 2 x PS/2
- 6 x USB 2.0
- 2 x USB 3.1
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 6 x Analog Audio
The main feature that MSI is pushing with this new board is the addition of two USB 3.1 (Type A) ports to the AMD platform. This is the first AM3+ motherboard to support the faster standard – up to 10 Gbps using an Asmedia ASM1352R controller – while also being backwards compatible with older USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 devices.
MSI has not yet released pricing or availability, but expect it to launch soon for less than $100.
Few specifications have been released about this board so far, as well as no timetable for the launch. It is a finished product and should be out "soon" as Tim mentioned.
There are a few things we can gather from the photo of the board. The audio solution is not nearly as robust as we saw with the 970 Gaming motherboard. I doubt it will have the headphone amplification, and the filtering is going to be less due to fewer caps used. The audio is still physically isolated on the PCB, but it has not received the same focus as what we saw on 970 Gaming.
It looks like it is a full 8+2 power phase implementation, as it is taking up more space on the board than the 6+2 unit on the 970 Gaming did. This should allow for a greater selection of CPUs to be used, as well as potentially greater overclocking ability. It does not feature a separate SATA controller, so all 6 SATA ports on the board are handled by the SB950. There are no external e-SATA ports, which really is not a big deal as those are rarely used.
This looks to be a nice addition to the fading AM3+ market. For those holding onto their AMD builds and wish to upgrade, this looks to be an inexpensive option with next generation connectivity. MSI looks to have paid the licensing fee necessary to support SLI, plus they utilize the same AMD 970 chipset on the 970 Gaming that is not supposed to be able to split the 1 x 16X PEG connection to 2 x 8X slots. Some interesting design and chippery are required to that.
Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2015 - 06:12 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: Xeon D, X99, windows 10, video, usb 3.1, titan x, podcast, nvidia, msi, Intel, HSA 1.0, gtx titan x, gtc 2015, digits devbox, DIGITS, asrock
Join us this week as we the NVIDIA GTX TITAN X, News from GTC2015, Mini-ITX X99 motherboard and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Teitelman
Program length: 1:16:27
Subject: Motherboards | March 14, 2015 - 12:33 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: usb 3.1, msi, FX, atx, asmedia asm1352r, amd, am3+
MSI recently announced a torrent of new motherboards that feature USB 3.1 ports. The refreshed lineup includes ten Intel models and, in an interesting twist, two AMD motherboards. MSI’s new motherboards support USB 3.1 by using an Asmedia ASM1352R controller that interfaces with the system via two PCI-E 2.0 lanes (PCI-E 2.0 x2). The controller is rated for the full 10Gbps USB 3.1 speeds.
It is worth noting that the boards use the traditional USB Type-A connector with one exception. The MSI Z97A Gaming 6 features the new reversible Type-C connector in the form of a single Type-C USB 3.1 port on the rear I/O panel. The other boards have at least two USB 3.1 ports on their rear I/O panels.
The new USB 3.1-supporting lineup is listed below:
- AMD (970 chipset):
- SLI Krait Edition
- AMD (990FX chipset):
- 990FXA Gaming
- Intel (Z97 chipset):
- Z97A Gaming 9 ACK
- Z97A Gaming 7
- Z97A Gaming 6
- Intel (X99 chipset):
- X99A Gaming 9 ACK
- X99A Gaming 7
- X99A Xpower AC
- X99A Mpower
- X99A SLI Krait Edition
- X99A SLI Plus
- X99A Raider
These new boards are all essentially minor refreshes of previous versions that add the Asmedia controller and faster USB 3.1 ports. You can expect all the multi-GPU and overclocking-friendly features to remain present on these new motherboards.
MSI's X99 Xpower AC (left) and Z97A Gaming 9 ACK (right) now support 10Gbps USB 3.1 ports.
AM3+ is still technically AMD's enthusiast platform, but it is still somewhat odd that MSI chose to add USB 3.1 support to AM3+ motherboards with AMD’s aging 990FX and 970 chipsets rather than FM2+ boards with the newer A88X chipset. On the other hand, you can now add much faster external storage to your AM3+ system to give it a bit more life.
There is no word on pricing but expect the USB 3.1 models to come at a slight premium over the older models in each respective series.
Subject: Mobile | March 12, 2015 - 02:46 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: msi, gs30, gamingdock
The MSI GS30 Shadow is a high powered laptop with the first external GPU that you can actually buy. The GamingDock is indeed rather unattractive and hefty on the outside but it is what is on the inside that counts, a full GTX 980 with its own dedicated PSU. The external connection is a rear mounted PCIe slot which allows the 980 to run at the speeds you would expect it it were inside a desktop PC. The laptop itself has a Haswell i7-4870HQ, 16GB of DDR3-1600 and pair of Kingston 256GB M.2 SSDs in RAID 0, with the only internal graphics being the Iris Pro 5200 on the CPU. Kitguru has posted a review here, though it would be interesting another review featuring a head to head competition with the GTX980M.
"When we previewed the MSI GS30 Shadow and GamingDock at the end of 2014 we were blown away by the combination of Core i7-4870HQ CPU in the laptop and the desktop GTX 980 graphics card in the GamingDock. The concept of using an external dock to add proper gaming graphics to a thin and light laptop worked superbly well and we could hardly wait for the official release of the final package of hardware."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- HP Spectre x360 @ The Inquirer
- Club3D SenseVision Adapters @ Kitguru
- FSP PB Runner 10400mAh Power Bank Review @ NikKTech
- Apple Watch vs Pebble Time Steel @ The Inquirer
- S6 vs S6 Edge @ The Inquirer
- KingSing T8 Smartphone Review @ Madshrimps
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 10, 2015 - 07:35 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: nvidia, msi, gtx 960, geforce, 960 Gaming, 4GB GTX 960
Manufacturers announcing 4GB versions of the GeForce GTX 960 has become a regular occurrence of late, and today MSI has announced their own 4GB GTX 960, adding a model with this higher memory capacity to their popular MSI Gaming graphics card lineup.
The GTX 960 Gaming 4GB features an overclocked core in addition to the doubled frame buffer, with 1241MHz Base, 1304MHz Boost clocks (compared to the stock GTX 960 1127MHz Base, 1178MHz Boost clocks). The card also features their proprietary Twin Frozr V (5 for non-Romans) cooler, which they claim surpasses previous generations of their Twin Frozr coolers "by a large margin", with a new design featuring their SuperSU heat pipes and a pair of 100mm Torx fans with alternating standard/dispersion fan blades.
The card is set to be shown at the Intel Extreme Masters gaming event in Poland later this week, and pricing/availability have not been announced.
Subject: General Tech | March 10, 2015 - 12:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Q1, gigabyte, earnings, msi, TSMC, amd, Intel, nvidia
There is quite a bit of news on how various component manufacturers have fared at the beginning of 2015 and not much of it is good. Gigabyte has seen revenues drop almost 20% compared to this time last year and a significantly higher overall drop and while MSI is up almost 4% when compared to this quarter in 2014, February saw a drop of over 25% and over the total year a drop of nearly 8%. TSMC has taken a hit of 28% over this month though it is showing around 33% growth over the past year thanks to its many contract wins over the past few months. Transcend, Lite-On and panel maker HannStar all also reported losses over this time as did overseas notebook designers such as Wistron, Compal and Inventec.
Intel is doing well though perhaps not as profitably as they would like, and we know that NVIDIA had a great 2014 but not primarily because of growth in the market but by poaching from another company which has been struggling but not as much as previous years. The PC industry is far from dead but 2014 was not a kind year.
"Gigabyte Technology has reported consolidated revenues of NT$3.216 billion (US$101.93million) for February 2015, representing a 39.31% drop on month and 26.75% drop on year.
The company has totaled NT$8.515 billion in year-to-date revenues, down 18.47% compared with the same time last year."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The SHOCKING storage truth: Everyone's buying spinning rust @ The Register
- iOS 8.2 shoves a non-deletable Apple Watch app onto your iPhone @ The Inquirer
- Ouch! Google crocks capacitors and deviates DRAM to root Linux @ The Register
- 2015 Hackaday Prize: Build Something that Matters @ Hack a Day
Followers of PC Perspective have likely seen a pair of stories previewing the upcoming performance and features of USB 3.1. First we got our hands on the MSI X99A Gaming 9 ACK motherboard and were able to run through our very first hands-on testing with USB 3.1 hardware. The motherboard had built-in USB 3.1 support and a device that was configured with a RAID-0 of Intel SSD 730 Series drives.
We followed that up with a look at the ASUS USB 3.1 implementation that included a PCIe add-on card and a dual-drive mSATA device also in RAID-0. This configuration was interesting because we can theoretically install this $40 product into any system with a free PCI Express slot.
Performance was astounding for incredibly early implementations, reaching as high as 835 MB/s!
In that last article I theorized that it would be some time before we got our hands on retail USB 3.1 hardware but it appears I wasn't giving the industry enough credit. ASUS passed us a list of incoming devices along with release schedules. There are 27 devices scheduled to be released before the end of April and ~35 by the middle of the year.
It's a daunting table to look at, so be prepared!
The product categories are mostly dominated by the likes of the a USB 3.1 to 2.5-in adapter; that would be useful but you aren't going to top out the performance of the USB 3.1 with a single 2.5-in SATA device. Iomaster has one listed as a "USB 3.1 to MSATA & M2 SSD enclosure" which could be more interesting - does it accept PCI Express M.2 SSDs?
Minerva Innovation has a couple of interesting options, all listed with pairs of mSATA or M.2 ports, two with Type-C connections. What we don't know based on this data is if it supports PCIe M.2 SSDs or SATA only and if it supports RAID-0.
A couple more list dual SATA ports which might indicate that we are going to see multiple hard drives / SSDs over a single USB 3.1 connection but without RAID support. That could be another way to utilize the bandwidth of USB 3.1 in a similar way to how we planned to use Thunderbolt daisy chaining.
We don't have pricing yet, but I don't think USB 3.1 accessories will be significantly more expensive than what USB 3.0 devices sell for. So, does this list of accessories make you more excited to upgrade your system for USB 3.1?
Introduction and Background
We first got a peek of USB 3.1 at CES 2015. MSI had a cool demo showing some throughput figures including read and write speeds as high as 690 MB/s, well over the ~450 MB/s we see on USB 3.0 options shipping today.
We were of course eager to play around with this for ourselves, and MSI was happy to oblige, sending along a box of goodies:
Stuff we will be testing today (Samsung T1 was not part of the MSI demo).
For those unaware, USB 3.1 (also known as Superspeed+), while only a 0.1 increment in numbering, incorporates a doubling of raw throughput and some dramatic improvements to the software overhead of the interface.
Don't be confused between the USB 3.1 standard and the new USB Type-C connector - they are unrelated and independent of each other.
Yes, you’re all going to have to buy *more* cables in the future.
Type-C connectors will enable more simple cable design and thinner connections going forward but USB 3.1 will exist in both Type-A/B and Type-C going forward. Our benchmarking today will utilize Type-A.
Subject: Graphics Cards | February 12, 2015 - 01:41 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: overclocking, nvidia, msi, gtx 960, GM206, maxwell
While Ryan was slaving over a baker's dozen of NVIDIA's GTX 960s, [H]ard|OCP focused on overclocking the MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING 2G that they recently reviewed. Out of the box this GPU will hit 1366MHz in game, with memory frequency unchanged at 7GHz effective. As users have discovered, overclocking cards with thermal protection that automatically downclocks the GPU when a certain TDP threshold has been reached is a little more tricky as simply upping the power provided to the card can raise the temperature enough that you end up with a lesser frequency that before you overvolted. After quite a bit of experimentation, [H] managed to boost the memory to a full 8GHz and the in game GPU was hitting 1557MHz which is at the higher end of what Ryan saw. The trick was to increase the Power Limit and turn the clock speed up but leave the voltage alone.
"We push the new MSI GeForce GTX 960 GAMING video card to its limits of performance by overclocking to its limits. This NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 GPU based video card has a lot of potential for hardware enthusiasts and gamers wanting more performance. We compare it with other overclocked cards to see if the GTX 960 can keep up."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Five GeForce GTX 960 cards overclocked @ The Tech Report
- NVIDIA GTX 960 Reference Review @ Hardware Canucks
- MSI GTX 960 Gaming GPU, The Sweet Spot @ Bjorn3d
- MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2G @ Modders-Inc
- 6-way GeForce GTX 960 Shootout @ Legion Hardware
- Testing Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960 2GB Graphics Cards In SLI @ eTeknix
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 Video Card Review - EVGA SSC Edition @ NitroWare
- Gigabyte GTX 980 G1 Gaming 4GB @ Modders-Inc
- Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X OC 8GB @ Kitguru
- Corsair H105 on 4770K and R9 290 @ HardwareOverclock