CES 2012: MSI GUS II External Thunderbolt Graphics Upgrade System

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2012 - 04:41 PM |
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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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!

January 11, 2012 | 01:42 AM - Posted by Devil 2 U

Very cool indeed! This would could very well be the perfect LAN Party addition. I have my huge PC rig at home and I want to fly to a LAN event. Just pop the GPU out of my desktop, into the GUS II, connect to MacBook Pro and I am ready to rock! This would be all I would really need at QuakeCon, for example. $150 is a great price, and it should be quite functional for many years. Was this located in their notebook, component, or media suite at the Venetian?

January 11, 2012 | 02:51 PM - Posted by Rich (not verified)

I wonder if this will also work for non-video PCIe applications? I would love to use the new iMac with my Apogee Symphony system. Especially since new MacPro's are nowhere to be found.

January 13, 2012 | 07:23 PM - Posted by Lou (not verified)

Awesome. I want to see more of these, with greater power ratings in the future. A laptop could legitimately replace a desktop with one of these docks.

April 17, 2012 | 12:49 AM - Posted by Ozzy (not verified)

Is there any way to use Msi GUS 2 under os x ?
Seems like I have to get windows to use it..
I would really love it if it worked on my MacBook pro late11 !
Someone have an answer??

April 17, 2012 | 01:11 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well why not just install windows? I mean what i'll be using this for is gaming on my macbook pro.( I really wanna play BF3). And basically all games are for windows. d:

April 29, 2012 | 07:37 AM - Posted by Christian Gibson (not verified)

If they could build a usb hub and firewire ports into here it would be insanely great (of course mac osx compatibility is a must then!) Looks very interesting though! The price is fantastic as well!

June 4, 2012 | 07:31 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Would this work with a usb 3.0 to thunderbolt adapter?

July 31, 2012 | 09:50 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This isn't about adapters, there just isn't the bandwidth if you don't have thunderbolt behind it.

August 10, 2012 | 05:34 PM - Posted by Panda (not verified)

The GPU isn't everything, though. A lot of games today are bottlenecked by the CPU rather than the GPU - like StarCraft 2, Minecraft and Oblivion...

RAM is another thing, too.

Fortunately, RAM and CPU seem to be in the high-end range in current notebooks while it's the GPU that is being compromised. Still...the power supply on this is not high enough, but it shows what the future can hold.

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