One of the very interesting looking laptops from MSI is their upcoming GS30, which carries on the thin and light theme of the GS series but extends that down into a 13.3” chassis. The core laptop uses a Crystalwell i7-4870HQ processor, which means it should have decent integrated graphics performance but nothing earth shattering. Along with the Haswell-based CPU comes support for up to 16GB of DDR3L memory, RAID SSD storage, and a 13.3” 1080p anti-glare IPS display. All of that is well and good, but where things get interesting is when we get to the expansion dock.

Similar to the Alienware 13, the GS30 will have support for an expansion dock that supports full size desktop GPUs. MSI says it should work with all desktop GPUs, from lower end models all the way up to GTX 980, and Titan/Z/Black, as well as various AMD GPUs. The dock uses a proprietary connector, and the laptop sits on top of the dock rather than interfacing through a cable. The dock isn’t just for a discrete GPU either, as it supports an additional 3.5” hard drive, Killer Gigabit Ethernet, and it includes two speakers. I’m not convinced about the need for the speakers or networking support, especially considering the laptop already has a Gigabit Ethernet jack, but the additional four USB 3.0 ports certainly don’t hurt.

If you’re curious how MSI is interfacing with all of these extra devices and whether there will be sufficient bandwidth, the answer is that the dock uses a full x16 PCIe 3.0 based connector. That means not only is there plenty of bandwidth, but the discrete GPU will also be able to run at maximum performance. Interestingly, MSI noted that with certain high-end GPUs (e.g. Titan class and above), there may be a minor drop in performance on the laptop unless you also connect the laptops AC adapter. The dock itself comes with a 450W PSU, which should be plenty to run any GPU, HDD, USB peripherals, and still leave sufficient room to power the laptop, but until we can do some actual testing with the final hardware it’s not clear why there would be a need for the added power.

The GS30 Shadow is definitely one of the more interesting laptops we’ve seen, and for those that don’t need to have a ton of gaming power on the go it offers a nice blend of mobility with the option to hook up to a dedicated display and GPU at home for serious gaming. Note also that the GS30 cannot “hot-dock” – you have to power down the system before undocking, or there could be problems. Also, when docked the laptop’s internal display is disabled (for now?) and only an external display connected to the discrete GPU can be used.

Pricing and availability have not been announced yet, but at least the latter should be sooner rather than later. It’s also not clear whether the GS30 Shadow will always be sold as a package that includes the GPU docking bay, or if that will be a separate device. Selling the dock as an accessory would likely make the most sense, as there may be users that don’t care for the dock but otherwise like the GS30 laptop. We’ll have a full review once the laptop and dock are ready for retail customers. This is clearly a shot across the bow of Alienware, and while it’s too early to declare a victor and both offerings have their pros and cons, it’s shaping up to be a very interesting year for laptops.

Source: MSI Notebooks

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  • SleepyFE - Thursday, January 8, 2015 - link

    USB 3.1 has 9 wires. I think they actually have 4 differential lanes. Reply
  • ferooxidan - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    When pcmcia card was available, we can make a DIY eGPU set up easily. Perhaps the answer already found but made obsolete because it's an old standard. Reply
  • Anonymous1a - Sunday, January 4, 2015 - link

    If pricing and availability haven't been announced, then exactly what has? They've already told us about all this MONTHS ago. According to their original press release, January was when they were supposed to start selling these so when are they going to release the pricing and availability, exactly? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, January 4, 2015 - link

    Heh... good question. I believe the GS30 will launch in the next month, and I think it's basically final hardware now. They're just hashing out the exact date, pricing and model specifics now. Reply
  • Anonymous1a - Monday, January 5, 2015 - link

    So, while this article says pricing says that the pricing wasn't announced, a couple of other places do give prices but they aren't consistent. IGN and another site gave the price of the bundle - without a graphics card - as 1700, while another claimed it was 1999! Can you confirm any of these or are these just guesses and there is no offical word yet? Reply
  • Anonymous1a - Sunday, January 4, 2015 - link

    And they really should make the display usable. There is literally no reason that it shouldn't work, except to force people to buy another monitor because the Alienware 13 has almost exactly the same setup - except the cable vs laptop physically connecting to the dock - and the laptop display works without any problems there. Reply
  • ms-sigh - Monday, January 5, 2015 - link

    friends don't let friends buy MSI. its not the hardware nor the customer service, its their horrible warranty policy. need to send in a hardware part that has failed? you will get it back in 4-6 weeks. want a cross return (industry standard) NOPE. only on your SECOND return. the fact that they even have this plan b option lets you know something. look at great customer service from companies like EVGA. Need a cross return? just because? not even sure your video card is really the problem? no questions asked. enjoy your cross return in standard 3-5 day shipping. Reply
  • watzupken - Tuesday, January 6, 2015 - link

    I think the first time I saw this concept, the idea of an external GPU is definitely good for gamers. However, the designer definitely did not think in a practical way since it's quite illogical to put the laptop on that dock as it is very high. So in a nutshell, if you get that laptop and dock, u will need to shell out extra money for a GPU, keyboard/ mouse and a monitor as a base. Unless the price is decent, which I doubt, you probably will be better off getting an ITX desktop and a small laptop. Reply
  • Anonymous1a - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    Looking at the suggest prices - some sites are going as high as $2000 - it's clearly better for one to just buy a proper gaming desktop and an Ultrabook, especially when you consider the cost of buying the GPU separately. The desktop would be around 1300-1500 with a GTX 970 and CES had Ultrabooks like Asus' T300 Chi starting from 700-800 with very, very good specs. Reply
  • TinksMeOff - Sunday, January 18, 2015 - link

    I love this concept for those wanting to reduce the cost of owning multiple PC's for different purposes. Lightweight business/student/travel etc usage on the go and game with a big LCD and abundant SSD or HDD when at home or base. This can make a laptop replace a desktop in no time. Maybe even some tablets down the road will entertain this concept. Thumbs up Reply

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