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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  • Gunbuster - Sunday, January 4, 2015 - link

    Ergonomics fail right there with the laptop sitting a foot up in the air on your desk...
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, January 4, 2015 - link

    External keyboard, display, and mouse FTW. Since the integrated laptop display doesn't work, this is really just a different take on a system where you dock it with a complete set of peripherals.
  • SleepyFE - Sunday, January 4, 2015 - link

    Oh great. They made a dock that you can put a regular GPU into but makes the laptop unusable. Since you have to buy a monitor and a keyboard you might as well buy a regular PC (which also fits regular GPUs).
  • SleepyFE - Sunday, January 4, 2015 - link

    Forgot to mention, it's also useless because it has a proprietary plug. Should make use of USB 3.1, maybe two of them just in case.
  • chaosbloodterfly - Monday, January 5, 2015 - link

    Regular PC would take up more room, require buying a CPU and memory and HDD and mobo. You're still using those from the laptop. Not to mention the files and settings you don't have to sync.

    Also, USB 3.1 doesn't have nearly enough bandwidth or low enough latency. Thunderbolt possibly could've been used, but to get something equivalent to PCIe 3 x16, you'd need about... 8 Thunderbolt cables. (Though x8 would probably sufficient in most cases).
  • SleepyFE - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    It wouldn't take that much more space and you don't need to keep it on the table, so it would take zero useful space.
    You can just buy a PC without the GPU and add it later, so no need to look for parts.
    Like i said, they can make use of more than one standard plug that's available on every PC, laptop, TV... And USB 3.1 is as fast as Thunderbolt 1.
  • phoenix_rizzen - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    How would your "regular PC" work while drinking coffee at Starbucks?

    How would your "regular PC" work while travelling?

    This setup is for those who want a laptop while away from the desk, and want "moar power!!" while sitting at the desk.
  • ferooxidan - Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - link

    Dude, if I want portability in gaming, I'd pick 100% gaming laptop than this joke. If I have to sit down on my desk using the dock for more power I'd just make myself a powerful Xbox sized mini-ITX gaming pc (look for Silverstone RVZ01). Gaming on the go with the laptop? Pfft come on, what can Iris 5200 do in gaming? Even Dell solution is better since they put a GTX860M on it. The dock use its own psu, not a battery, means when the laptop is docked it is no different than a gaming desktop. Since the laptop itself is not a powerful gaming machine on the go, it is justified that a gaming laptop or a portable mini itx desktop is better.
    Now, before you become sarcastic, maybe use that head of yours a little. You want to use your laptop while drinking coffee? Buy an ultrabook or regular notebook. You want more power when sitting on your desk? Buy a gaming pc. Together they cost less than this $2000 price tag for a crippled gaming machine. Remember, this is intended as a gaming laptop, but come with a weak gpu, Iris 5200, that means gaming on the go where you rely on your laptop battery is absolutely impossible (except if you consider playing chess on your gaming laptop is gaming on the go).
  • SleepyFE - Thursday, January 8, 2015 - link

    It wouldn't. That's what i'm saying. They missed their mark. If you buy this you need to buy every peripheral that you buy for a PC. Might as well own both PC and Laptop. That way you have more power at the desk and you can spill coffee on your laptop at Starbucks.
  • Siress - Thursday, January 28, 2016 - link

    Clearly you're not part of the target market, but I've been waiting for eGPU (even eCPU would be nice) for about 8 years. Most of my work is done in my office, but occasionally I have to work remotely without internet access and don't know what files/data/software I'll need. It's invaluable to have my entire computer with me in these instances, even if the performance takes a huge hit.

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