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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  • RadioFace1982 - Friday, June 26, 2015 - link

    To all the haters of the MSI Laptop, go ahead and stop because this is not marketed to you. It is marketed for me. To be honest, this is about as good as it gets. If it was an 11" laptop with touchscreen I would be even more pleased. I love that they put the top of the line CPU in, though the 5th gen models will improve heat and fan noise. I would also like to see room for a single 9.5mm 2.5" hdd for storage. One other drawback is only 2 memory slots limiting to 16GB, but that's not horrible. 2xm.2 msatas is nice but I would sacrifice 1 for the others if I had it my way.

    The dock is badly designed I agree. but adding a native sata, native usb 3.0 and full PCI-e 3.0 x16 is awesome. The sata is great for a lot of reasons, and honestly, I wish there were like 4 or 8 connectors to make it a true desktop setup with some hardware raid, but I like I can add my 3.5" 4TB hdd to the setup. I always prefer native hookups if I have the option.

    Speakers are unnecessary since you are hooking it up to a big screen anyways. To complain that it doesn't work on the small screen, is really minor to me, I don't want to play BF4 on a 13" screen but rather on a 25" 2560x1080p screen on ultra aa all the way. With a bigger keyboard I already own.

    I also don't video game when Im out,, because Im out... and if Im going to some convention, or a place where we are setup for gaming,, I can pack a shoeboxed sized dock in a camera looking bag. I can bring my own monitor or hook it up to ANY TV or monitor found anywhere with appropriate adapters. Even Widi for nongaming hookups.

    I like that it is a super powerhouse minus the graphics in a very small form. My current PC setup is this. I have my monster desktop with a 970 custom built all the way. I also have a Dell Venue Pro Tablet which I need because it allows me to do some more serious work on the go. It's small portable and convenient to carry. I am no fan of synching files and the Dell is slightly underpowered for me, but ultra convenient.

    I'm waiting on the 2m model to arrive and I'm getting one, as long as its reasonably priced. On a certain website I found a deal for 1699 that includes dock and 970. if the pricing stays like that Im on it.

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